By Matt Doiron
John Paulson and Paulson & Co. haven't done well recently, but they still draw a good deal of investor and media attention for the billions Paulson has made from shorting subprime mortgages and going long gold. While Paulson tends to invest in large macro trends, we have gone through the fund's 13F for the second quarter of 2012 and looked for stocks trading at trailing P/E ratios of 15 or lower -- value stocks that tie into one of Paulson's favorite macro themes, or possibly stocks that the fund is buying on their own company-specific merits.
Paulson and his team cut their stake in Delphi Automotive (DLPH), but according to the 13F, it was still their third largest holding with a position of about 32 million shares. Delphi has been hit hard by a poor auto market in the U.S. and Europe, as it sells higher-end auto parts such as electrical and safety systems. The stock has done well this year -- it's up 32% -- but still trades at only eight times trailing earnings and is well in value territory. Sell-side projections are for the company to increase its income over the next few years to the point where its forward earnings multiple is 7 and its five-year PEG is 0.5. If this is how Paulson is choosing to play an auto recovery, he's picked a cheap stock with which to do it.
HCA Holdings (HCA) was another low-multiple stock near the top of Paulson's portfolio. The hospital company, which we covered earlier this month, is coming off an excellent quarter in which it reported earnings growth of 71% compared to the same period a year ago. Even with some corporate issues, sell-side analysts predict an earnings trajectory that gives the company a forward P/E of 8 and a five-year PEG of 0.7. Paulson substantially increased this position in the second quarter, and finished June with about 8 million shares in the fund's portfolio. Admittedly, there is a good deal of uncertainty regarding how the healthcare sector will be regulated going forward due to unresolved issues related to Obamacare, but the valuation here has plenty of room for error.
Paulson invested in a number of gold-related stocks, as well as a sizable position in the Gold ETF (GLD). One stock that tripped our value trigger was Gold Fields (GFI) due to its trailing P/E of 10. The fund cut this position slightly, but still owned 18 million shares of the South Africa-based miner, which also operates mines in Peru, Ghana, and Australia. Gold Fields is another company with an excellent recent earnings report -- it nearly doubled earnings in its most recent quarter compared to the same quarter in 2011 -- and it trades at only 7 times expected earnings for 2013. It has gold exposure, but is still an operating company at a reasonable price that pays a dividend (its trailing annual yield is 3.2%, but these seem to have been above-average dividend payments for the company).
Credit card stocks have been getting a lot of press recently, particularly Visa (V) and Mastercard (MA). Paulson had one credit card company in its wallet, but it wasn't either of these -- it was Capital One (COF). While the fund cut its holdings by about half, Paulson still owns 4.2 million shares, putting the stock in the fund's top 10 holdings, according to the 13F. Year to date Capital One has actually beaten the two market leaders, up almost 30%, but still trades at only 11 times trailing earnings and 8 times forward earnings estimates. The five-year PEG is 1. Capital One is also billionaire Eddie Lampert's credit card of choice.
We're wary of investing in gold directly, but Gold Fields converts it into an understandable earnings-generating business that we think might be a better way to play the commodity; if gold prices are flat going forward, the stock is low priced. We also think that Capital One stacks up well with the market leading credit card companies, whose forward multiples are about twice as high. We're less sure about Delphi and HCA -- one is tied pretty closely to the auto industry and one is vulnerable to healthcare industry regulations and trends. However, these stocks are trading at cheap valuations, and could be attractive buys for investors willing to assumed those respective risks.