Carl Icahn's Latest Top 5: How Should Investors Play It?

Includes: CHK, CVI, FDML, FRX, IEP
by: Insider Monkey

By Jake Mann

Mention Carl Icahn's name on a trading floor, and you'll be sure to receive a range of opinions on the legendary hedge fund manager. Some call him a corporate raider, others claim he's a synergistic liberator, but at the end of the day, there's one thing all parties can agree on: he's one heck of an investor. Icahn's fund, Icahn Capital, sports one of the top equity portfolios of all the hedgies we track.

Due to his penchant for activism, many of Icahn's moves - Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), Herbalife (NYSE:HLF) - are publicly disclosed earlier than traditional 13F filings would indicate, giving investors a key leg up, so to speak. Generally speaking, our research shows that it has been possible to beat the market quite handily if you know just which facet of the smart money to track (see the full details here), so this is important.

Without further ado, let's take a look at what Carl Icahn's latest top five equity holdings were at the end of the fourth quarter, in order of first to fifth. Here's a look at what they were in Q3 for comparison.

As its name suggests, Icahn Enterprises (NYSE:IEP) takes its namesake from Icahn himself - the hedge fund manager owns approximately 93% of the holding company. Icahn Enterprises has its fingers in subsidiaries involved in the investment, auto, fashion, real estate, gaming and railcar businesses, among others. Obviously, Carl Icahn's penchant for value-creation is a benefit to IEP, and Wall Street expects the company to grow its EPS by nearly 260% this year. At less than 12 times earnings and a mere 0.5 times sales, value investors should be attracted to this stock, and a recent tripling of its annual is the proverbial cherry on top.

CVR Energy (NYSE:CVI) sits at the No. 2 spot in Icahn's equity portfolio, and has now done so for three consecutive quarters. Joining Icahn in this petroleum refiner and marketer is a host of prominent hedgies, including Curtis Macnguyen, D.E. Shaw, Jim Simons and Mike Vranos. Shares of CVR are already up by nearly 14% since the start of the year, and Icahn's +80% stake in the company has led to a generally appreciative environment for shareholders. Since obtaining a four-fifths stake in CVR last May, Icahn's activism has pushed this stock up a whopping 81.6%, and it's widely anticipated that he'll sell his stake in the company to another bidder when the time is right.

Forest Laboratories (NYSE:FRX) has been in Icahn's top five since Q1 of last year, and the hedge fund manager didn't change the size of his position last quarter. Icahn has been bullish on this biotech company over the past year, and shares have risen a modest 14.1% during this 12-month time frame. Of the 27 analysts who presently cover Forest Labs, just three are bearish, and this group's average price target represents a 5-6% upside from current levels.

FRX shares also sport a 43% discount to their industry's average book valuation, though earnings and sales multiples are less attractive. Despite this mixed bag of metrics, it wouldn't be a bad idea to at least consider Forest Labs's investment prospects, as any support from Icahn represents a long-term positive.

Chesapeake Energy (NYSE:CHK) and Federal-Mogul Corp (NASDAQ:FDML) round out Icahn's top five, as they have in two straight quarterly 13F filings. The hedgie boosted his stake in Chesapeake by 19% last quarter, and since he announced his original position last May, shares of the natural gas and oil E&P have risen by more than 31%. More recently, Mr. Market's optimism over Aubrey McClendon's decision to step down from his CEO post is promising-the stock has already popped 8% since January 29th. It is speculated that this turn of events may accelerate Chesapeake's asset restructuring program, and despite these near-term positives, shares still sport a book value that's at a 12% discount to parity.

Federal-Mogul, in its current state, was a new position for Icahn back in the second quarter of 2011, and it is estimated that the hedge fund manager's stake in the auto equipment company now rests above 77%. Across the board, valuation metrics indicate that shares of Federal-Mogul are cheap, but long-term investors have likely lost money in this stock. FDML is deeply in the red over the past 6-month (-5.1%), 1-year (-45.8%) and 3-year (-44.8%) periods.

While year-to-date returns have been positive, the Street's average price target indicates that shares of Federal-Mogul may be overbought by about 5%, meaning that Icahn-mimickers may want to wait for a more attractive entry point in this particular case. There are plenty of other opportunities in the hedge fund space at the moment, so this wouldn't be such a bad idea.

Disclosure: I am long CHK.

Business relationship disclosure: This article is written by Insider Monkey's writer, Jake Mann, and edited by Meena Krishnamsetty. They don't have any business relationships with any of the companies mentioned in this article and they didn't receive compensation (other than from Insider Monkey and Seeking Alpha) to write this article.