5 Stocks for 2011

by: Michael Murphy, CFA

At InvestorPlace, we've chosen five stocks for 2011- but with a twist. Firstly, each stock is chosen by a different, experienced adviser, so the portfolio as a whole is not the product of just one brain. Secondly, the advisers have committed to writing regular updates as the year unfolds, covering the good, the bad and the unexpected. Short of a takeover or an Enron-style collapse, we have all agreed not to chicken out just because a stock goes down.

The following five recommendations cover the gamut from biotech to finance, $135 million market cap to $59.5 billion, Chennai to Newport Beach to Hong Kong, with yields from 0% to a fat 9.2%. In alphabetical order:

CNOOC – China National Offshore Oil Company Limited (NYSE:CEO) - is Robert Hsu’s pick for 2011. Robert writes China Strategy and Asia Edge, and sees CNOOC benefiting from two big trends during the year: Inflation will boost crude prices, as demographics boost China demand. He says that rising inflation is by far one of the most important economic trends in China — and indeed, the world. He expects the current commodity bull market to continue, and that we’ll see a return to $100 oil in 2011.

A big driver of higher oil prices is China’s oil consumption, and the best way to take advantage of the strength in China’s oil production industry is by investing in CNOOC. CNOOC is the only oil company in China permitted to conduct exploration and production activities offshore in conjunction with foreign governments and companies. The company has teamed with over 70 international oil companies to exploit its monopoly drilling rights on huge undiscovered reserves of oil and natural gas in the South China Sea.

Because CNOOC is one of the few state-owned enterprises with American-style corporate governance, Robert is comfortable recommending the stock as a top performer in 2011

Cognizant Technologies (NASDAQ:CTSH), the back office specialist fueling the New Economy, was tagged by Jon Markman of Trader’s Advantage. Jon expects the second year of this decade to be about fighting off resurgent competitors, as everyone tries to attract new customers in every area from store shelves to the mobile Internet. To focus on their core strengths, companies will resume offshoring IT services and business processes like billing, regulatory compliance, merger streamlining and human resources.

Cognizant is one of the world’s leaders at this type of unheralded back-office work, with revenue growing 30% on average over the past five years, right through the recession, with a 20% operating margin. Jon expects earnings per share to grow at least 13% in 2011 to $2.92, and then 14% in 2012 to $3.32. Based on its premium 30x multiple, Jon is targeting CTSH for $90.50 in mid-2011 and $103 in mid-2012.

Evercore Partners (NYSE:EVR) is an M&A specialist that will see big business in 2011, according to Hilary Kramer’s GameChangers. She labels CEO Ralph Schlosstein as one of the greatest dealmakers in the history of Wall Street, and says he has made Evercore the go-to player for advising companies on large deals in this red hot M&A market. A recent study from Thomson Reuters and Freeman Consulting Services concluded that the global market for M&A will surge 36% in 2011 to over $3 trillion.Schlosstein recently said:

A new wave of corporate takeovers is building. We tend to have five- to seven-year up cycles; we are in the first year.

Hilary expects earnings to grow 77% in 2011, which means EVR is selling for a price/earnings ratio of only 19x. She has a buy on the stock under $33.50, targeting $40 or better in 2011.

Mindspeed Technology (NASDAQ:MSPD), the fabless semiconductor company focused on communications chips for analog, digital and optical applications, is Nancy Zambell’s choice for Buried Treasures Under $10. MSPD did not have a big run in 2010, even though the tech sector did. The company trades way under $10 in spite of standout numbers. Nancy points out that the company has beaten analysts’ estimates for the last four quarters in a row, and with the book-to-bill (orders to shipments) ratio increasing, the stage is set for a great 2011.

She sees corporations opening their pocketbooks in 2011 for some serious technology spending as the communications sector transitions to the next generation of mobile networks, creating tremendous opportunities for growth. Emerging and developing countries are rapidly ramping up their telecom deployments. Broadcast video is going to see significant growth in high-definition TV. Those are all markets for Mindspeed chips.

Nancy notes that institutional interest in MSPD is increasing, yet institutions currently own only 44% of the stock. She recommends buying MSPD under $7. Her first target is $12.50, where she recommends selling half of your shares. Then hold the rest for a final target of $16, more than a double in 2011.

Zalicus (ZLCS) is my pick from New World Investor for this 2011 list. It is a development-stage, yet low-risk, virtually unknown biotech stock. Zalicus was formed by the merger of CombinatoRx (formerly CRXX) and Neuromed, a private company. Most of the current management is from Neuromed, and they have refocused the company on drugs for pain and immuno-inflammatory disease.

But there were many drugs in preclinical and clinical trials at CombinatoRx before the merger, and several of them are showing more potential than Neuromed may have expected when they agreed to the merger. At the least, these drugs provide ongoing partnering opportunities. Some have world-class potential for eventual royalties.

The core development programs include Synavive, developed by CombinatoRx as CRx-102, to treat immuno-inflammatory disorders. It has completed Phase II clinical trials in subjects with knee osteoarthritis. The other core area are calcium channel blockers for chronic pain, developed by Neuromed

Partnered development programs include Prednisporin (FOV1101), which is being developed by Fovea, now owned by Sanofi-Aventis (NYSE:SNY). Prednisporin is a topical ophthalmic drug combining low doses of prednisolone acetate and cyclosporine A, an immunosuppressant. A second major partnership with Novartis (NYSE:NVS) is working on cancer drugs. Phase 2 results are imminent from a collaboration agreement with PgxHealth, a subsidiary of Clinical Data, to develop ATL313, an adenosine A2A receptor agonist, as a combination therapy against multiple myeloma and certain other B-cell malignancies.

At the time of the merger, Neuromed had Exalgo, a once-a-day, extended release version of Dilaudid, in the FDA approval process for pain. The company received approval on March 1, 2010, and its U. S. marketing partner Mallinkrodt, owned by Covidien, introduced the drug in April. June quarter inventory stocking resulted in $1.1 million royalties to Zalicus. Covidien expects Exalgo eventually to get $250 million to $300 million of the $6 billion long-acting opioid market.

However, as frequently happens with a new drug that is widely introduced, once the distributors have their initial stock, sales fall off for a quarter or two as the sell-through builds. That is what happened in the September quarter, when Zalicus reported only $0.15 million in Exalgo royalties. It will happen again in the December quarter, when I am expecting only $0.4 million in royalties. Investors who do not understand how stocking and distribution work gave the stock a drubbing, and gave us an amazing opportunity. I expect a steady, rapid increase in quarterly royalties during 2011.

At about $1.32 per share, Zalicus has a total market capitalization of only $117.5 million. But it has $46.8 million in cash, no debt, a $242.7 million net operating loss carryforward, and a drug on the market that will show accelerating royalties in every quarter of 2011. Exalgo alone is worth $1.50 a share.

The company also has numerous press releases coming as its various company and partnered clinical programs progress. Assuming someone doesn’t buy it for its cash, tax loss and pipeline (Covidien (COV)? Novartis?), I think ZLCS will end 2011 between $4 and $7 a share, and be one of the top-performing stocks of the year. You may have to wait for the second half of the year for most of the gains, but this is what some call an oxymoron: A low-risk development-stage biotech.

Disclosure: I am long ZLCS.

Additional disclosure: It should be assumed that all the advisors listed are long their respective recommendations.