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Billionaires Just Unloaded $3.6 Billion of NXP Semiconductors NV Stock. Should You Follow Suit?

By Anders Bylund - May 25, 2016 at 2:47PM

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No, ultra-rich hedge fund managers don't always nail every trade. These billionaires will come to regret their NXP sales soon enough.

When billionaires sell shares, they tend to make waves. The Motley Fool would never advise you to follow those market movers every footstep, but it doesn't hurt to see where the big money is flowing.

Last quarter, seven billionaire traders sold off $3.6 billion of their holdings in NXP Semiconductors (NXPI -1.31%), which amounts to 11% of that stock's current market value. That's a big enough move to make me interested.

Let's have a closer look.

These billionaires are bailing out

In a review of recent 13F filings, where hedge fund owners and other billionaires report their trades on a quarterly basis, several well-known hedge funds were seen reducing their NXP holdings in a big way.

Millennium Management, led by options trading veteran Israel Englander, sold off 61.5% of its NXP holdings in the first quarter of 2016. That's a move worth at least $127 million, assuming that Millennium sold its shares at the very bottom end of NXP's quarterly price range.

Merger arbitrage specialist Ken Griffin and his Citadel Advisors fund also did away with 60% of its NXP holdings. David E. Shaw, whose D.E. Shaw & Company fund was built on his expertise in high-frequency trading algorithms, let go of 41% of his NXP stock. Each of these moves amounted to at least $12 million.

Again, these are just some of the largest hedge fund moves and not a complete list. We also don't have any information on why these billionaires and their firms are loosening their grip on NXP shares. But there's no denying that the moves have been made, which means that some successful traders think there are better places to park their outsized investment assets.

Should regular investors, like you and I, follow suit?

Who else is selling NXP?

If we did take Ken Griffin's and Israel Englander's lead, we wouldn't be alone. NXP shares traded largely sideways in the first quarter, at one point dipping as much as 24% lower. Lots and lots of shares were changing hands at falling price points.

The biggest tumble came in early February, when NXP reported fourth-quarter results. Despite an initially positive market reaction to that report, share prices took a 16% plunge from $76 to $64 in two days.

The Freescale buyout weighed heavy on that report, as the two chipmakers started navigating the details of this game-changing combination. In this report, NXP made it clear that it will take several quarters to start unlocking the benefits of the new company structure.

Asked to think about long-term benefits instead of short-term costs, many investors threw up their hands and walked away instead.

What's next?

Shortly thereafter, I highlighted NXP as a cheap stock on sale.

The long-term promise of an automotive computing empire built on Freescale's sector expertise is still intact. In fact, it might be the next big "how I got rich" story, set up to unfold over the next decade or so. If self-driving cars take off, in-car sensors chips and data processing tools will be virtual gold. In the meantime, infotainment systems and self-parking tools provide a smaller but still healthy growth market for automotive chips.

NXP also remains a big name in mobile payments and data security systems. In short, the company is poised for massive growth over the long haul. Investors should take a closer look while the stock remains cheap, and I think that even David Shaw will regret this big sale in the coming years.

The billionaires don't always make the right moves. Here's one expensive example.

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