Scraping together enough coin to win the annual luncheon auction with Warren Buffett is probably beyond most investors' means. With the proceeds going to charity, this year's winning bidder forked over $2.63 million for the privilege.
Feast or famine
While we likely can't afford to break bread with the greats, we can peek at their stock ideas through their SEC filings. Here, we'll pore over some of the top investors' reports to see which stocks they've chosen as their best investments. We'll then check in with Motley Fool CAPS members to learn whether they agree.
First, a few caveats ...
- There's a delay between when the stocks were bought and when these investors filed their paperwork, so they might have sold out since.
- These legends may be hot investors now, but that can change in an instant. Bill Miller was a wunderkind after beating the market 15 years in a row. Then he went cold for three. He came back in 2009, but we don't know what 2010 will bring.
Contrary to popular opinion
So, do further research, but in the meantime let's take a look at famous activist investor Bill Ackman, whose Pershing Square Capital Management has returned 24% annually for investors since it was founded in 2004, compared to just 5.7% for the average fund, according to Hedge Fund Research.
Company: Pershing Square Capital Management
No. of Stocks Owned: 10
Top Holdings: Target, Kraft, Citigroup
Top Sectors: Consumer services, consumer goods, financials, industrials
Like a number of the investing legends we've looked at, Ackman has a highly concentrated portfolio, but in addition to putting Citi and payroll processor ADP in his portfolio, Ackman more recently added retailer J.C. Penney
Price is what you pay
Indeed, J.C. Penney moved swiftly to adopt a "shareholder's rights" plan that will cause anyone acquiring 10% or more of the company stock to suffer severe dilution. That's interesting since Pershing has already established a 14.8% ownership position in Penney's common shares, with more than a few acquired around $20 a share -- the stock's low point of the year -- for a nice 60% gain for just a few months work. But Ackman said he's also going to be coordinating with real estate investment trust Vornado, which itself has a 9.9% stake.
Penney has been a laggard in the retail market, having had trouble gaining traction as Target and even Wal-Mart plucked shoppers looking for the right combination of style and price. It became difficult to differentiate itself in the mid-market tier it shared with Kohl's
Surprisingly, shares of Macy's stock have come back from the brink and come back hard, rising around 50% so far this year. Same store sales were up 4% in the latest quarter, a better effort than either Penney or Kohl's was able to mount, with comps at each coming in at -1.9% and 1.8%, respectively.
CAPS member facwinjeff42 believes JCPenney is a "stable, classic company," but with a quarter of those rating the department store chain believing it will underperform the market, they're probably looking forward to Ackman shaking things up.
I'll drink to that
Some analysts think Ackman may want to do more than just shake up Fortune Brands, a conglomerate with assets in liquor, golf, and household goods. Speculation consists of someone like Diageo
Fortune has made a strong comeback since the summer when its stock dipped below $40 a share, a point attributed by FoolishElephant to its exposure to the housing and leisure activities sectors of the economy. He expected a slow, steady accumulation of shares to pay off in the future:
Currently, the market has little appetite for [Fortune], which will lead to more attractive price and div yield in the near term. Accumulating shares through a company sponsored DRiP account is a great way to build long-term equity as this company returns to strong growth in future years.
Fortune Brands has been doing well lately but is right for your portfolio? You can put this diversified company into Fool.com's free portfolio tracker and toast its ascent on the Fortune Brands CAPS page too.
Value is what you get
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Wal-Mart is a recommendation of Motley Fool Inside Value and Motley Fool Global Gains. Fortune Brands is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. Automatic Data Processing and Diageo are Motley Fool Income Investor selections. The Fool owns shares of Diageo and Wal-Mart. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.