The latest 13F season is here, when many money managers issue required reports on their holdings. It can be worthwhile to pay attention, as you might get an investment idea or two by seeing what some major investors have been buying and selling.
For example, consider Bridgewater Associates, one of the world's largest hedge fund companies. According to its recently released 13F statement, the company has increased or initiated positions in Cisco Systems, (NASDAQ:CSCO), Microsoft Corporation, (NASDAQ:MSFT), and Xerox Corp (NYSE:XRX).
Cisco Systems's stock has averaged 16% annual gains over the past 20 years, but only 6% over the past five. Once a rapid grower, the company has experienced shrinking gross margins and lumpy earnings in recent years. Cisco's networking equipment business has been challenged by software-defined networking (SDN), and the company is investing heavily in cloud-computing and the "Internet of things," though it faces serious competition there. Its last quarter was mixed, with revenue and earnings topping expectations but both still declining year over year and emerging-markets revenue declining. Cisco's stock yields 3.1%, and it has been upping that payout aggressively. Shareholders can also benefit via stock buybacks: The company has spent some $2 billion on them and is ready to spend $10 billion more. It seems undervalued, too, with its forward P/E near 11.
Microsoft Corporation may have lost some of its momentum and dominance, but it's not standing still. It posted solid third-quarter results in April, with new CEO Satya Nadella noting the company's focus: "This quarter's results demonstrate the strength of our business, as well as the opportunities we see in a mobile-first, cloud-first world." Microsoft is forging strategic partnerships with industry leaders salesforce.com, SAP, and others as it aims to boost its cloud and marketing efforts. It's also looking to offer smartwatches and is taking on the mobile market with its new Surface Pro 3, which is a bit of a tablet-laptop crossover. There's even talk of making its operating system a subscription product, which would long-lasting revenue streams and address the problem of satisfied customers waiting to upgrade to newer versions. Another winning move is letting Xbox 360 users access entertainment apps without purchasing Xbox Live Gold subscriptions. Microsoft stock yields 2.8%, and it has been growing its dividend by an annual average of 16% over the past five years. Still, bears worry about strong competition, the weak PC market, and shrinking profit margins.
Xerox Corp, like Microsoft, is also transforming its business model, moving from a hardware focus to higher-margin services as it sheds some non-core assets. Obamacare has delivered business for Xerox, and it has been inking long-term contracts, such as processing all of California's Medicaid claims and, more recently, New York's Medicaid management (in a five-year deal worth about $500 million). On the other hand, Xerox was recently dropped as the operator of Nevada's troubled health exchange. The recent purchase of ISG Holdings for $225 million will boost Xerox's workers' compensation operations. Xerox bears may not like a first-quarter drop in revenue and profit over year-ago levels or management's lowering of near-term projections, but bulls love its hefty free cash flow (topping $2 billion annually) and see lots of growth and promise in the company. With a forward P/E near 10 and a 2% dividend, the stock is appealingly priced.