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Here's What the Managers of the $9 Billion TIAA-CREF Trust Have Been Selling

By Selena Maranjian - Sep 1, 2015 at 10:40PM

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Keeping an eye on what big investors are doing can deliver insights and investment ideas.


Source: TIAA-CREF

Every quarter, many money managers have to disclose what they've bought and sold, via "13F" filings. Their latest moves can shine a bright light on smart stock picks.

Today, let's look at the TIAA-CREF Trust Co. In case you're not aware, TIAA-CREF offers financial services to those in the fields of education, medicine, culture, government, and research. Almost 100 years old, it has a solid reputation, with 71% of its funds earning four or five stars in Morningstar ratings. The TIAA-CREF Trust Co. manages much of TIAA-CREF client money, and its reportable stock portfolio totaled $9 billion in value as of June 30, 2015.

Interesting Developments
So what does TIAA-CREF Trust's latest quarterly 13F filing tell us? Here are a few interesting details:

The biggest new additions to the portfolio included Cardinal Health Inc (CAH 1.95%) and M&T Bank Corporation. Positions that were boosted meaningfully include Abbott Laboratories, increasing by 88%; Visa Inc (V 3.89%), 57%; Biogen Inc, 41%; Celgene Corporation (CELG) 43%; Amgen, 12%. The portfolio's top holding, the iShares Barclays TIPS Bond Fund, got an 8% increase.

The portfolio sold out entirely of many positions, including AbbVie Inc, Merck & Co., and Occidental Petroleum Corporation.

A closer look
Clearly, the portfolio spent the quarter beefing up its biotechnology holdings, while trimming some pharmaceutical outfits. Let's take a closer look at a few of the companies above.

Cardinal Health, with annual revenue topping $100 billion, is a multipronged healthcare company helping other healthcare companies operate more efficiently via its drug and equipment distribution services, and also making medical devices and equipment. (In recent news, it's spending about $2 billion buying Johnson & Johnson's Cordis heart device business.)

Part of Cardinal's success stems from expanding the number of products it offers and distributes to doctors and other medical-service providers. Cardinal's dividend recently yielded 1.8%, and it generates more than $2 billion in free cash flow annually.

Photo: MoneyBlogNewz, Flickr

Visa, of course, is a credit-card giant, with a market capitalization recently topping $175 billion. It generates more than $6 billion in free cash flow annually, aided by a whopping net profit margin topping 40%.

Big companies often see their growth slow, but in its last quarter, Visa posted reported revenue rising 12% over year-earlier levels, payment volume rising 11%, and adjusted earnings per share surging 36%. International sales have been fueling much growth, and there's talk of Visa merging with the separate and massive Visa Europe, if regulators permit.

Celgene may not be a familiar name to you, but it's a biotech giant with a market cap near $100 billion. Its big sellers, multiple myeloma drug Revlimid, cancer drug Abraxane, and anti-inflammatory drug Otezla, are expected to get even bigger in years to come, due, in part, to label expansions (getting approvals to treat more conditions). And its pipeline is quite promising, too, addressing anemia, solid tumors, inflammation and immunology, among other things.

On top of that, the company has embraced partnerships with other drug developers, with about 30 of them giving the company pieces of lots of possibly lucrative pies. With a forward-looking P/E ratio only near 20, Celgene's stock is attractively priced.

We should never blindly copy any investor's moves, no matter how talented the investor. But it can be useful to keep an eye on what smart folks are doing. Therefore, 13F forms can be great places to find intriguing candidates for our portfolios.

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Stocks Mentioned

Cardinal Health, Inc. Stock Quote
Cardinal Health, Inc.
CAH
$56.89 (1.95%) $1.09
Celgene Corporation Stock Quote
Celgene Corporation
CELG
Visa Inc. Stock Quote
Visa Inc.
V
$206.77 (3.89%) $7.74

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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