John Hancock Disciplined Value Mid Cap
Steven Pollack has three criteria when selecting a stock. The valuation should be enticing; it should be a quality business with attractive free cash flow and return on capital; and there should be a reason to buy the stock now, such as positive momentum or a catalyst to push the stock price higher. Expedia, the online travel firm, “fits all three,” says Pollack, whoseJohn Hancock Disciplined Value Mid Cap Fund (JVMAX) has a 28.8% average annual return over five years, vs. 27.3% for the S&P’s Midcap 400 index. Expedia trades at 16 times projected 2014 earnings, well below archrival Priceline’s P/E ratio of 22. Expedia reported $740 million in free cash flow during the first nine months of 2013, and revenues are growing at a 15% annual clip. Beyond that, Pollack likes the fact that Expedia andPriceline (PCLN, Fortune 500) are becoming an oligopoly, which will discourage new competition. Pollack also sees potential catalysts. Expedia holds controlling stakes in Trivago and eLong, popular travel sites in Europe and China, respectively. “Both Trivago and eLong have significant growth opportunities,” Pollack says, “and both could potentially be spun out.” –J.B.
Causeway International Value
Sarah Ketterer, manager of the $4.5 billion Causeway International Value Fund(CIVVX), is a fan of energy stocks these days, in part because they’ve lagged. Ketterer, whose fund has averaged 21.2% annual returns over the past five years, vs. 16.3% for its category, blames exaggerated concerns about China for the anemic stock performance: “China is slowing down, but its demand for energy is still very high.” Her favorite stock today is Technip, which lays deepwater oil and gas pipelines. The stock trades at a mere 13 times expected 2014 earnings, which analysts project to gush 27%; Technip also offers a 2.1% dividend yield. The stock has slumped 15% since October, and Ketterer blames guilt by association, as two Technip rivals suffered big earnings disappointments. Deepwater pipe-laying is Technip’s core business, but Ketterer thinks another specialty will provide long-term windfalls. Given the shale gas boom in the U.S., she expects the country will eventually ship liquefied natural gas to Europe. Technip builds plants that convert natural gas to LNG and LNG back to gas. “They’re the best at it in the world,” says Ketterer. –J.B.
Franklin International Small Cap Growth
Green REIT, Ireland’s first-ever real estate investment trust, is a good story. It’s also a brand-new stock with no history, so it helps that the storyteller is a premier manager: Edwin Lugo, whose $1.5 billion Franklin International Small Cap Growth Fund (FINAX)has returned 25.7% a year over the past five years (see chart above), putting it in the top 2% of its foreign stock-fund category. Green REIT is essentially a vulture fund for Irish real estate. Commercial property prices fell 65% during the financial crisis. As a result, the Irish government and various banks ended up holding €76 billion in foreclosed properties and loans. To speed the recovery, Ireland passed a law permitting REITs; in July, Green became the first to launch there. “Banks are not in the business of managing property,” says Lugo, so they’re willing to sell “at a huge discount.” The timing looks excellent. Irish commercial property prices rose in October for the first time since 2007, just as Green made its first purchases at big discounts to U.S. properties. “It’s rare you get a chance to buy real estate at the bottom,” says Lugo, who notes that “the Irish economy is already turning around.” –J.B.
Jim Moffett gravitates to out-of-favor stocks, an approach that has delivered an annualized 9.3% for a decade (UMBWX), outperforming the foreign stock index by 1.6 percentage points a year. Lately Moffett’s thinking has driven him to the auto industry. He’s especially optimistic about Volkswagen because the German automaker has been “lagging the pack” while laying the groundwork for a resurgence. The automaker’s recent stall, he says, is partly a reflection of Europe’s woeful economy and partly a result of being “out of sync” with the industry. In particular, he says, VW has lacked broadly appealing high-end offerings in the U.S. Now, though, the European economy is showing hints of improvement, and VW plans to roll out new products next year. Meanwhile, he says, the company is reducing costs with its modularized manufacturing strategy, which he expects to show results in the next year. The upshot, Moffett says: The market will eventually perceive the improvement, and VW’s stock, currently trading at nine times 2013 expected earnings, will catch up to BMW and Daimler, which have P/Es of 10.5 and 11.5, respectively. –S.M.
Thornburg Investment Income Builder
Long viewed as frumpy, dividend stocks enjoyed a vogue in recent years. The category has waxed and waned, but one thing has remained constant: Brian McMahon’s outperformance. His $16 billion fund (TIBAX) has turned in annualized 10% returns for 10 years, more than two percentage points above results for the S&P 500 and his “world allocation” peers. China Mobile, the world’s largest telecom, follows his template. The stock’s dividend yields 4.3%, and it has grown at 6% annually for the past five years. But there’s more upside. McMahon says investors have punished the stock (which trades as an ADR in the U.S.) because the Chinese government has forced the company to adopt — and invest heavily in — the country’s homegrown 4G technology before it was widely used by the telecom industry. The good news, he says: The technology looks promising and is about to launch. “Soon they’ll have the most spectrum, the most base stations, and the first shot at this great new technology.” The result? He expects the stock, trading at 3.5 times Ebitda, to leap to 4.5 by 2015. That could propel the share price by 40% or more. –S.M.
Even as investors fled Europe during its sovereign debt crisis, David Herro placed one of the most audacious contrarian bets in recent history, going all-in on beleaguered French, Spanish, and Italian financials. The result: nearly 40% returns over the past 12 months. (The fund’s (OAKIX) extended record is also superb: 11.3% annualized returns over the past 15 years, vs. 5.0% for MSCI’s EAFE index.) With Europe seemingly off the ledge, Herro now reserves his strongest conviction for Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse, which, he says, is at an “inflection point.” Low interest rates and a strong Swiss currency have pushed it to the bottom of its earnings cycle, and the bank has been building reserves to comply with higher post-crisis capital requirements. But those impediments, Herro says, have run their course. The result will be double-digit earnings increases, he says: “Over the coming years it should be able to generate $8 billion in annual operating profits” — four times the current level. To Herro, that makes the company’s forward P/E of 8.8 and price-to-book ratio of 1 look unjustly low. –S.M.