Clint Carlson Says Avoid 10 Year Treasuries, Take a Chance With PostNL ~ market folly

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Clint Carlson Says Avoid 10 Year Treasuries, Take a Chance With PostNL

We're posting up notes from the Great Investors' Best Ideas Investment Symposium in Dallas and next up is Clint Carlson of Carlson Capital.  He focuses on multi-strat in order to reduce volatility and said that "what you don't own is just as important as what you do."  Here are his two picks:

Carlson Says Avoid 10 Year Treasuries

His first play was to not own 10 year government bonds in any currency.  We've highlighted how Lee Cooperman strongly dislikes treasuries at this juncture and Carlson echoed those sentiments.  He said that many people are overlooking the fact that rates could jump higher.  While the Fed Funds rate will remain low, the 10 year doesn't necessarily follow that.  Carlson also does not believe we go the way of Japan.

He says that treasuries are not a good risk/reward and event co-founder Shad Rowe quoted Jim Grant, saying that these bonds offer return-free risk.  Carlson, however, said that you can't short treasuries now because the Fed can buy longer than you can remain solvent.  He dislikes corporate bonds as well and says to keep that exposure to a minimum for diversification.

Carlson's 2nd Pick: PostNL

His second idea was probably the most 'true hedgie' play at the conference.  What we mean by that is that it's a cheap option on risk arbitrage but also a fundamental investment.  His pick was PostNL (AMS:PNL or PNYLL via ADR).  The Dutch delivery company represents the "perfect storm" he says.

PostNL owns almost a 30% stake in TNT Express, which is set to be taken over by UPS (pending deal closure).  Carlson argues there's a range of outcomes which is why it's compelling.

Scenario 1: The deal does not close and downside is 20%.
Scenario 2: The deal does not close but significant upside remains if the market values PNL's TNT Express stake
Scenario 3: The deal closes, PNL gets 1.5bn and the stock doubles

Carlson thinks the deal closes, but points out this is a risky bet.

On the fundamental side of the investment, he points out how operating margins have tanked from 14% down to 7% and they're modeling an improvement up to 8-9%.  He points out how mail volumes in the Netherlands have dropped 10% per year and so that's a risk.  Carlson thinks that it's close to the trough, but that Europe doesn't improve for 4-5 years.

In order to compete, the company either has to raise prices otherwise they'll shut down.  He thinks it's also a potential leveraged buyout (LBO) candidate and that "this will be a volatile trade."  Right now there's a big percentage of owners that are event-driven or risk arbitrage funds.  If the deal falls through, there will be an ownership shift.

Carlson is focused on the end-game here and sees this as a 6 month - 1 year holding.  He says you could buy 1/2 a position now and buy another 1/2 to "double down" if the chance presents itself at lower levels.  We also took notice that Lee Cooperman (also on the panel) was taking notes on this pitch.

For the rest of the presentations, head to notes from the Great Investors' Best Ideas conference.

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