Hedge Fund Viking Global Likes American Tower (AMT), Invesco (IVZ): Q2 Letter ~ market folly

Friday, July 30, 2010

Hedge Fund Viking Global Likes American Tower (AMT), Invesco (IVZ): Q2 Letter

Andreas Halvorsen's hedge fund firm Viking Global is out with its second quarter 2010 investor letter and courtesy of Dealbreaker we wanted to highlight some of their latest portfolio maneuvers. Here are Viking's latest top 10 positions:

1. Invesco (IVZ)
2. Unilever (UN)
3. American Tower (AMT)
4. Oracle (ORCL)
5. Comcast (CMCSA)
6. News Corp (NWSA)
7. Tyco International (TYC)
8. Sherwin-Williams (SHW)
9. Goodrich (GR)
10. Adobe Systems (ADBE)

Right off the bat there are several changes to highlight between Q1 and Q2. Back in the first quarter, Visa (V) was Viking's largest position. This time around, Visa is nowhere to be found in their top 10 positions. One might assume they reduced or exited this position, but there was no commentary on this stake to verify. If you read into their letter, you'll see that they are more focused on building concentrated positions and as a result ramped up stakes in various companies. Visa, apparently, was not one of them.

It's quite possible that the credit card processor is still a holding at Viking and other portfolio positions merely leapfrogged their V stake. The same could be said for their position in Express Scripts (ESRX) as it was their fourth largest holding in the first quarter and is nowhere to be found on their top 10 holdings for Q2. These positions will certainly be something to look for in their Q2 13F filing that we'll cover when it's released in a few weeks.

For the second quarter, Halvorsen's hedge fund maintains its long-held position in Invesco as it moves back up to their top holding. Halvorsen writes,

"Our largest loss in the quarter was Invesco which cost us 1.3% in VGE and 1.4% in VLF. Invesco has been in our top ten list since we initiated the position in the fourth quarter of 2007 and was our second most profitable investment in 2009. During the second quarter, Invesco sold off along with other asset managers despite reporting better than consensus first quarter earnings and higher synergy estimates from the Van Kampen acquisition. Encouraged by the fundamental strength of the company and financial and strategic benefits from the Van Kampen acquisition, our core thesis has not changed and we continue to believe that Invesco will outperform its competitors. Viking is currently net long 2.4% in the Asset Management and Custody Banks sub-industry group, which includes the Invesco long position and short positions in asset managers that we believe will experience deteriorating fundamentals and are more levered towards a declining market."

In terms of other Viking positions, Unilever also remains a high conviction pick for them. Moving down the top 10 positions list, News Corp and Tyco also retain their status as a top holding from Q1 to Q2. In terms of new additions, Viking has moved up the following positions: Adobe, American Tower, Comcast, Goodrich, Oracle, and Sherwin-Williams.

Of those stakes, Viking has increased conviction in their new American Tower (AMT) position. Viking likes the company due to its solid business model with high barriers of entry, pricing power, and strong secular growth. Additionally, the company has compelling operations overseas in numerous growth markets. Of this stake, Halvorsen writes,

"We have owned American Tower in the past and we re-initiated a position this quarter because we believe the market has taken many of these characteristics for granted and is underestimating future growth opportunities both domestically and internationally. Additionally, we believe that American Tower’s shareholder remuneration will accelerate over the next several quarters and that, in light of certain tax incentives, the company may convert to a REIT. We find American Tower to have a superior business model relative to most traditional REITs, yet it trades at a discount to the REIT-average. We believe the combination of predictable growth, accelerating shareholder returns, and pending REIT status will generate greater shareholder interest over the next several quarters causing the stock to trade closer to our price target over time. As of June 30, American Tower was our third largest long position at 4.3% of VGE capital and 4.9% of VLF capital."

We've touched on this industry as a compelling investment numerous times as hedge funds favor wireless tower stocks. Numerous high profile managers have moved in and around AMT. Additionally, we've highlighted how hedge funds are bullish on rival company Crown Castle International (CCI) as well. SBA Communications (SBAC) is the other player in the sector and some funds have moved in and out of stakes there as well.

In addition to these portfolio changes, it's obviously worth noting that Viking has struggled performance-wise this year as their Viking Global Equities portfolio was down 5% in the second quarter. As such, Halvorsen penned quite an explanation as to how Viking will strive to atone for these errors and the solution apparently circles around the idea of increased concentration in their highest conviction picks. As such, Viking has added to numerous positions, many of which we've detailed recently. It will be interesting to see if Viking's increased concentration (and possibly increased volatility) is a recipe for correcting their recent struggles.

We highly recommend reading Viking Global's entire letter on Dealbreaker here.

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