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Following Leon Cooperman's Top Picks
Posted by: Federico Zaldua (IP Logged)
Date: September 4, 2013 05:07PM

Leon Cooperman, through his fund, the Omega Overseas Partners, has averaged annual returns of 14.3%, after fees, since he started the fund in 1992. This compares positively to the 8.6% attained by the S&P 500 index. Over the past few years, returns have been even better. The three-year average returns are as high as 15.6%. Now with his 70 years of age, he is showing that Buffett is right when he says that it's tough to “teach old tricks to a new dog.” Here I will review three positions held by his fund. Should you also go long?
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Betting on future margin expansion[/size]

Sprint (S), the third-largest U.S. wireless carrier, is one of Cooperman's favorite positions. The company is working on turning around a business that is being threatened by postpaid subscriber losses. That said, after being acquired by Japan's SoftBank for $21.6 billion, Sprint has been recapitalized and, with access to more spectrum than the rest of its competitors, is ready to compete against giants such as Verizon and AT&T.

Cooperman seems to be betting on the management's ability to expand margins after the company finishes to rationalize its network, build out its 4G capabilities and finance its iPhone sales efforts. I believe Sprint is taking the correct steps towards reaching wireless network parity with its competitors. As a matter of fact, in the last quarter, postpaid losses were lower than expected and Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) was well beyond expectations. The company is now trading at 8 times 2014 pro forma EBITDA, which is somewhat above its peers. That said, the potential is huge. Evidently, Cooperman believes it's possible. Maybe you should consider the same.
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Oil Spill Aftermath[/size]

Transocean (RIG), which offers offshore contract drilling services internationally, is improving efficiency. The company posted a solid quarter on pushing drilling margins higher (40% in the second quarter, up by 8% year-over-year) through increasing pricing and utilization rates. As a matter of fact, average daily revenue was up 3.2% year over year.

Besides, the company seems to be finally healing after taking huge impairment costs related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Transocean was the owner of the rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, which resulted into the largest oil spill in U.S. history. Cooperman is not the only great investor that believes Transocean is undervalued. Carl Icahn, who is pushing management to increase cash returns to shareholders, already owns 6% of the company's shares.

Transocean, which operates in an industry with high barriers to entry and highly prone to M&A, trades at 6.7 times 2013 EBITDA. Here I will agree with Cooperman and Icahn. It looks cheap. Go long.
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Continued Improvement Ahead[/size]

[size=13px; ]Trading at just 90% of its tangible book value, [/size]Citigroup [size=13px; ] (C) is another big position held by Cooperman's fund. While Citi is still dismantling Citi Holdings, the bank is also going through tremendous improvement in credit quality and growing its profitability. Net charge-offs, for example, have come down 13 quarters in a row. As a matter of fact, by 2014, I expect the company to be in an unimpeachable position in terms of capital and asset quality. Hence, I also expect Citi to be permitted a share repurchase and a relevant increase in its cash dividends as soon as next year.[/size]

In its most recent earnings report, Citi presented a clear picture of stability and profitability. All the key revenue and expense lines were close to expectations. Tangible book value grew and credit trends continued to improve in the U.S. and were stable in emerging markets (where the company makes 49% of its earnings). Trading at 9.8 times 2013 earnings, Citi is always a good option when thinking of gaining exposure to US banks.
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Cooperman is one of the most successful value investors in the street. His record of consistently high returns make him an example of good investment methodology. When considering assembling a portfolio for yourself, you should always consider his top picks.

Guru Discussed: Leon Cooperman: Current Portfolio, Stock Picks
Stocks Discussed: S, RIG, C,
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