As you already know, the third quarter was terrible for most smart money investors, who suffered significant losses amid the market turmoil caused by a slowdown of the global economy, weak commodity prices, and uncertainty regarding the next interest rate hike by the Fed. Activist Barry Rosenstein‘s JANA Partners was not spared, with its JANA Master Fund having posted losses of 8.2% in the third quarter, compared to a 6.4% decline for the S&P 500, according to a recent letter to investors. The investor decided to trim his long exposure in this environment amid the “macro backdrop”. Still, during the third quarter, JANA initiated stakes in Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Baxter International Inc (NYSE:BAX). In this article we will take a closer look at JANA’s theses on its recent additions and see some other portfolio highlights.
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Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) was added to JANA’s portfolio in the third quarter and we will see the size of the position once its 13F filing is out in the coming days. Rosenstein decided to take advantage of the lower share price amid the broader market decline to initiate a stake at 11-times Microsoft’s estimated 2016 free cash flow. The investor believes that Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) has many opportunities to increase its profit and free cash flow per share over the next one-to-two years. Even though its operating margin has decreased over the last several years, Microsoft’s operating expenses are still pretty high and its management can continue the same trend by cutting operating expenses, driving profits higher.
“We expect dividends to continue to increase and for about $4.0 billion of cash to be directed towards share repurchases on a quarterly basis,” JANA added.
Among other things, JANA also praised Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s transition towards the cloud and the transformation of its business model to an annual subscription-based service.
“Putting it all together, we see an asymmetric risk/reward profile in a large cap leader undergoing a significant transformation,” the letter also said.
Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) currently has another activist fund on its board of directors, Jeff Ubben’s ValueAct Capital, which owns 75.27 million shares of Microsoft according to its latest 13F filing. Stephen Mandel of Lone Pine is also bullish on the company, disclosing it among its top picks in the firm’s own third quarter letter to investors.
Another new position in JANA’s portfolio is Baxter International Inc (NYSE:BAX). Rosenstein is following in the footsteps of another activist, Dan Loeb of Third Point, who initiated a stake in the stock in July and boosted it to 9.9% in the third quarter, along with obtaining two board seats. In the letter, JANA said it followed Baxter for several years before initiating a stake after the spin-off of Baxalta Inc (NYSE:BXLT). The 13% drop of Baxter International Inc (NYSE:BAX)’s stock between July and September, made Baxter International Inc (NYSE:BAX) more attractive for entry and JANA thinks that the company has good assets that will allow it to increase its margins considerably.
“Our experience informs us that our Baxter investment will require patience; the progression toward higher margins will require sharper attention to costs, a re-constitution of the portfolio and better execution,” JANA added.
On the following page, we will take a closer look at some other highlights from JANA’s letter, namely two other healthcare stocks, Allergan PLC (NYSE:AGN) and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc (NASDAQ:WBA), and one tech pick, QUALCOMM, Inc. (NASDAQ:QCOM).