General Motors Company (GM), Sanofi SA (ADR) (SNY): Ex-Lehman Hedge Fund’s Favorite Equities

Managed by the former head of Global Trading Strategies for Lehman Brothers, Realm Partners was started in 2009 by Robert Millard with $650 million. Before leaving Lehman as managing director in 2007, a year before Lehman filed for bankruptcy, and Millard was given the highest pay package at the firm with $51.3 million, versus the $40 million paid to CEO Dick Fuld. Unfortunately, more than half of that was awarded as Lehman stock, which became virtually worthless after the bankruptcy filing.  But the amount was clearly a vote of confidence that Lehman had in the skill that Millard possessed as head of principal trading.

General Motors Company (NYSE:GM)

We already know that it has paid off in the past to track top-tier fund managers, and it’s worth asking: has Millard translated that skill into being a fund manager? Let’s take a look at the top five stock picks for Millard and his firm, the $1.1 billion Realm Partners, to see what he thinks are the best equities to own.

An interesting choice for No. 1

At the top of the list is TW Telecom Inc (NASDAQ:TWTC) with 476,992 shares, which comprise 11% of Realm’s total 13F portfolio.  TW Telecom was added to the portfolio during the first quarter of 2012 and has been increased by 44% since then. The metrics for TW Telecom are lousy—a price-to-book of 3.7x and a price-to-earnings of 54x—but the company has been able to reduce the percentage of sales it dedicates to costs, which improved its bottom line in the fourth quarter of 2012 by 33%.  Since the start of the year, shares of TW Telecom Inc (NASDAQ:TWTC) have gone up a modest 2%.

The best of the rest

At number two is Nexen Inc. (USA) (NYSE:NXY).  The Canadian oil and gas company was recently acquired by China’s CNOOC Limited (ADR) (NYSE:CEO) for $27.50 in cash. Before the acquisition by CNOOC Limited (ADR) (NYSE:CEO) was announced, Nexen was trading at $16-$17 per share.  Since Millard bought Nexen Inc. (USA) (NYSE:NXY) during the third quarter of 2012, he has most likely profited somewhere around $4 million from his 400,000 share-position.

Third in this top five is Walgreen Company (NYSE:WAG).  Walgreen stock is up 30% this year, and recently hit a new 52-week high of $49.63. So what’s driving its strong performance?  Walgreen recently reported second quarter 2013 earnings of $0.96 per share versus $0.78 for the same period a year ago, and 2012 earnings were up 10% from 2011. But looking forward, Walgreen Company (NYSE:WAG) faces some hurdles in the pharmacy provider market with the recent consolidation within the sector from CVS/Caremark, Express Scripts/Medco and SXC Health Solutions/Catalyst Health.  In addition, the introduction of more generics caused same-store pharmacy sales to drop 3.4% in March, and could continue to be felt for the remainder of the year.

At number four is General Motors Company (NYSE:GM). The stock has put in an anemic performance this year, up only 0.8% since the first of the year despite a 3.6% increase in sales for the first quarter of 2013 compared to the same period last year. Although sales of the Chevrolet brand were still rather anemic (+1.0%), the gain came amid a lingering economic slump in Europe.  GM is trying to beef up demand for Chevrolet in Europe to offset waning demand in the US. While in China, GM has plans to open four more plants over the next three years, expanding its current sales in China from 2.8 million in 2012 to 5 million per year, focusing on SUVs and luxury cars. General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) also plans to increase exports to China from 30,000 to 100,000 per year by 2015.