Billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman has had his ups and his downs. Ackman has lost big before, in Valeant and shorting Herbalife. He has also won big with McDonalds and Chipotle. So far 2019, Ackman is up big. According to the Pershing Square Holdings, LTd website, NAV is up 38.4% year to date as of May 14. Unlike some other hedge funds that trade thousands of s tocks, Ackman makes focused buys, so it’s relatively easy for the average investor to track his buys and sells. Let’s take a closer look at what Ackman did in Q1.
Our research has shown that hedge funds’ small-cap stock picks managed to beat the market by double digits annually between 1999 and 2016, but the margin of outperformance has been declining in recent years. Nevertheless, we were still able to identify in advance a select group of hedge fund holdings that outperformed the market by 32 percentage points since May 2014 through March 12, 2019 (see the details here). We were also able to identify in advance a select group of hedge fund holdings that underperformed the market by 10 percentage points annually between 2006 and 2017. Interestingly the margin of underperformance of these stocks has been increasing in recent years. Investors who are long the market and short these stocks would have returned more than 27% annually between 2015 and 2017. We have been tracking and sharing the list of these stocks since February 2017 in our quarterly newsletter.
Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. (NYSE:CMG) is back, up 63% year to date; the long ago e-coli news has been forgotten, and the stock has been a great performer. Bulls remain excited about the company’s growth prospects and Ackman for the most part kept most of his shares despite making a handsome profit for the quarter. Pershing Square sold 4% in Q1 or 78,089 shares to end March with 1.862 million shares, worth north of 1.3 billion dollars at the end of Q1.
Ackman seems to like his consumer consumer discretionary restaurant stocks as Ackman held on to the majority of his Restaurant Brands International Inc (NYSE:QSR) holdings too, selling only 6% or 1.34 million shares in Q1 to end the quarter with 18.34 million shares. Like Chipotle, QSR shares have done well in 2019, rising 27% year to date. The strong economy and relatively low oil prices should help demand, while management has executed in previous quarters.
In a rare move in Q1, Ackman added to his United Technologies Corporation (NYSE:UTX) holdings, adding 241,000 shares to end the quarter with 5.819 million shares, accounting for 11.17% of Pershing Square’s portfolio. Ackman likes the high-quality industrial conglomerate, which it believes has favorable long term growth trends as well as recurring cash flows from enviable sectors. Ackman also likes the company’s significant barriers to entry and large future growth potential.
Although the U.S. China tensions could certainly hurt Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ:SBUX)‘s near term growth prospects in the country, Ackman retained the majority of his firm’s Starbucks holdings, selling 14% or 1.76 million shares and ending the quarter with slightly under 10 million shares. Despite the China trade war, Starbucks has done very well rising 20.7% year to date. The stock trades for a reasonable looking forward P/E of 25.
One stock that Ackman sold out off completely was Element Solutions Inc (NYSE: ESI). Ackman had a previous stake of 40.45 million shares. ESI was previously named Platform Specialty Products and there was hope that it would consolidate the specialty chemical sector like a platform company. Instead, management chose to the non platform route instead, and shares are up 7% year to date.