Sprint Nextel Corporation (S), Priceline.com Inc (PCLN): Billionaire Leon Cooperman’s Shakeups

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Billionaire Leon Cooperman grew up as the son of a plumber living in the South Bronx, then worked his way into Hunter College as a Xerox quality control engineer in the mid-60’s. Later, Cooperman went to Columbia Business School for an MBA.

After a 25-year career with Goldman Sachs, Cooperman founded Omega Advisors in 1991. Outlined below is some of the interesting takeaways from Omega’s recent buys and sells per its first quarter filing with the SEC (check all of Cooperman’s new picks).

Top pick

Holding strong as Cooperman’s top pick is Sprint Nextel Corporation (NYSE:S), making up 6.27% of his fund’s 13F portfolio. The big news of late for Sprint has been the battle between Softbank and Dish Network to see who will have control over the mobile company.

The Japanese cellphone company Softbank made a deal to to inject some $20 billion into Sprint for 70% of its shares. With this new capital, Sprint Nextel Corporation (NYSE:S) had hoped to purchase the remaining shares of Clearwire that it didn’t already own for $2.2 billion. However, in April Dish Network made a new proposal to acquire Sprint for $25.5 billion, outbidding the Softbank offer. Dish also proposed a deal to buy Clearwire for $3.30 per share.

Sprint Nextel Corporation (NYSE:S)Sprint Nextel Corporation (NYSE:S)’s first quarter 2013 results showed a $0.21 loss per share, which was better than consensus. The outperformance was a result of strong revenue growth and a focus on the core Sprint platform. This should remain the focus going forward, which should help Sprint see further upside. Cooperman has fellow billionaire John Paulson as a supporter in Sprint, with Paulson owning some 127 million shares (see Paulson’s latest moves).

Dumping healthcare

One of Cooperman’s notable sell-offs was Humana Inc (NYSE:HUM). Humana managed to post first quarter 2013 operating earnings of $407 million or $2.69 per share, surpassing consensus. However, total operating expenses have also been on the rise since 2009, rising 4.9% in 2009, 9.3% in 2010, 8.7% in 2011 and 7.6% in 2012.

The industry remains competitive, with a number of other companies offering similar insurance products and health/wellness services as Humana. Humana Inc (NYSE:HUM) also has a large portion of its revenue exposed to federal government health care coverage programs, including the Medicare, TRICARE and Medicaid programs. Thus, any cut in these programs or a change in healthcare funding could have a negative impact on Humana.

Big buys

Meanwhile, Cooperman was upping his stake in Chimera Investment Corporation (NYSE:CIM), Priceline.com Inc (NASDAQ:PCLN) and Eastman Chemical Company (NYSE:EMN).

Chimera was a 121% increase in shares owned from the previous quarter. Chimera Investment Corporation (NYSE:CIM) is a specialty finance company that invests in residential mortgage loans, residential mortgage-backed securities, and real estate-related securities. The REIT pays a very high 19.88% dividend yield.

Priceline.com Inc (NASDAQ:PCLN) saw Cooperman increase its shares owned by 73% during the first quarter. This online travel booking company is already up 29% year to date, but could have more room to go. For the second quarter, Priceline expects total gross bookings to grow by some 30% to 37% year-over-year.

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