United Rentals, Inc. (URI) & More: Billionaire Glenn Dubin’s Small Cap Picks

The most popular small cap stocks (defined as those with market capitalizations between $1 billion and $5 billion) among hedge funds outperform the S&P 500 by 18 percentage points per year on average (read more about our research on small cap stocks). We think that this is because smaller-cap stocks receive less attention from the financial media and institutional investors such as mutual funds. Hedge funds are therefore more likely to uncover an undervalued-or overvalued- stock when they do research on these companies. As such we think that a screen of a fund’s favorite small cap stocks can serve as a useful source of ideas for further research. Here are five of billionaire Glenn Dubin’s Highbridge Capital Management’s top small cap picks as of the end of December (or see the full list of Dubin’s stock picks):

The fund owned 2.5 million shares of United Rentals, Inc. (NYSE:URI), which rents construction and industrial equipment. With that line of business highly dependent on the macroeconomy, United Rentals’ stock price is very responsive to changes in broader market indices with a beta of 3.0. Revenue and earnings were each up over 40% in the fourth quarter of 2012 versus a year earlier as the company’s financials continued to improve. The forward earnings multiple is 8, but we’d note that earnings will inevitably take a hit whenever the economy next turns down.

HIGHBRIDGE CAPITAL MANAGEMENTHighbridge reported a position of 3.5 million shares in residential mortgage loan real estate investment trust Pennymac Mortgage Investment Trust (NYSE:PMT). Real estate investment trusts are required to distribute much of their pretax income to shareholders in order to maintain their favorable tax treatment; in the case of Pennymac, the result is a dividend yield of almost 9%. Of course, that high yield is partly due to the fact that the company invests in residential mortgage loans which certainly carry significant risks.

Echostar Corporation (NASDAQ:SATS), a $3.3 billion market cap provider of television equipment such as set-top boxes, as another of Dubin’s small cap picks. The stock trades at 16 times its trailing earnings, but revenue has been declining in recent quarters and Wall Street analysts are actually forecasting much lower net income for 2014. While the stock has risen 38% in the last year, suggesting that the market is considerably more optimistic about Echostar’s prospects than the sell-side, we would avoid it for now.

According to the 13F, Highbridge had 2.9 million shares of SEI Investments Company (NASDAQ:SEIC) in its portfolio at the end of December. SEI provides wealth management and financial advisory services, and its business has been doing well: in its most recent quarterly report revenue and net income each rose at double-digit rates from their levels in the fourth quarter of 2011. The stock is priced for further growth: its trailing and forward P/Es are 24 and 16, respectively. It might be worth looking into how sustainable its recent growth might be.