5 Picks from a Wealthy Hedge Fund Guru

Investors mine ideas from many different sources, but many investors overlook a resource that provides some of the best ideas from the greatest minds. Most people believe that the world of hedge funds is not within their grasp. In truth, some of the best stock-pickers make their choices widely available, if you know where to look.

There is benefit to mining for opportunity by checking out the portfolio holdings of top mutual fund managers, but the problem with this approach is the fund literature rarely provides detailed analysis about selected stocks.

However, over at websites such as Gurufocus.com and MarketFolly.com, hedge fund presentations provide exquisite detail about stock investments and are available free of charge.

One of the great hedges operating today is the man who pried open the credit market scheme run by MBIA, Inc. (NYSE: MBI). William Ackman of Pershing Square Capital Management provides rigorous fundamental analysis that every investor should read.

No matter how much research the average investor does regarding a company, he simply cannot match the depth of analysis of a guy like Ackman. If you examine some of his firm’s presentations, you’ll understand why.

Plus, Ackman’s track record is extraordinary. His fund has returned +24% annually since 2002, and that includes the horrible crash the market endured in 2008. That’s why I buy some of his holdings for my own portfolio. Here are a few of his current picks and why he thinks (and I agree) that they are profitable opportunities.

Target Corp. (NYSE: TGT). Ackman started a proxy war to get Target to become a more responsive company and to get rid of its risky credit card operation. Although he lost, Target management got the message. They’ve made a lot of changes and the stock is on the move. With +13% projected long-term growth and a P/E of 14.5, the stock is primed to return about +15% compounded annually, which would mean a double in the next five to six years.

Kraft Foods (NYSE: KFT). Ackman loved Kraft’s purchase of Cadbury. He believes Cadbury’s multitude of brand names will bolster Kraft’s own portfolio, leading to higher organic growth. The company expects $750 million in synergy savings and Ackman believes margins, which had been declining every year, will make a comeback from 12.6% to 15%. He also expects Cadbury to generate 40% of its sales from emerging markets. Kraft could return +12% to +14% annually during the next several years, and it also pays a solid 4% dividend.

Yum! Brands (NYSE: YUM) includes the iconic restaurants of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, among others. Ackman sees consistent +10% to +13% earnings growth during the next five years, as the economy drives people to lower cost restaurant choices. The company generates mid-nine-figure free cash flow each year. [More on Yum]

General Growth Properties (NYSE: GGP). This is an impressive success for Ackman. The company, which owns and develops shopping centers, was on the verge of bankruptcy when Ackman bought in at $1. Correctly predicting that there would be shareholder value after the bankruptcy filing, he has seen a 13-fold increase in his investment. Ackman thinks the company is worth $20, which is about +35% higher than its current price.

Corrections Corporation of America (NYSE: CXW). Ackman thinks the nation’s largest private prison operator (48% market share) has growth ahead of it. State and federal prisons are overcrowded, crime increases during a recession, prison populations are therefore increasing, and the company has more than enough capital to take on expansion. Ackman thinks the company is worth as much as $54, which is about +135% above current prices.

Action to Take –> William Ackman doesn’t just make little bets on stocks — he makes massive ones. He holds between 10 million and 30 million shares of each of these stocks, representing billions of dollars of faith in each company. If his track record was questionable, I wouldn’t bother, but Ackman is a proven winner.

Ackman has other holdings, but these are the ones I find most compelling and worthy of further research. Any of these stocks would make fine core portfolio components.

P.S. There’s another analyst with a track record you need to see. She has an 89% win rate — remarkable for this market. And she just keeps picking winners. One of her recent picks shot up +18.2% in just 13 days. Go here for the details…