What Can We Learn from an Oil Legend’s Portfolio?

T. Boone Pickens is the quintessential Texas oilman: outspoken, complex and savvy. During the course of his career, he initiated headline-grabbing takeovers in the energy sector and amassed a fortune of about $3 billion.

Pickens began his career as a “wildcatter,” drilling in areas not known to contain oil, and eventually formed Mesa Petroleum in 1956, which would grow to be one of the largest independent oil producers in the world before being acquired by a private equity group and renamed Pioneer Natural Resources (NYSE: PXD).

And whether it’s his decidedly conservative political views, his calls for increased production of wind energy and the promotion of natural gas as an alternative to fossil fuels through the “Pickens Plan,” or his belief in “peak oil,” which claims that world oil production will soon cross the point of no return and begin declining, Pickens is not without his detractors. But one thing is for certain: The man knows oil. At 81, Pickens may have retired from the day-to-day operations of oil exploration, but when he speaks about energy, people listen.

Now, just because people listen doesn’t automatically make him an authority. But consider this: Pickens serves as the chairman of BP Capital Management, a hedge fund investing primarily in energy. Like many hedge funds, it caters to the well-heeled and charges exorbitant fees. The mere fact that wealthy individuals are willing to fork over 20% of profits to Pickens and his managers speaks volumes.

Unfortunately, most of us do not have the $5 million minimum requirement to invest in the fund. What we do have, however, is the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Let me explain…

Every institutional investor (hedge funds, mutual funds, pension plans, etc.) is required to disclose its holdings to the SEC quarterly in a 13F filing. These filings are available to the public and can level the playing field a bit for smaller investors willing to do a little digging.

In order to spare you the headache of sifting through these filings, here’s the most recent breakdown of BP Capital Management’s holdings:

Company (Ticker) % of Portfolio Holding Value P/E
Transocean Ltd (NYSE: RIG) 12.8% $28M 7.0
Hess Corp. (NYSE: HES) 10.7% $24M 27.3
Devon Energy (NYSE: DVN) 9.4% $19M 17.7
Occidental Petro. (NYSE: OXY) 7.7% $18M 21.6
McMoran Exploration (NYSE: MMR) 7.1% $15M N/A
Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK) 6.6% $14M 11.7
Forest Oil (NYSE: FST) 6.3% $13M 7.3
Cabot Oil & Gas (NYSE: COG) 5.0% $12M 21.2
Sandridge Energy (NYSE: SD) 4.9% $12M N/A
Questar (NYSE: STR) 4.8% $10M 18.5
Weatherford (NYSE: WFT) 4.4% $10M 31.5
Suncor Energy (NYSE: SU) 3.5% $10M N/A
Smith Intl. (NYSE: SII)* 3.0% $8M 50.8
Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE: APC) 3.0% $7M N/A
Transatlantic Petro. (NYSE: TAT)* 2.4% $7M N/A
Fluor Corp. (NYSE: FLR)* 2.4% $6M 12.3
Gastard Expl. (NYSE: GST) 2.4% $5M N/A
Foster Wheeler (Nasdaq: FWLT)* 2.2% $5M 9.1
Canadian Natl. Res. (NYSE: CNQ)* 1.5% $3M 42.3
*Denotes new buys
Total   $224.5M  

The hedge fund had five new buys in its fourth-quarter 2009 filing, dated Feb. 16, 2010. Two of the new buys, Fluor (NYSE: FLR) and Foster Wheeler AG (Nasdaq: FWLT) stand out in particular. Both heavy construction companies stand to benefit from a global turnaround by winning contracts for oil and gas refineries, power plants and other infrastructure projects.

#-ad_banner-#So far, BP Capital’s stake in McMoRan Exploration (NYSE: MMR) has performed the best year-to-date, gaining +74%, mainly on the back of a major discovery in the Davy Jones field in the Gulf of Mexico.

Pickens’ largest holding, offshore oil driller Transocean (NYSE: RIG) is perhaps the most compelling name in the portfolio. The economic downturn combined with falling oil prices led to a decrease in demand for offshore drilling and created a surplus of rigs that were coming online just as the downturn hit. The world’s thirst for oil will likely return as soon as recovery sets in, but make no mistake, most of the oil left is deep offshore within the earth and will not be easy to extract. Transocean’s massive, complex machinery, deployed in areas as far-reaching as the Gulf of Mexico, Brazil, Australia and Angola, will be needed to get it out.

The company has a reputation as the biggest and best in the business: Its fleet of 70 drillships and semisubmersibles more than doubles the size of its next-largest competitor. It also has a $30 billion backlog locked up for the next five years, which provides a nice blanket of security.

At just above $80 a share, Transocean is trading at half the level it was in 2008, when oil was at $150 a barrel. And while we may not see oil spike to the levels it did back then, it’s all but certain that demand will increase as the global economy recovers, developing countries demand more fossil fuel and land reserves are depleted.

Transocean changes hands for just seven times earnings, a -62% discount to the S&P’s multiple of just under 19. Earnings are expected to grow 17% during the next five years, yet the stock commands a PEG of just 0.5. Add it all up, and Transocean appears to be a deep value that could reward patient shareholders with huge gains.

P.S. Near-simultaneous news alerts coming out of OPEC and The Federal Reserve last week point to soaring oil prices in the near future. If you’re looking for an easy way to cash in, you need to read this special report.