Bloomberg News

Biggs Avoids Financials, Says Cisco, Intel Are ‘Too Cheap’

June 07, 2011

(Updates valuations and closing prices starting in third paragraph.)

June 7 (Bloomberg) -- Barton Biggs, the hedge-fund manager who bought stocks when the market bottomed in March 2009, said tech companies such as Cisco Systems Inc. and Intel Corp. are attractively priced and that he’s avoiding financial shares.

With older technology companies, “you can almost buy them as big-capitalization value. They’re way too cheap,” said Biggs, who runs New York-based Traxis Partners LP, in an interview today on Bloomberg Television’s “InBusiness” with Margaret Brennan.

A gauge of technology companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index trades at 14.7 times reported earnings, compared with 14.6 the broader measure. That’s close to the lowest valuation for the technology gauge compared with the S&P 500 since December 2009. Cisco’s P/E ratio is 11.7, while Intel’s is 10.1.

Biggs said he’s not worried about a downturn for technology companies because forecasts for capital spending by U.S. companies are still strong. Biggs said last month he is bullish on U.S. equities even though the global economy has slowed. The S&P 500 has declined 5.8 percent from an almost-three-year high on April 29 as economic data missed forecasts and investors prepared for the Federal Reserve to complete its $600 billion bond-purchase program at the end of June.

Apple, Qualcomm

Biggs finds technology stocks such as Apple Inc. and Qualcomm Inc. “incredibly attractive.” He’s not buying companies such as LinkedIn Corp., the largest professional- networking site, which completed its initial public offering last month and more than doubled on its first day of trading.

“The LinkedIns are beyond my powers of comprehension,” he said. LinkedIn’s P/E ratio is 1,111.7, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

In order for financial-stock earnings to improve, the U.S. housing market needs to strengthen, according to Biggs. Home prices in 20 U.S. cities dropped in March to the lowest level since 2003, figures from the S&P/Case-Shiller index showed on May 31. The number of Americans signing contracts to buy previously owned home sales plunged 12 percent in April, the second-biggest drop in records going back a decade.

“I don’t feel confident I can really count on what the financials say their book value is,” Biggs said. “We know how ephemeral book values have been and we know how ephemeral earnings have been.” He said that if he saw a real improvement in prices of existing single-family homes, “then we’d be looking at ‘writes-up’ in terms of the financials’ earnings statement. With home prices still falling, I’m concerned we’re going to be looking at writedowns.”

--Editors: Joanna Ossinger, Stephen Kleege

To contact the reporters on this story: Inyoung Hwang in New York at ihwang7@bloomberg.net; Margaret Brennan in New York at mbrennan25@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Regan at mregan12@bloomberg.net


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