Harriet Lefton

About the Author Harriet Lefton

Harriet originates from the UK where she worked as a journalist specializing in the metal markets. She graduated from the University of Cambridge before becoming a qualified UK lawyer.

Hedge Fund Titan Louis Bacon Pulls the Trigger on Apple Inc. (AAPL), Snap Inc (SNAP) and Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN)

One of the world’s most powerful hedge fund managers, Louis Moore Bacon of the $3.71 billion Moore Capital Management fund, has finally decided to initiate a position in major stocks Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) as well as new tech stock Snap Inc (NASDAQ:SNAP). Despite Bacon’s love of secrecy -he is well known to be one of the Street’s most private billionaires-  investors are still keen to track the fund’s movements in the hope of replicating its successful returns.

Moore himself made most of his money from trading- placing him as one of Forbes 400 wealthiest people on the 2017 list. Bacon’s most notable trades relate to his impressive ability of accurately predicting world events. He famously worked with George Soros on finding ways to dump the pound before the 1992 currency crisis and correctly anticipated the 1987 stock market crash. Now he donates his money to American campaigns (Republicans and Democrats) and various environmental charities including the Moore Charity Foundation.

His interest in investing began at an early age- while still studying he met trader Walter N. Frank who encouraged him to start his own trading career. Moore subsequently received an MBA from the prestigious Columbia Business School, and then quickly shot up the trading ranks of Shearman Lehman Brothers to become senior vice president. His success propelled him to launch his own fund, Moore Capital, in 1989- which returned an incredible 85% in its first trading year. As Bacon once famously said, Moore Capital will deal in “anything that trades”. However the fund fared less well during 2000, apparently returning just 2% after he thought that inflation would increase due to the strong US economy.

Bacon has also been the subject of some less-than positive press attention. In 2010, Business Insider reported that the body of his house manager Dan Tuckfield was found in Bacon’s hot tub in the Bahamas. The police concluded that Tuckfield died of natural causes. Currently Bacon is embroiled in a bitter dispute on the island with retail tycoon Peter Nygard that has involved over 16 legal actions and, according to Vanity Fair “allegations of activities that include vandalism, bribery, insider trading, arson, murder, destruction of the fragile seabed, and having a close association with the Ku Klux Klan.”

Now following that tantalizing insight into Bacon and the fund, let’s dig down into some specific moves Moore Capital made during Q1:

Apple Inc

Bacon made a late, and relatively small entry into Apple in Q1 with a new position worth $36.63 million- about 1% of the total portfolio. Since the last filing date, the shares are already up by 8.65%.

Apple is currently holding its annual WWDC conference, and gave its keynote speech yesterday. During the speech, AAPL showed off a new iOS version- which will include ARKit, and the relatively expensive $349 home assistant called HomePod. The ARKit is now the world’s largest augmented reality platform. It enables developers to build virtual content over real-world scenes using phone components such as the camera, processor and motion sensors for multiple potential uses including gaming, shopping and designing. The future is now open for Apple to introduce 3D sensing and other AR innovations.

Investors were also eager to hear about Apple’s upcoming iPhone X which is expected to launch in September on the 10th anniversary of the first iPhone. There have been many rumors in recent months about what the iPhone X will include but it is expected to have an OLED display, an edge to edge glass display, much better battery life -possibly with wireless charging- and augmented reality applications. Analysts are expecting that the radical redesign will convince “new and existing iPhone users” to consider purchasing the phone.

Top Piper Jaffray analyst Michael Olson was there to watch the action unfold. He concluded that investors should own AAPL because of “growing anticipation” on the new iPhone and services revenue that is demonstrating a “favorable trajectory.” He is now expecting that there will be a run into the iPhone X launch that will overcome any other issues that may plague the shares (such as a June quarter iPhone miss). Five-star Olson has a buy rating and $158 price target on AAPL (2.64% upside from the current share price). The analyst has a strong track record with a 67% success rate and 17.7% average return per rating.

Overall, TipRanks shows that Apple has a strong buy analyst consensus rating. In the last three months, the stock has received 25 buy and 5 hold ratings. The average price target from all these analysts comes out at $165.31 which suggests AAPL still has upside potential over the next 12 months of 7.4%.

Snap Inc

Interestingly, Bacon is one of the several hedge fund managers bullish on this newly-public photo-sharing app developer. In Q1 the fund initiated a position in Snap valued at close to $30 million- which is just 0.8% of the fund’s total holdings. Since the filing date, shares are down by -6.4% as the price fluctuates post-IPO.

Top JP Morgan analyst Doug Anmuth is cautious about how the stock will proceed in the near future. He maintained his hold rating on SNAP but slightly lowered his price target to $18 from $20 on June 5 because he believes it will be a while before the company will be able to effectively monetize its popular Snapchat app. He says its “early days” for Snap’s ad tech to reach its peak but he is encouraged by the progress for new “self-serve” ad offers.

Anmuth also slashed his estimates for both Snapchat’s revenue and its daily average users (DAU) for the third quarter. Due to Snap’s ad sales “seasonality” (which he says the Street has failed to appreciate given that the stock only went public in March) he reduced his estimate for Q3 by $65 million to $266.4 million. Last year’s advertising was inflated by the Olympics and the US presidential ad spend says Anmuth. However, he believes that revenue should improve in the seasonally stronger Q4.

Competition from Facebook and Instagram will bring Snap’s DAU to 8 million this quarter, instead of the 10 million previously modeled, with 7 million in Q3 and 9 million in Q4. Five-star Anmuth is ranked #50 out of all the 4,575 analysts tracked by TipRanks due to his impressive track record of 72% success rate and 20.2% average return.

Overall, the stock has a hold analyst consensus rating with an average 12-months analyst price target of $21.71. This is now a 7.4% upside from the current share price of $20.21.

Amazon.com, Inc.

In Q1, Bacon initiated a position in e-commerce and cloud computing giant Amazon worth $51.6 million. This new holding now makes up 1.39% of the total portfolio and so far it is doing well as shares in Amazon have now tipped past the $1,000 mark. Indeed, since the last filing date, AMZN shares are up by an impressive 13.56%.

A key factor in Amazon’s success is the fact that it is constantly evolving. Now new rumors have surfaced that the company is developing a new phone, code named ‘Ice’, after its last attempt to break into the mobile phone market ended in disaster. Sources have revealed to NDTV’s Gadget 360 that the phone will use Google’s Android operating system. This should give the phone a better chance of success than the loss-making 2014 ‘Fire’ phone which Amazon developed with its own operating system to disappointing reviews and poor sales.

Further details on the new phone suggest that Amazon is not trying to compete directly with the ubiquitous iPhone but is instead developing a more simple model which will cost about $93 and is aimed at fast-growing emerging markets such as India. The price could also make the phone attractive to a younger consumer buying their first smartphone.

It is also likely that Amazon would have its apps pre-installed on the phone thereby boosting Amazon’s other offerings. Free Amazon apps include Amazon cloud drive for data storage, Amazon video and Amazon seller which enables sellers to list their products on the Amazon platform. So far it is unclear whether Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa will also be installed on the phone.

Analysts are also bullish on Amazon’s prospects. On TipRanks, the stock has a strong buy analyst consensus rating based on the 23 buy and 3 hold ratings Amazon has received in the last three months. Meanwhile, an average analyst price target of $1,090 suggests the stock still has further upside potential of close to 8%.