FedEx Stock Rises as Dan Loeb Investment Outweighs Cohen Downgrade

Andrew Klips  |

Shares of shipping company FedEx Corp. (FDX) started Tuesday on a bit of a downward path after news that analysts at Cohen and Company cut the company to market perform from outperform, citing a fair valuation for the stock and lack of “significant near-term upside.”  Lead analyst Helane Becker noted that the markets had already priced in margin improvement and the company’s 32-million-share repurchase plan.  Calculating a multiple of 18-times expected 2014 earnings; Cohen simultaneously raised its price target from $117 per share to $136 per share.

That target is definitely a narrow upside from FedEx’s closing price of $132.52 on Monday.

Shares reversed course later in the morning when hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb disclosed a position in FedEx, although keeping it hush-hush as to how large of a position.  Loeb, the founder and chief executive of Third Point LLC, simply told a crowd at a New York Times’ DealBook conference in New York that he had met with FedEx CEO, president and chairman Fred Smith last week in Memphis.  Smith founded FedEx in 1971.  Loeb didn’t share the details of the conversation, only that he had a position and that he liked Smith and was not looking to run him out of his job.

Loeb is well-known for his activist investor ways, most notably pressuring former Yahoo (YHOO) CEO Scott Thompson to step down, leading to the appointment of Marissa Mayer and subsequently a sharp rise in the stock price.

Third Point is also the biggest shareholder of Sony Corp. (SNE) , a company that he has been urging to spin out its entertainment business.  Sony does not agree that splitting the company is the right way to go, but Loeb said he’s still happy with the progress his fund has made with management.

In another high-profile investment, Loeb hit a home run by purchasing shares of Herbalife (HLF) after rival activist investor and Pershing Square Capital Management chief Bill Ackman pronounced the company a pyramid scheme and said he was heavily shorting the company.  Shares of HLF were halved after Ackman’s commentary in December 2012, a time when Loeb and another activist investor gunslinger Carl Icahn jumped in with purchases.  Loeb exited his 8-percent position in February.

Whereas Loeb wants Sony to split its business, he may want to see FedEx to consider merging its air and delivery business to further control expenses or selling-off its FedEx Kinkos retail operations, as some analysts have suggested.  Again, though, Loeb didn’t offer any suggestions about what he’d like to see the company do.

FedEx is currently conducting a $1.7-billion restructuring program to cut costs and raise earnings that includes tactics like greatly lowering air capacity to Asia, offering employee buyouts and grounding older planes.  In October shares surged to their highest level amidst the cost-cutting efforts, share buy-back plan and quarterly profits that topped analysts, so what Loeb could be looking for may not be much of anything other than continued performance.

Shares ended Tuesday ahead by 1.6 percent at $134.63.  So far in 2013, shares have appreciated by about 48 percent with Tuesday’s move.

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