Editor's note: This column was submitted by Stockpickr member Arnab Dasgupta.
Private equity investment opportunities continue to be restricted to high-net-worth individuals, leaving an average Joe to turn green with envy at earning returns higher than those of the broad market.
This situation led me to search in earnest for publicly traded stocks that are backed by the same astute private-equity sponsors.
I might as well state why I am not recommending investing directly in
Fortress Investment Group
. Both have suffered double-digit losses since their initial public offerings, and I fear that daily headlines of tightening credit will make matters worse. Also, their accounting treatment of booking future cash flows has raised some eyebrows, and the Street is still awaiting a verdict on its legitimacy.
Luckily, I looked first at Fortress' investment foray, because I found four public companies (two of which only trade on foreign exchanges) that all pay high dividends, a safe haven in this volatile market. Of note is that Fortress has not sold a single share in these investments, even at the IPO stage. So it cannot be accused of selling out to public investors at what it perceives to be the top of the market, an accusation that is often leveled against private equity houses.
First up is
, the most recently listed -- August 2006 -- of my picks. Aircastle is a global player in the aircraft -- commercial and cargo -- leasing industry. With a portfolio of 71 aircrafts spanning 24 countries, it is the 13th-largest aircraft lessor in the world.
Citigroup, which initiated coverage of Aircastle with a buy rating, points out that while some markets, such as the U.S. and Japan, may start to exhibit maturity characteristics, there are plenty of growth opportunities for the aviation industry in emerging markets such as China, India, Russia and Latin America.
Recent developments include an announcement of a 60-cent dividend, representing a sequential increase of 20%, and a new contract with
to purchase 15 new Airbus Model A330-200F freighter aircrafts. The annualized second-quarter dividend annualized equates to a 7.3% yield that will only grow as the company works through its order book.
, which floated out in October 2002. The mortgage REIT, simply put, has been caught in the eye of the storm.
Earlier this year, it opportunistically purchased at hefty bargains a portfolio of subprime-mortgage loans that would eventually boast a return on equity north of 20%. However, in the near term, given the continued dislocation in the residential space, investors should expect to see a negative mark-to-market on these loans that will erode book value.
Its significantly larger (76%) commercial debt portfolio continues to exhibit healthy credit trends, though, and when the market recognizes that, the recovery should precipitate. The stock is down 40% since mid-May.
Next, and I will group these two because of their similar geographies, are property management companies
on the Euronext Exchange and
on the London Stock Exchange. Both have consistently raised their dividends since their initial offerings in 2005 and yield 6.5%.
Recent interest rate hikes by the ECB and Bank of England have pressured both of these stocks to near their 52-week lows, offering investors with a global bend an opportunity to take advantage of discount to net asset values.
The most important lesson this exercise has taught me is that one must look to be creative in the marketplace. There are numerous ways to follow smart money, and following Fortress is only one of them. Also, it does not matter what the shareholder base of a company looks like; the company's underlying fundamentals are most important.
At the time of publication, Dasgupta had no positions in stocks mentioned, but the hedge fund for which he works is long Aircastle. Positions may change at any time.
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