Jeffrey Smith, CEO of activist hedge fund Starboard Value, emphasized his firm's bullish stake in two companies at the 2016 Sohn Investment Conference Wednesday: Depomed (DEPO) and WestRock (WRK) - Get Report .
Based on pharmaceutical firm Depomed's existing product portfolio, shares of the company are in good shape to take off from a takeover bid, Smith says.
"The company could be, and should be, extremely attractive for a strategic acquirer," Smith says, noting that cost overlaps between Depomed and the right acquirer could more than double earnings per share of a combined company.
Smith highlighted that last year Horizon Pharma (HZNP) - Get Report offered to pay a 60% premium for Depomed, but Depomed averted the takeover attempt with a so-called "poison pill" and by avoiding negotiations.
The company can now benefit from a much-needed change in management, he says. Smith sent a letter to Depomed CEO James Schoeneck, calling for a meaningful management reshuffle, asReal Money's Carleton English reported earlier this week.
"Smith criticized the current board's corporate governance, 'questionable capital allocation decisions' and 'egregious' actions taken to maintain control over the company and block acquisitions, which could have been beneficial for shareholders," English wrote.
Smith also stressed the value of packaging manufacturer WestRock, noting that the market has wrongly priced its shares and neglects to appreciate the strength of the U.S. cardboard packaging industry.
In order for WestRock shares to reasonably trade at their current levels, a $125-per-ton decline in container board prices would be needed to significantly hike WestRock costs, he says, emphasizing such a jump in prices would be "unprecedented."
Packaging is a local market and demand remains strong, WestRock has limited exposure to emerging markets and 80% of its revenue is in North America, he continues. The company also has been producing sales at strong margins, generating a roughly 15% free-cash-flow yield, and 4% pro-forma dividend yield.
"We believe WestRock could be worth $71 a share by next year," Smith says.
See full coverage from the Sohn Investment Conference here. The event brings together some of the top minds in the financial world for a day of sharing investment ideas. It is held in honor of Ira Sohn, a Wall Street professional who lost his battle with cancer when he was 29. Proceeds from the New York conference, as well as other conferences the Sohn Conference Foundation holds, are dedicated to the treatment and cure of pediatric cancer and other childhood diseases. The foundation has so far raised more than $65 million.
At the time of publication, Jeffrey Smith (or a client) was long Depomed and WestRock.