NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- I'm in New York this week, attending the 9th Annual New York Value Investing Congress, which I consider to be a can't miss event. As usual, I walked away from day 1 with a few interesting ideas, and some homework.
John Mirshekari, co-portfolio manager of
Fidelity Low-Priced Stock
, who specializes in industrial names, made an interesting case for engineering name
. The company has made some rather expensive acquisitions over the years, but Mirshekari believes that there is change in the air at URS. Last Friday, the company pledged to return at least $500 million to shareholders in 2014 and 2015, which he sees as a positive. Mirshekari believes that URS could be worth $98 a share in two years, more than 80% above current levels.
Clifton Robbins of Blue Harbour Group, presented the bullish case for women's retailer Chico's FAS (CHS). Retailers, and especially women's retailers are not my typical cup of tea, but Robbins presentation was compelling enough that I'll at least be doing some additional digging on this name.
Robbins believes that the chain which currently has 1427 locations could grow to 2,200. He points to the stores smaller size, and considerably higher sales per square foot than competitors such as
and Talbot's as another positive.
Of Chico's brands, Robbins is especially bullish on the company's Soma stores, which he likened to Victoria's Secret for women over age 30. Chico's currently trades for 13 times 2015 consensus analyst estimates. The balance sheet is solid with $302 million, or nearly $2 per share and no debt.
Legendary value investor Mark Boyar presented the case for
Madison Square Garden
, an asset rich name which owns among other assets, The New York Knicks, New York Rangers, Madison Square Property and associated air rights. The stock has pulled back recently from the $62 range to $55, and Boyar was critical of the $125 million deal the company recently announced for a 50% stake in the artist management business of Eagles manager Irving Azoff. Boyar believes that MSG could be taken private by the Dolan family, which controls nearly 70% of the company's voting rights.
Joe Altman and Chris Kyriopoulos of Compound Capital made the case for
which is in the waste disposal business. But interestingly, the company converts waste into energy at its 40 state of the art facilities providing electricity to one million homes in North America. Last month, the company signed a 20 year agreement with New York City to dispose of 800,000 tons of municipal waste per year.
Covanta is not exactly cheap at 38 times 2014 consensus earnings estimates, but given the fact that the landfills are filling up quickly, waste to energy may be the future of waste disposal. It is estimated that the replacement cost of the company's tangible assets would be between $6 and $9 billion, and with a current enterprise value of $5 billion, Covanta may also be an asset play. Finally, the company has reduced shares outstanding by more than 15% since 2010, which in my view is another positive.
Day two of the 9th New York Value Investing Congress kicks off this morning.
At the time of publication the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
Jonathan Heller, CFA, is president of KEJ Financial Advisors, his fee-only financial planning company. Jon spent 17 years at Bloomberg Financial Markets in various roles, from 1989 until 2005. He ran Bloomberg's Equity Fundamental Research Department from 1994 until 1998, when he assumed responsibility for Bloomberg's Equity Data Research Department. In 2001, he joined Bloomberg's Publishing group as senior markets editor and writer for Bloomberg Personal Finance Magazine, and an associate editor and contributor for Bloomberg Markets Magazine. In 2005, he joined SEI Investments as director of investment communications within SEI's Investment Management Unit.
Jon is also the founder of the
, a site dedicated to deep-value investing. He has an undergraduate degree from Grove City College and an MBA from Rider University, where he has also served on the adjunct faculty; he is also a CFA charter holder.