For anyone who tracks these things,
just unload 33 million shares of
The mutual-fund firm's latest 13F-HR filing with the
Securities and Exchange Commission
differed substantially from its May 15 filing. Most notably, the 32.6 million shares held by Legg Mason Funds Management was gone from the list of holdings. After the 13F-HR filing, the
Nasdaq's Web site listing institutional holders of Amazon.com duly noted that Legg Mason sold 33.2 million shares, or 62% of the firm's stake, of Amazon.com. According to the 13F-HR filing and the Nasdaq's site, Legg Mason now held 20.3 million shares, or roughly 5% of Amazon's shares outstanding.
Did this mean that Legg Mason -- the shop that houses Value Trust skipper and
-beater Bill Miller -- turned cold on its biggest holding, Amazon.com?
No. Repeat: no. According to Neal O'Callahan in Legg Mason's legal/compliance department, the 13F-HR filing issued Thursday was erroneous. Due to an error in picking up the CUSIP numbers on certain stocks, the latest report mistakenly left Legg Mason Funds Management's stake off the filing. The firm will issue an amended 13F-HR filing sometime today, O'Callahan said.
As a matter of fact, the new filing will show Legg Mason Funds Management's stake in Amazon.com now stands at 34.2 million shares, up from 32.6 million at the end of the first quarter. The total number of shares owned by Legg Mason wasn't immediately available, but it is likely to be close to the 53 million the firm owned at the end of March.
Everyone who owns Amazon.com can exhale. Amazon short-sellers, better luck with the next 13F-HR filing.
For the Record
Legg Mason, and Miller specifically, have been prominent champions of the online retailer from back in the late-1990s. Amazon's stock finished trading Friday at $40.10. The shares have more than tripled since closing at $12.49 on July 25, 2002, during the deep recesses of the bear market. They were in the low 20s in early March.
The first thing most investors think of regarding Miller is "The Streak" -- his
Legg Mason Value Trust fund has managed to top the
in each of the past 12 years. The second thing investors often think of with Miller is his liberal interpretation of value, which includes large stakes on companies such as
AOL Time Warner
, Barry Diller's
and, most famously, Amazon.com.
Miller's steadfast belief in the revolutionary power of the Internet has been a boon to his fund in good years, and a source of criticism in down years -- he told a Morningstar conference in mid-2000 that he believed Amazon.com is worth between $75 and $85 a share. More recently, he has said the stock could trade as high as $100.
Miller's Value Trust fund held 24.7 million shares of Amazon.com as of March 31, making his the fund with the biggest stake in the company. But he is not the only big Amazon holder among Legg Mason's ranks: Robert Hagstrom's Legg Mason Focus fund and Lisa Rapuano's Legg Mason Special Investment fund each owned 5.2 million Amazon.com shares, putting them in the top 10 of fund owners in Amazon.com, according to institutional-ownership tracker Lionshares.com. Indeed, Legg Mason owned 13.4% of all Amazon.com shares outstanding as of March 31, making it the second-largest owner after Jeff Bezos.
In December, Nancy Dennin, a portfolio manager at Value Trust along with Miller, told
that the fund's stake in Amazon.com "most likely won't be going above the 6% level;" as of March 31, Amazon comprised 7.4% of Legg Mason Value.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Chinese wall at Legg Mason, analyst Tom Underwood has taken a bearish stance on Amazon, downgrading the e-tailer's stock to sell from hold in early June. Back in December, Underwood initiated coverage of the stock with a hold rating, providing an interesting
contrast to the fund side's bullish stance.