Why we cut loose Hillshire Brands

By Ironwood Investment Management

The Ironwood Smidcap Value portfoliohad a very strong month in May, rising nearly 6%. Stocks from the materials and processing, consumer discretionary, and utilities sectors were among the biggest contributors to the outperformance while technology stocks were a slight detractor.

Some of the better performing stocks were Platform Specialty Products (PAH), Office Depot (ODP) and Dynegy (DYN). These stocks were once again strong performers due to their ability to execute, a skill we identified as a potential catalyst for stock price appreciation when we initiated our positions.

Here is an update on some positions we initiated:

Triumph Group (TGI ) operates in three business lines- aerospace structures (67% of revenues), aerospace systems (25% of revenues) and aftermarket services (8% of revenues).

The systems and aftermarket divisions are operating well. The structures business has been under pressure due to military program roll offs and production cuts at Boeing (BA) for commercial aircrafts. Margin improvement efforts are underway in the structures business from cost cuts and a new manufacturing facility that is now up and running. The company's acquisition strategy should help diversify business away from the structures division. The company is also buying back stock.

Recently, activist investor Atlantic Investment filed as a shareholder and has a history of helping mid cap industrials improve operations. Given the cheap current valuation due to the weakness in structures and the multiple opportunities to improve sales, margins and earnings going forward we initiated a position in the name on May 29th.

On the flipside, we sold our position in Hillshire Brands (HSH), a stock we had owned since this portfolio's inception date at the start of 2013. The newly independent company had been spun off from Sara Lee in June of 2012.

We believed the management team would pursue a three-pronged strategy of rationalizing costs to improve margins, investing in innovation and brand-building and pursuing mergers and acquisitions to further drive top-line growth.

Hillshire was executing on all three of these strategies. On May 12th they announced the acquisition of Pinnacle Food, which would have doubled the size of Hillshire and greatly expanded their product offering. We had a moderately favorable view of the acquisition.

However, in late May Pilgrim's Pride (PPC) announced an unsolicited $45 all-cash offer to buy Hillshire. We sold the stock that day.

DISCLAIMER: The investments discussed are held in client accounts as of May 31, 2013. These investments may or may not be currently held in client accounts. The reader should not assume that any investments identified were or will be profitable or that any investment recommendations or investment decisions we make in the future will be profitable. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
Ironwood Investment Management

Ironwood Investment Management

Ironwood Investment Management is an employee-owned investment management firm based in Boston that formed in 1997. It invests in undervalued

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