This month is marked by a number of big-name events in investing, including the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting in Omaha, the Sohn Investment Conference in New York and the SALT Conference in Las Vegas. The industry's best and brightest have come out in masses and have had quite a bit to say about their favorite investments.
Looking for stocks to buy or industries for investing? Here's where hedge fund heavyweights think you may want to be betting.
At the Sohn Investment Conference, Bill Ackman made the case for platform companies -- businesses that execute acquisitions to increase their own value.
Ackman noted that since 2001, Jarden has achieved success as a well-managed consolidator of consumer products assets, generating a roughly 45 times return for shareholders. Nevertheless, by his assessment, investors have consistently underestimated the firm's earnings potential.
Why such a big to-do about a company that, as of Ackman's most recent holdings disclosure, isn't in his portfolio? Jarden's founder and executive chairman, Martin Franklin, is also at the helm of Platform Specialty Products, which Ackman does own.
Moreover, Ackman and Franklin are good friends. Franklin discussed their relationship in a January interview with Bloomberg, calling the Pershing Square founder an all-in investor. "I think he gets involved, for better or for worse, he gets involved in helping with strategy, giving his opinions, as opposed to making an investment and being a very passive holder," he said.
Leon Cooperman told Omega Advisors investors in a letter earlier this year that he believes the equity bull market will "last quite a while longer than the next 12 months." And at the Sohn Investment Conference, he outlined the specific stocks he is most optimistic about.
He said he believes Actavis (ACT) has a "projectable 15% growth rate" and pointed to Citigroup (C) as an investment he likes as well. Bloomberg's Joseph Weisenthal captured an image of Cooperman's entire list of recommendations, which includes AerCap Holdings (AER), Dow Chemical (DOW), General Motors (GM), Google (GOOGL) and Priceline (PCLN). He also highlighted Gulf Coast Ultra Deep Royalty Trust (GULTU), which he called a "cigar butt stock."
He said AbbVie, which at market close Wednesday was trading at $65.30, could reach $90 at the end of 2016. He also made the argument that the pharmaceutical company could repurchase around 30% of its shares by the end of 2017, adding $15 to its price.
As for Brookdale, of which Glenview is the largest shareholder, Robbins said the investment is a bet on the aging population.
Mala Gaonkar of Lone Pine Capital spoke at Sohn and outlined the case for "legacy tech" -- specifically, Microsoft (MSFT). Her firm's thesis, she said, is centered on "new strong management" led by CEO Satya Nardella.
Gaonkar acknowledged Microsoft "has been the butt of every tech ad joke during the new millennium" but at the same time emphasized that it still dominates the business world. Microsoft and other legacy tech companies also have a stronghold on cloud software -- she said 85% of total spending.
Lone Pine has had a stake in Microsoft since late 2013.
Greenlight Capital's David Einhorn launched a major attack against fracking. He tore into the industry at the Sohn Investment Conference in a 92-slide presentation. "A business that burns cash and doesn't grow isn't worth anything," he said.
Einhorn zoned in on Pioneer Resources (PXD), which he called the "Mother-Fracker." According to the Greenlight Capital head, PXD loses about 20 cents of present value for every dollar it invests.
At Sohn, Rosenstein said that shareholder activism helped accelerate the close of the deal. His firm began acquiring a stake in Walgreens in the spring of 2014 and eventually took three seats on its board. He said the merged company's success is a result of the "power of bringing a shareholder's mindset to the boardroom." He hopes to achieve similar results with Qualcomm (QCOM).
Jana has a $2 billion stake in Qualcomm and believes it is a prime situation for shareholders to step in and boost earnings. "Our conversations thus far with the company have been very constructive," he said.
T. Boone Pickens
T. Boone Pickens has already picked his guy for the 2016 presidential elections: Jeb Bush. As for investing, the billionaire, who will turn 87 on May 22, is still a bull on oil.
At the SALT Investment Conference in Las Vegas, Pickens said he sees oil climbing back to $70-$75 a barrel by year-end. He explained demand has picked up to about 1.5 million barrels a day from 660,000 in 2014. Moreover, he said oil inventories have peaked.
Third Point's Dan Loeb made headlines when he took aim at the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett, in Las Vegas. Loeb said he sees a disconnect from the wisdom Buffett disperses in his annual investor letters and how he actually behaves.
"He criticizes hedge funds, but he used to run one," Loeb said. "He criticizes activists, but he was the first activist. He says we should all pay more taxes, yet he avoids them himself."
When asked for his take on Buffett, Boone Pickens said: "He's a pretty successful guy. Anybody that owns a railroad impresses me."
Both billionaires' comments came just days after the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting, which marked Buffett's 50th year at the helm of the firm. At this year's gathering, Buffet and long-time business partner discussed a number of topics, ranging from value investing to 3G Capital and even making friends. The pair also made clear that when it comes to stocks, they still very, very much like Coca-Cola (KO).