Inside Wall Street
WHAT'S IN JOHN TEMPLETON'S SHOPPING CART
Global investment guru John Templeton is as bullish as ever despite the miniquake that shook the market on Nov. 15. The slide, says the highly respected chairman of Bahamas-based Templeton, Galbraith & Hansberger, "has enabled us to execute buy orders for dozens of stocks at truly bargain prices."
Although Templeton concedes that the market is becoming more volatile as technology makes it easier to trade U. S. stocks around the world, he is convinced that stocks are not about to collapse. Indeed, he thinks U. S. equities are still the biggest bargains around and that the market's price-earnings ratio is cheap based on 1992 earnings and the fall of interest rates.
Next year, Templeton expects a snapback in GNP growth, along with "record earnings and record dividend yields." Clearly, investors are worried about the economy, he says. But the widespread pessimism, says Templeton, who oversees 83 worldwide mutual funds with total assets of $19 billion, breeds irresistible opportunities. That's especially the case with small stocks, where pessimism is suddenly rampant. Despite a sharp runup this year, the small stocks still have a lot of room to advance, says Templeton. He now sees compelling bargains in savings and loans, insurance, and transportation companies -- all perceived as worrisome areas. Biotechs are out, he says.
LESS JUNK. Among S&Ls, Templeton likes First Financial Holdings, owner of First Federal Savings & Loan Assn. in Charleston, S. C.; ONBANCorp., owner of Onondaga Savings Bank in Syracuse, N. Y. (assets of $2.2 billion); and First Financial Management, which provides data processing services to banks and S&Ls and owns Georgia Federal Bank. Says Templeton Equity Research Director Mark Holowesko: "These S&Ls have high-quality assets and earnings potential of 15% to 20% annually in the next five years."
Another Templeton pick: Kemper, a major financial-services company engaged in life insurance, property-and-casualty, reinsurance, and investments. Its assets total $50 billion; its asset-management unit alone is worth $1.8 billion, or $30 a share, says Holowesko. Kemper has been increasing the capitalization of its life unit and cutting junk-bond holdings to $1.1 billion, or 11% of invested assets. He sees Kemper's net jumping from 1990's 25~ to $4.25 in 1991 and $4.80 in 1992.
Templeton is also high on Atlantic Southeast Airlines, a commuter airline with hubs in Atlanta and Dallas/Fort Worth. It has picked up a lot of business in the South after the collapse of Eastern Air Lines. "It's an earnings play in a consolidating industry," says Holowesko, who figures Atlantic will earn $6 a share by 1996, vs. 1991's $2.18. Templeton also likes Stolt Tankers & Terminals, which operates 90 transoceanic tankers. "It's a play on the industry's shrinking capacity and the expected rise in rates," he says.TEMPLETON'S TOP PICKS
ATLANTIC SOUTHEAST AIR
Regional commuter airlines $39 $34
FIRST FINANCIAL HOLDINGS
Savings and loans 15 11
FIRST FINANCIAL MGMT.
Financial data processing 47 42
Insurance and finance 41 36
Savings bank 21 17
STOLT TANKERS & TERMINALS
Worldwide shipping 29 19
DATA: BRIDGE INFORMATION SYSTEMS INC.
GENE G. MARCIAL