Buy stocks like Whirlpool — not NFTs, asset manager says

Workers assemble washing machines at the Whirlpool Corp. manufacturing facility in Clyde, Ohio, U.S.
Luke Sharrett | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Investors should be looking to pick up stocks like Whirlpool and avoid assets like CryptoPunks NFTs, according to Jeff Henriksen, CEO and founder of Thorpe Abbotts Capital.

Speaking to CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” on Monday, the Virginia-based hedge fund manager said despite the dominant market narratives around inflation, central bank tightening, supply chain problems and Covid-19, the U.S. economy remains robust and the improvement in labor force participation is a “very bullish” long-term signal.

“One of the things we’ve been focusing on are these second-order effects that a lot of people miss. The second-order effects are investor reactions to this, and I think, investor reactions to other investors,” Henriksen said.

“What we’ve seen is just a huge dichotomy, and divergence in valuations of different parts of the market.”

In a research note last week, Henriksen highlighted that CryptoPunks NFTs, a collection of 10,000 unique digital characters on the Ethereum blockchain, are sometimes selling for millions of dollars, while a “not super cool” company like Whirlpool struggles to attract eight times forward earnings.

“If you look at some of these CryptoPunk NFTs that are going for millions of dollars on the one hand which to me makes no sense, and then, on the other hand, you look at a company like Whirlpool, which is not a high growth business, not super cool like some things, but it’s growing mid-single digits revenue, mid-teens return on invested capital, very robust free cash flow generation, huge buyback in place,” he said Monday.

“Last earnings report, all signs are pointing that they’ll be able to push cost pressures through, and yet it can’t fetch 8x earnings.”

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Forward price-to-earnings is an estimate of a company’s expected future earnings against its current share price. Whirlpool is an American multinational home appliance manufacturer.

“Headline valuations might seem high and it might seem like there are all these problems, but when I look underneath the hood, we’re finding discrepancies and we want to be long ideas like that, where we think there’s a major mispricing,” Henriksen said.

Although many of these strategies tend to focus on value stocks — those which trade at a discount relative to their financial performance — Henriksen said similar discrepancies have occurred within the broad category of growth stocks.

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Growth stocks are companies expected to grow at a rate substantially higher than the market average, including the likes of tech behemoths Amazon, Facebook-parent Meta Platforms, Google-parent Alphabet and Apple.

Henriksen’s fund has been long on Amazon’s stock for quite some time, but said its prospects differ from those of Meta or Cathie Wood’s ARK Innovation ETF.

“We believe that the valuation there is still misunderstood by a large part of the market. There is a huge discrepancy between prospects for Amazon — which is being driven by [cloud computing subsidiary] AWS, which is this wonderful business, and their ability to pass costs through with raising Prime — and what’s going on at Meta,” he said.

“Long-term valuation is not really driven by cash flows generated in the next year or two, it’s what’s going to come in the next 30 years, so when you see something being discounted so heavily like the world is ending for them and you do a rational analysis and say ‘you know what, it’s not,’ I think those are the type of opportunities you want to find.”

Amazon stock closed Friday’s trade down 5.44% year-to-date, while Meta has plunged 29.51% after missing earnings expectations and disappointing on its forward guidance.

“It might take a while for some of these ideas to play out, but I think ultimately they do play out if you are in the right situations that are mispriced relative to their prospects,” Henriksen added.