Can Activist ValueAct Save Symantec and Expeditors?

In the round of 13F filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, it turns out that the activist and special situation hedge fund ValueAct Capital Management, L.P. made some big changes. First and foremost, its holdings of equities rose to $13.24 billion at the end of the first quarter of 2014 versus $12.09 billion at the end of 2013.

ValueAct is a fund that is tracked by many investors. It is deemed half-value and half-activist in its efforts.

Two key changes were made for new positions, although we would caution that these positions will likely have to grow in size before this fund can create much major change. Expeditors International of Washington Inc. (NASDAQ: EXPD) was a new position, as was Symantec Corp. (NASDAQ: SYMC).

Expeditors International of Washington Inc. (NASDAQ: EXPD) was a new position of 2,186,700 shares worth some $86.659 million. This position has risen handily, rising from $39.63 at the end of march versus over $45 after it was seen that ValueAct was now in the position. Expeditors International has a market value of $9 billion.

Symantec Corp. (NASDAQ: SYMC) was a new position of 7,591,219 shares, worth some $151.6 million at the end of the quarter. Despite all of the problems, the march 31 price was $19.97 per share and that was up above $22 after it was seen that ValueAct was a holder. Symantec has a market cap of $15.4 billion.

Another change was in Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT). ValueAct raised its holdings to 71,285,530 shares worth some $2.92 billion at the end of the first quarter. The Microsoft position was lower at the end of 2013 – at 66,865,530 shares worth some $2.501 billion.

The question is what activists can do. Expeditors International has been a dead stock since the end of 2010. It is a company we even listed as a quasi leading indicator for the economy. Symantec is a troubled data security company that has a flattish storage software business attached. The problem is that the world is moving away from PCs and that is trouble for Symantec, at the same time that storage and the cloud and data security are very crowded spaces.

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