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Guru Focused: Robert Olstein's Short Sells


While it is rather rare that value gurus sell stocks short, Robert Olstein has been selling short in his Financial Alert Fund. The accountant-turned fund manager spots values by looking behind the numbers. In the second quarter of 2004, Robert Olstein sold short American Italian Pasta Co. (PLB) at $31. After about 6 months he covered at $20, easily made more than $1 million for his fund. Currently he is shorting two stocks: Computer Sciences Corp (CSC) and Fleetwood Enterprises Inc (FLE), although things do not always go that smoothly.

Robert Olstein is certainly one of the best money managers (that is why he is in GuruFocus's Hall of Fame). The strategy of looking behind the numbers has brought his fund a 15.5% average annual return over 10 years after all fees. Its only down year was 2002, off 19%. In 2000, the year the tech bubble burst, the fund was up 12%, and in 2001, up 17%.

Robert Olstein started shorting Computer Sciences Corp (CSC) in the first quarter of 2004 at an average price of $41. He said that the accounting of CSC is not in accord with its economic reality, CSC is worth about $30. The price of CSC did not go down, however. He then shorted more shares. But the price of CSC went up, by the fourth quarter of 2004, the price of CSC was $56. It came down some in the first quarter of 2005, Robert Olstein was confident enough to short more shares again. As of the end of the first quarter, his shorting position in CSC totaled 504,500 shares with an average price of $42. As of this writing, the price of CSC is $46.4.

The other short selling of Robert Olstein is Fleetwood Enterprises Inc (FLE). He thinks that Fleetwood Enterprises Inc is worth about $5-6 per share. He sold short 1,195,500 shares of FLE at about $9.2 per share in the first quarter of 2005. Right now Fleetwood has a price of $9.5 per share.

Interestingly, another highly respected value manager, GuruFocus guru, Robert Rodriguez, does not agree with his value peer Olstein. In the fourth quarter of 2004, Rodriguez added 269,500 shares of FLE to his holdings at around $14 per share. As the share price dropped to $9, he added 2,261,900 more shares, which makes his total holding of Fleetwood to 3,714,400 shares.

Who is right, Robert vs. Robert?

Dr. Charlie Tian is the Director of Research of GuruFocus.com, a website tracks the stock picks and market insight of guru investors such as Warren Buffett, George Soros etc.


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