Last year, Nokia investors were feeling upbeat until late October when the company issued a disappointing third-quarter report.
American depositary receipts of Nokia (ticker: NOK) made like a dropped call and, excluding dividends, ended the year flat.
At some point in the third quarter, perhaps after that precipitous drop, BNP Paribas Asset Management Holding, a unit of France’s largest public bank by assets, bought more than 1.1 million additional ADRs of the telecom-equipment firm, nearly doubling its holdings to 2.4 million ADRs as of Dec. 31. Buying the name late in the year, depending on the timing, now looks incredibly smart. Nokia ADRs are up 16% so far in 2018 through Thursday’s close.
Regardless of when the Nokia purchases were made, they certainly were audacious. BNP Paribas Asset Management, which manages more than $11.7 billion in U.S.-traded equities, made some other bold moves in the fourth quarter. The firm had some big sales: more than half a million shares of General Electric (GE); nearly a quarter of a million shares of Sirius XM Holdings (SIRI); and more than 200,000 shares of Apple (AAPL). It also raised its investment in Alibaba Group Holding (BABA).
GE’s continued poor performance certainly needs no introduction to even the casual reader of investing news, if such a demographic actually exists. It seems that every day there is yet another institution cutting back on holdings in the conglomerate. The BNP Paribas unit is among the latest, having sold 565,000 GE shares in the fourth quarter, bringing its ownership down to 1.27 million shares.
Sirius dialed in a 22% gain in 2017, and at some point in the last quarter, BNP Paribas decided to trim its investment in the satellite-radio firm by 217,000 shares to 2.85 million shares. It’s a good thing the asset manager retained a large stake to capture the 14% gain so far in 2018. The company will pay a higher royalty rate this year, but investors apparently haven’t tuned out.
BNP Paribas’ $255 million investment in Apple was its biggest by dollar value at the end of the year. That was after the asset manager sold 205,000 Apple shares in the fourth quarter, bringing its holdings to 1.5 million shares. The iPhone maker’s stock rose 48% in 2017 but has since put gains on hold; Apple is down 1% through Thursday’s close. Speaking of last night, Apple reported an upbeat first quarter but with a disappointing outlook.
ADRs of Alibaba doubled in 2017, but before the year closed BNP Paribas decided it wanted more. It bought 97,400 more ADRs of the Chinese internet giant. It looks like a good call, with the ADRs up more than 11% so far in 2018. The upside could have been more, but the securities tumbled on Thursday as investors took note of an acquisition with “quirky” terms.
BNP Paribas Asset Management recently announced it successfully tested a blockchain transaction in late 2017. Perhaps this shows that the manager is champing at the bitcoin to get on the cutting edge of investing.
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