* Adobe, IBM and Microsoft have high free-cash-flow yield
* Ainslie says weak dollar helpful for tech companies
* He adds: Fundamentals haven’t played role in stocks (Adds background on Ainslie and Maverick)
By Svea Herbst-Bayliss and Emily Chasan
NEW YORK, Oct 12 (Reuters) - Technology stocks are at their cheapest in 20 years and the weaker dollar will likely benefit the entire sector, hedge fund industry pioneer Lee Ainslie said on Tuesday.
Ainslie, whose Maverick Capital Management oversees $11.4 billion in assets, said a pool of value tech stocks including Adobe Systems (ADBE.O), Cisco Systems (CSCO.O), Dell Inc. DELL.O, Hewlett-Packard (HPQ.N), International Business Machine (IBM.N) Intel Corp. (INTC.O) and Microsoft (MSFT.O) provide a free-cash-flow yield of 12 percent this year and 13 percent in 2011.
Free-cash-flow yield is one of the best indicators used by fundamental analysts to select and assess companies. The higher the number, the more free cash per share is being generated by the company.
Ainslie, who got his start with hedge fund industry legend Julian Robertson of Tiger Management and served as Tiger’s technology analyst, said technology stocks are Maverick’s “largest exposure of any sector, any year” in his firm’s history.
Maverick, one of the world’s biggest hedge funds which is located in Dallas and New York, had about a third of its stock portfolio invested in technology companies — more than any other sector — at the end of June, according to regulatory filings.
The tech sector .GSPT of the Standard & Poor’s 500 is down 11.5 percent so far this year as of the end of August, making it the worst of the 10 sectors. For the same period, the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite is off 6.8 percent, lagging behind the S&P 500’s 5.9 percent declines for the year as of the end of August.
Ainslie, speaking at the annual Value Investing Congress in New York, said tech stocks are attractive also because of the weaker dollar, which can help U.S. companies that export. Many U.S. tech companies earn half or more of their revenues overseas. “The weak dollar is helpful for technology companies,” he said.
Ainslie said technology companies are now holding more cash on their balance sheets than they have since the 1950s. “This is especially true for technology companies,” he said. “It is sitting there and not being used.
“We want to make sure these companies are using cash in productive ways like buybacks, dividend payments or acquisitions.”
He worried that technology companies are not spending enough on capital expenditures. He also said innovations are more important than elasticity. “Most people can’t name the processor running their iPads,” he added.
Ainslie said fundamentals have not played an important role in stocks this year against the backdrop of aggressive monetary stimulus by the Federal Reserve.
Similar to the phenomenon last year, the lowest quality stocks, many of which carry so-called “junk” credit ratings, have been the best performers in 2010. (Reporting by Emily Chasan and Svea Herbst-Bayliss; editing by Andre Grenon, Dave Zimmerman)