Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change
Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change

Top picks from the Value Investing Congress

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Top hedge and mutual fund managers are presenting their best cheap stock ideas at the Value Investing Congress in New York City this week.

Here are some of the highlights:

Blue Harbour's CEO: Chico's is a growth stock trading like a value play

Clifton Robbins, a self-described "friendly" activist investor and CEO of $1.6 billion hedge fund firm Blue Harbour Group, boosted women's retailer Chico's FAS.

One of his hedge fund's core investment positions—a 5.6 percent stake in the company as of September, according to a recent regulatory filing—he described Chico's as a growth stock trading like a value one that offered significant potential for price appreciation.

Robbins, a former partner at private equity giant KKR, predicted the number of Chico's stores would increase by 50 percent thanks to an efficient real estate strategy and sales growth.

Where are them Apples?
Where are them Apples?

That makes him believe that the stock price could go up between 40 percent and 80 percent from its current price of about $16 a share. Blue Harbour typically invests over a two- to three- year period and actively collaborates with management on its investment in the company.

(Read more: The bizarre reason why revenue growth will be tiny)

Robbins said all four of the company's business lines were growing—Chico's, White House Black Market, Soma and Boston Proper—but their combined value was not represented in the stock price.

He singled out the Soma intimate apparel brand as a "hidden jewel" inside Chico's. And he added the overall management team is a "winner" and a "money maker."

The long-biased Blue Harbour Strategic Value Partners is up about 18 percent net of fees year to date, according to a person familiar with the returns; the long-only Blue Harbour Active Ownership Partners Fund gained about 21 percent for the year. The funds have annualized at 15 percent for the past four years.

Atlantic's Roepers: Go long Baker Hughes, Faurecia, Itochu, Lanxess, Harman

Alexander Roepers of $1.7 billion Atlantic Investment Management offered five diverse long stock recommendations:

—American energy services company Baker Hughes, which he said could hit $71 a share, double its current value, as it improves its margins and capital allocations.

—French automotive parts company Faurecia, where improved operating margins could drive share prices to 31 euros per share.

(Read more: Twitter IPO: Is it the next Google or Groupon?)

—Japanese information technology company Itochu, which will benefit as information technology spending in Japan recovers. Target price is 5,800 yen.

—German chemicals company Lanxess, whose current price is below replacement value and is poised to benefit from increasing demand for greener car tires. Price target is 75 euros.

—American audio speaker company Harman International, which is at an "inflection point" and whose earnings could double in the next three years thanks to growth in its so-called infotainment business. Price target of $84 a share.

Atlantic's $900 million long-biased Cambrian fund has annualized returns at about 19 percent since inception in 1988 and is up 26.6 percent year to date in 2013.

Yacktman: Michael Dell's reputation is tarnished; Apple still not cheap

Donald Yacktman, founder of Yacktman Asset Management, weighed in on Michael Dell's recent Dell buyback victory, saying that the computer mogul's reputation had been "tarnished by this, to some degree."

Yacktman had supported Carl Icahn and Southeastern Asset Management's unsuccessful buyout proposal.

(Read more: Carl Icahn says he's taken a position in Apple)

He said Dell naturally had inside information on the company he founded and it was clear he wanted the company and wasn't going to relinquish his role in it.

"You reach a point where, like that song says, 'you gotta know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em,'" Yacktman said of the situation. "We're moving on."

Also on the subject of computer companies, Yacktman said he was not invested in Apple despite owning Microsoft and Cisco stock. He said Apple stock is not as cheap as some think it is because the "margins are astronomical."

As profit margins decline, rival device maker Samsung is "going to eat their lunch," he said of Apple.

Fidelity's Mirshekari: URS offers value

John Mirshekari, an industrial expert and co-portfolio manager of several Fidelity Management & Research mutual funds, recommended engineering, construction and technical services company URS Corp.

Mirshekari said the San Francisco-based company's new commitment to stop costly acquisitions and a likely buy-back of cheap shares could double the price of the stock in the next two years. Management incentives have also recently changed to reward shareholders via return on equity as opposed to compensation based on income growth.

Other big names appear to be investing in URS. Fidelity is the largest holder of URS stock but well known activist hedge fund firm JANA Partners is second and Glenview Capital Management is third, according to regulatory filings disclosing June 30 positions.

(Read more: There's no stopping September, at least not yet)

Mirshekari compared the stock to AECOM Technology, a similar company whose price has shot up over the last year and a half.

Firebird co-founder likes Russian oil, Kazakh banking—and Estonian ferries

Harvey Sawikin of $1.1 billion emerging markets specialist Firebird Management had three far-flung value investments for the audience.

First was a Russian state owned energy company, oil-focused Gazprom Neft. Sawikin called it "one of most efficient companies in Russia despite being state owned."

Second was Estonian ferry operator Tallink, which he called a "low risk, solid value" investment.

The third long pick was Kazkommertsbank, the largest bank in Kazakhstan.

—By CNBC's Lawrence Delevingne. Follow him on Twitter @ldelevingne.