Tilson changes his mind on Netflix, now touts company

NEW YORK, Oct 1 (Reuters) - Investor Whitney Tilson has changed his mind and touted video rental company Netflix

as one of his best stock ideas not long after he famously bet against the company.

"First we were short, then we covered and then we went long," Tilson, who runs T2 Partners, said on Monday at the 8th annual Value Investing Congress, a conference he founded.

The company's share price, which rose 3.5 percent to $56.33 on Monday, has crashed 50.75 percent in the last 12 months but Tilson and some other prominent hedge fund managers have found new love for the company.

Tilson's fund is roughly flat this year, he said, noting that he has had his "butt kicked by the market" in the last two years. After double digit losses in 2011 caused in part by being wrong-footed on Netflix, Tilson's T2 had a strong first quarter.

But those gains have since evaporated, Tilson said, noting that he should have taken more money "off the table."

Now Netflix has grabbed his attention largely for what he said should be strong global growth. "It has a light business model and can tap the large international markets," Tilson said at the conference.

Over the longer term, the company has also performed well -- having gained 153.45 percent in the last five years.

Poking some fun at himself, Tilson said he is probably the only investor to own both Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and Netflix, companies he says are at the opposite ends of the investing spectrum.

Indeed other prominent hedge fund managers including George Soros and Steve Mandel also stepped into Netflix recently, according to regulatory filings.

Netflix has been a volatile stock and swings in its stock price have hurt Tilson in the past when he bet against the company, but the stock briefly rebounded. And Tilson acknowledged that many investors still "despise" the company, acknowledging that the short interest is high.

Tilson also touted Berkshire Hathaway and Howard Hughes Corp as two of his other favorite stocks.

On the short side, Tilson said he is betting against some of the home builders but not in an aggressive way. He did not name the stocks.

(Reporting By Svea Herbst-Bayliss, Katya Wachtel and Sam Forgione; Editing by Kenneth Barry)

((svea.herbst@thomsonreuters.com)(+617 856 4331))