Tickers in this Article: XCO, MCF, RRGB, JACK
While the year may be coming to a slow end with the holidays on the horizon, investors' appetite for attractive opportunities is anything but slow. The most recent batch of SEC 13D filings shows another diverse group of names and investors making interesting bets. (For background reading, see Digging Into 13D Disclosures.)

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A Natural Bet
Wilbur Ross, the billionaire investor known for his timely bet in distressed industries is making a bet on natural gas. This week W.L. Ross & Co. revealed ownership of 15,882,301 shares of EXCO Resources (NYSE:XCO), which represents a 7.5% stake in the company. EXCO is a Texas-based natural gas exploration and production company. Ross purchases the shares for $286.3 million, or around $18 a share. Ross acquired the stake because he expects the price of natural gas, one of the company's largest sources of revenue, to rise in the next few years. On paper, XCO looks very intriguing; it's trading at less than five times trailing earnings. Plus, if the price of natural gas improves in 2011, the operating environment could be even better for EXCO. (For more, see Activist Hedge Funds: Follow The Trail To Profit.)

Natural gas has been a lagging commodity in 2010. While oil and other commodities have soared in price, natural gas prices have been slower to move due to the increased supply in the U.S. as a result of new shale finds. Yet many view natural gas as a great alternative to oil over the years to come. Names like EXCO and small Contango Oil and Gas (NYSE:MCF) could be some of the better bets. Contango has a net cash balance sheet, excellent reserves and more than 25% of the company is owned by management.

Gourmet Value
A new filing this week revealed that Oak Street Capital owns more than 10% of gourmet burger chain Red Robin Gourmet Burgers (Nasdaq:RRGB). Oak Street has no initial plans yet for Red Robin. Looking at the numbers, Red Robin could be ripe for some changes. Operating margins are a razor thin 1.7% and the company's barely turning a profit. While Red Robin may have more expensive food costs due to its higher quality offerings, it also charges more for them. Operating margins at 1.7% are significantly below other burger rivals like Jack in the Box (Nasdaq:JACK), which boasts operating margins of nearly 4%. Such an improvement at Red Robin would double profits.

The Bottom Line
Activist filings or otherwise, the 13D is a great way to uncover not only ideas, but also possible themes that may have quality fundamental substance to them. A company or industry that may not look appealing upon initial observation may reveal some nuggets of value upon a closer look at each layer.

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