Interview With Glenview Capital's Larry Robbins: Capitalize For Kids Investor Series ~ market folly

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Interview With Glenview Capital's Larry Robbins: Capitalize For Kids Investor Series

The Capitalize For Kids Conference has recently started an Investor Series of interviews.  Their first issue (Volume 1) features conversations with Larry Robbins of Glenview Capital, Pierre Lavellée of CPPIB as well as the team at Cambridge Associates.  The full document is available here, but we've pulled some select quotes from Robbins:

On how he invests:

"I think one of the challenges that many people have is that, in their pursuit of highly diversified investment strategies, they end up investing their own capital – or capital that they are the fiduciary for – on things that, due to time constraints, they have no contact with. Or of which they don’t have a capacity to develop a deep understanding. The theory, when we started Glenview – and that perpetuates today – is to invest in businesses that we believe we can adequately describe in a matter of minutes. Businesses where we can look at past and present fundamentals and try to predict future fundamentals – including future earnings growth, cash flow growth, shareholder returns, and where we can invest capital at valuations – absolute valuations – that we find reasonable. And the final thing is that, all along the way, we wanted to think and act like owners – which the business has allowed us to do."

On incentives in the hedge fund industry:

"I believe that the reason that hedge funds work over time is because the owner/operator hedge fund has a tremendous and complete alignment of interest between the fund manager and the client – because the fund manager is the largest non-diversified client. And because of that, I am not only well-motivated to drive returns over time, but I’m also extremely well motivated to manage risk. Unfortunately, most people gauge risk based upon the mark-to-market stock price movements or security price movements of the day, whereas in reality those risks are more appropriately measured through a cycle – based upon the certainty of outcomes and the hit rate in which one invests long and short with success. I think that alignment of interest is exactly fair and appropriate, and is the motivating factor by which hedge funds have delivered risk-adjusted returns and alpha over time."

On the unfortunate truth of the business:

"The unfortunate truth of our business is we’re trying to do something that’s very hard, and very unnatural. We were created in order to take advantage of market anomalies, and yet we are also expected to prevent market anomalies from negatively impacting capital balances. I’m not complaining about that dichotomy. We’re not crying about it, but we do recognize that there’s a natural tension between the times that opportunity sets are created and the times that the opportunity sets are harvested. And it is likely, over decades, that occasionally opportunity starts to get created on your watch while you’re holding that security. In order to encourage opportunistic investor behavior, I think you’re accurate in saying that we will go to great lengths to encourage opportunistic investor behavior – because we want to make sure that the clients know that we will do anything we can to support their objectives."

Update on Glenview's Thermo Fisher (TMO) stake:

"Thermo Fisher is an example of a company which is well run and well-managed – from top to bottom. So much of the popular press talks about hedge funds engaging underperforming companies, or entrenched managements, or dysfunctional boards. And yet, if you look at Thermo Fisher Scientific which is the aggregation of four different companies: Thermo Electron, Fisher Scientific, and Life Technologies – itself two different companies, it’s an example of a board and management operating on all cylinders. Number one, their business continues to exhibit the defensive growth characteristics that attracted us to want to invest in the life sciences industry. In the fourth quarter of 2015, they posted their strongest organic revenue growth quarter in five years, posting seven percent organic revenue growth. For a firm like ours, whose average portfolio earnings multiple is 12 times this year’s and 10 times next year’s earnings, it’s hard to find businesses that grow organically more than seven percent, so certainly we’re gratified that the business does that. Thermo has allocated capital extremely well. They repurchased shares and made meaningful acquisitions – the most significant of which in the last several years was their acquisition of Life Technologies, which was also a Glenview holding. At the time we pitched Thermo to your conference [October 2014], our thesis was that Thermo’s organic revenue growth would accelerate not only because Life Technologies was a financially accretive tuck in that offered significant cost savings, but because the platform that Life Technologies owned would actually accelerate organic revenue growth. That certainly has come to pass in 2015, and is reflected in increased optimism with respect to organic revenue growth in 2016 and beyond. Finally, Thermo is an example of what we would call the ‘wash-rinse-repeat trade’. There is much discussion in the market of companies that either employ financial engineering or have a too great reliance on leverage in order to drive financial returns. And yet Thermo, as an investment grade company, has developed enormous credibility with the credit markets and with the rating agencies, as well as with its shareholders, by identifying attractive acquisition candidates and financing them mostly with debt securities – but then using their prodigious free cash flow and the underlying EBITDA growth of the combined company in order to have the balance sheet self-repair over an 18 to 24 month period. As we sit here today, Thermo has de-levered to below three times debt to EBITDA, which puts them in a position in 2016 to again be a significant capital deployer. To date, they have bought back $500 million of stock and have announced the accretive acquisition of Affymetrix. We believe that the company has additional firepower to augment their strong organic top-line growth – and a strong margin expansion with additional accretive repurchases or M&A that'll further shareholder returns."

To read the rest of Robbins' in-depth interview, definitely check out the Capitalize For Kids Investor Series here.

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