Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The China Hustle: Trailer & Documentary

The China Hustle is a recently released documentary from Academy Award winner Alex Gibney and Academy Award nominees Frank Marshall and Jed Rothstein and the producers of Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room.  The China Hustle features the story of the wave of Chinese reverse mergers that swept the market a few years ago.

It details a play by play of the various frauds that took place and the short sellers involved in discovering and drawing attention to them.  Featured in the documentary are the likes of Jim Chanos of Kynikos Associates, Carson Block of Muddy Waters Research, Soren Aandahl of Glaucus Research and more.

The trailer is embedded below with a preview. 

The China Hustle Documentary Trailer

The documentary is out now.  You don't even have to go to a movie theater to watch it.  It's on demand via various platforms and you can get it on Amazon Video here for only $6.99.

Eminence Capital Boosts Formula One Position

Ricky Sandler's hedge fund firm Eminence Capital has filed a 13G with the SEC regarding shares of Formula One (FWONK).  Per the filing, Eminence now owns 5.4% of the company with over 10.86 million shares. 

This is up from the 8.58 million shares they owned at the end of 2017.  The filing was made due to activity on March 19th.

Per Liberty Media's site, Formula One is "an iconic global motorsports business."

We've also highlighted another stock that Eminence Capital has been buying recently.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

What We're Reading ~ 3/28/18

A look at Todd Combs and his healthcare pursuit [Bloomberg]

Not all quality companies are quality stocks [Albert Bridge Capital]

From the archives: On sources of edge [Miller Value Partners]

Debt, loans and credit quality: the devil's in the details [Frank K. Martin]

Summary of some recent macro data and charts [Dash of Insight]

Why volatility matters [Newfound Research]

TV's death by a thousand streaming apps [Bloomberg]

How calls for privacy may upend business for Google and Facebook [NYTimes]

Trump hates Amazon, not Facebook [Axios]

The largest company in every state by revenue [Visual Capitalist]

Pershing Square Annual Report 2017: Sold Nike, Covered Herbalife Short

Bill Ackman's Pershing Square is out with its annual report for 2017.  For the year, they lost 4% net.

The report gives updates on their positions in Automatic Data Processing (ADP), Restaurant Brands (QSR), Mondelez (MDLZ), Howard Hughes (HHC), Chipotle (CMG), Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac, and Platform Specialty Products (PAH).

Pershing Square Sold Nike (NKE) Position Already

Pershing Square reveals they already sold their new Nike (NKE) position and explain the rationale below:

"During the course of our four-month ownership of Nike (we sold the position recently), the stock price appreciated by34%, reducing the returns to be earned from our investment to a level at which we believed our capital could be allocated to more attractive opportunities.  It is rare that we are a short-term investor.That said,we are always willing to redeploy capital if an investment appreciates to a level that no longer offers sufficient returns relative to other potential opportunities."

Rationale For Covering Herbalife (HLF) Short

They also outline why they covered their Herbalife (HLF) short position:

"While we have been correct in our belief that Herbalife’s business fundamentals would deteriorate as earnings per share, revenue growth, and other measures of business performance weakened substantially since we initiated the investment, we underestimated Herbalife’s ability to access debt capital and use financial engineering which–coupled with Mr.Icahn’s share purchases to materially reduce the company’s free float–has driven share price appreciation."

Embedded below is Pershing Square's 2017 annual report:

You can download a .pdf copy here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Fairholme Capital Reduces Seritage Growth Properties Position

Bruce Berkowitz's Fairholme Capital has filed an amended 13G regarding its position in Seritage Growth Properties (SRG).  Per the filing, Fairholme now owns 4.9% of the company with 1.69 million shares.

The filing was made due to activity on March 16th.  This is down from the previous 3.27 million shares Fairholme owned at the end of 2017.

Per the company's website, Seritage is "a publicly traded, self-administered, self-managed REIT with a portfolio of 235 wholly-owned properties and 31 joint venture properties, consisting of approximately 42 million square feet of building space."

Glenview Capital Boosts Newell Brands Exposure

Larry Robbins' hedge fund firm Glenview Capital has ratcheted up its exposure to Newell Brands (NWL).  Per a 13G filed with the SEC, Glenview now shows a 5.56% ownership stake with over 26.96 million shares. 

The filing was made due to portfolio activity on March 16th.  This is up from the 17 million shares they owned at the end of 2017. 

As we've highlighted previously, activist investor Starboard Value is involved in Newell shares and it's recently been revealed that Carl Icahn owns NWL as well

Berkshire Hathaway Files Amended 13D on USG

Warren Buffett's conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway has filed an amended 13D with the SEC regarding its position in USG Corporation (USG).  Per the filing, Berkshire owns 30.8% of the company with 43.38 million shares as of March 23rd.

This is up slightly from the 39 million shares Berkshire reported owning at the end of 2017 per their most recent 13F filing.

The main reason for the filing is the information below, pulled verbatim from the filing:

"From time to time, beginning many years ago, executives of Gebr. Knauf Verwaltungsgesellschaft KG (“Gebr. Knauf”) and/or C & G Verwaltungs GmbH (“C & G Verwaltungs” and, together with Gebr. Knauf, the “Knauf Entities”) have contacted Berkshire’s Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) to describe the Knauf Entities’ potential and conditional interest in a transaction with USG. Most recently, the Knauf Entities furnished Berkshire a copy of a letter from Gebr. Knauf to USG dated March 15, 2018 in which Gebr. Knauf submitted an indicative and non-binding proposal for the acquisition of 100% of the outstanding shares of Common Stock of USG at $42.00 per share.

On March 23, 2018 Berkshire’s CEO and another Berkshire executive held a telephonic discussion with two executives of the Knauf Entities and three representatives of one of the advisors of the Knauf Entities, during which Berkshire proposed to grant to the Knauf Entities an option to purchase all of the Berkshire Entities’ shares of Common Stock of USG, subject to legal review. Such option would be exercisable only in connection with the consummation of a purchase by the Knauf Entities of all of the outstanding shares of Common Stock of USG that the Knauf Entities did not already own, at a price of not less than $42.00 per share, subject to and in accordance with applicable law and contractual restrictions. The option exercise price per share was proposed by Berkshire to be the price per share paid to such other holders of Common Stock of USG by the Knauf Entities, less the option purchase price of $2.00 per share to be paid to the Berkshire Entities upon entering into a definitive option agreement. The option would have a term of approximately 6 months.

The Knauf Entities have not responded to this proposal, and the Reporting Persons do not know whether the Knauf Entities will pursue further discussion with Berkshire of the proposed option or will make an offer to purchase shares of Common Stock of USG. Berkshire has not agreed to support any plan or proposal by the Knauf Entities with respect to the Common Stock of USG, and there are no agreements, written or otherwise, between the Reporting Persons and the Knauf Entities.Depending upon price, market conditions, availability of funds, evaluation of other investment opportunities, and other factors, the Reporting Persons may at any time and from time to time sell or otherwise dispose of some or all of the shares of Common Stock of USG held by them, either as contemplated by the Registration Rights Agreement or in another manner permitted by applicable law."

Tiger Global Buys Some More Apollo Global

Chase Coleman's hedge fund firm Tiger Global has filed a Form 4 with the SEC regarding its ownership stake in Apollo Global (APO). 

Per the filing, Tiger acquired 100,000 APO shares on March 23rd at a weighted average price of $30.338.  After this transaction, they now own 34.32 million shares.

Apollo Global is an American private equity firm.

We've also highlighted another stock Tiger Global has been buying recently.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

What We're Reading ~ 3/21/18

Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life [Nassim Taleb]

Tech's next big wave: big data meets biology [Fortune]

Looking at the Wyndham spinoff [Clark Street Value]

Comcast and the curse of diversified holdings companies [Yet Another Value Blog]

An IPO valuation of Spotify [Aswath Damodaran]

The death of many brands: the rise & risks of concierge brands [Intrinsic Investing]

Billionaire raises his bet on containerships [WSJ]

How Amazon became corporate America's nightmare [Bloomberg]

The 10 best and worst performing stocks since the financial crisis [Zen Investor]

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Senator Investment Group Files 13D on Gogo

Alex Klabin and Doug Silverman's hedge fund firm Senator Investment Group has filed a 13D with the SEC regarding shares of Gogo (GOGO).  Per the filing, Senator now owns 6.5% of the company with 5.64 million shares.

This is up from the 4.96 million shares they owned at the end of 2017, as they originally built a position in the third quarter of 2017 and continued buying in the fourth quarter.  The 13D notes they've talked with management and may do so in the future.

It also discloses their recent trading activity in the stock.  They were bought in late January and late February, with primary purchases coming between $9.0251 and $9.2546.  In total, they bought over 681,000 shares.

Per Google Finance, Gogo is "s a provider of in-flight broadband Internet service and other connectivity services for commercial and business aircraft, headquartered in Chicago, Illinois"

ValueAct Capital Increases Trinity Industries Exposure

Jeff Ubben's activist investment firm ValueAct Capital has filed an amended 13D and Form 4 with the SEC regarding its stake in Trinity Industries (TRN).  Per the filing, ValueAct now owns 13.8% of the company with over 20.76 million shares.

The filings indicate ValueAct purchased Form 4 indicates ValueAct purchased over 1.5 million shares across March 2nd, 6th, 7th, 8th, 15th, 16th, and 19th.  These purchases came at prices between $31.10 and $33.

For more on this firm, we recently highlighted another stock ValueAct was reducing its position in.

Per Google Finance, Trinity Industries is "a diversified industrial company that owns businesses providing products and services to the energy, chemical, agriculture, transportation and construction sectors. The Company's products and services include railcars and railcar parts; parts and steel components; the leasing, management and maintenance of railcars; highway products; construction aggregates; inland barges; structural wind towers; steel utility structures; storage and distribution containers, and trench shields and shoring products. The Company's segments include the Rail Group, Construction Products Group, Inland Barge Group, Energy Equipment Group, Railcar Leasing and Management Services Group, and All Other. Its All Other segment includes its captive insurance and transportation companies, and other peripheral businesses. It manufactures a line of railcars, including autorack cars, box cars, covered hopper cars, gondola cars, intermodal cars, open hopper cars and tank cars."

Carl Icahn Files 13D on Newell Brands

Carl Icahn has filed an amended 13D with the SEC regarding his stake in Newell Brands (NWL).  Per the filing, Icahn now owns 6.96% of the company with 33.79 million shares (including shares underlying forward contracts).  The filing notes they've now formed a group with Brett Icahn and include his ownership stake.

The forward contracts have a forward price of $23 per share and expiration of January 28th, 2020 and includes exposure to just over 3.01 million shares.  The rest of Carl Icahn's position is common stock.  Brett Icahn owns 500,000 NWL shares.

The filing notes that Icahn started buying on January 25th and was buying as recently as March 16th.

In a previous CNBC interview, Icahn noted that, "I believe Newell itself is undervalued and that's why I bought it."  He said he originally bought NWL around $25

We've highlighted previously that activist firm Starboard Value has also been involved in Newell Brands.

Friday, March 16, 2018

TCI Fund Goes Activist on Altaba, Calls For Liquidation

Sir Christopher Hohn's investment firm TCI Fund Management has filed a 13D with the SEC regarding its position in Altaba (AABA).  They now own 9.7% of the company with 79.77 million shares.

They've been slowly selling shares throughout the first three months of the year, presumably to stay below the 10% ownership cap as AABA has been buying back stock.

TCI Goes Activist on Altaba

The big development here, is that they've converted their 13G into a 13D and gone activist.  They're calling for a liquidation of the company, which owns big stakes in Alibaba (BABA) and Yahoo Japan.

Hohn sent a letter to Altaba, detailed below:

"As you know TCI is the largest shareholder of Altaba owning close to 10% of the company. We have very much appreciated your efforts to create shareholder value. We fully agree with your explicit goal of narrowing the wide discount to net asset value at which Altaba continues to trade.However, we believe that the current strategy of Altaba is unlikely to materially reduce this discount. A clear plan of liquidation is now necessary. This should involve a complete distribution or sale of all of Altaba’s Alibaba and Yahoo Japan shares.We attach a presentation for the Board and shareholders of Altaba laying out in summary our proposed plan of liquidation. We strongly believe that the vast majority of Altaba’s shareholders would be supportive of this plan.We have today converted our SEC filing to a 13D so that we may engage actively with you, the Board of Altaba and all shareholders to create the best outcome for all parties. We look forward to engaging with you constructively as you consider our proposal."

TCI's Presentation on Altaba

Hohn's firm also published a presentation on AABA and we've embedded it below.

Hedge Fund Links ~ 3/16/17

A look at D.E. Shaw: How a group of computer geeks changed Wall St [NYMag]

Paul Tudor Jones predicts inflation surge [CNBC]

Elliott Management urges change at Telecom Italia [Bloomberg]

Coatue's Philippe Laffont says AI will transform Intel and Twitter [Forbes]

On Bridgewater's big bet against Europe [Reuters]

Halvorsen's Viking moves into big data [Bloomberg]

Greenlight off to a rough start this year [Reuters]

US Treasury to close carried interest loophole [Reuters]

Paulson & Co Buys More International Tower Hill Mines

John Paulson's hedge fund firm Paulson & Co has filed a 13D and Form 4 with the SEC regarding its stake in International Tower Hill Mines (THM).  Per the filing, Paulson now owns 31.97% of the company with 59.59 million shares. 

The Form 4 notes they bought over 4.1 million shares on March 13th at a price of $0.50 per share.  The 13D notes this transaction was a private placement.

Per Yahoo Finance, International Tower Hill Mines is "a mineral exploration company, acquires and explores for mineral properties in Canada and the United States. It holds or has rights to acquire ownership or leasehold interests in the Livengood Gold Project that covers approximately 19,546 hectares located to the northwest of Fairbanks, Alaska. The company was formerly known as Tower Hill Mines Ltd. and changed its name to International Tower Hill Mines Ltd. in March 1991. International Tower Hill Mines Ltd. was founded in 1978 and is headquartered in Vancouver, Canada."

Thursday, March 15, 2018

ValueAct Capital Reduces Armstrong World Industries Exposure

Jeff Ubben's activist investment firm ValueAct Capital has filed a 13D and a Form 4 with the SEC regarding its stake in Armstrong World Industries (AWI).  Per the filing, ValueAct now owns 12.9% of the company with 6.85 million shares. 

The Form 4 notes they sold 2.35 million shares on March 12th at $59.60 per share.  We've also highlighted other recent portfolio activity from ValueAct here.

Per Google Finance, Armstrong World Industries is "a global producer of ceiling systems. The Company owns and operates the Building Products (Ceilings) segment. The Company designs, manufactures and sells ceiling systems (primarily mineral fiber, fiberglass wool and metal) around the world. Its products are used in commercial and institutional buildings. Its geographical segments include Americas (including Canada); Europe, Middle East and Africa (including Russia) (EMEA), and Pacific Rim. As of December 31, 2016, it had 15 manufacturing plants in eight countries, including six plants located throughout the United States. Its Americas segment sells products for use in single and multi-family housing. It sells commercial products to building materials distributors re-selling its products to contractors, subcontractors' alliances, architect and design firms, and facility owners. Residential ceiling products are sold in the Americas primarily to wholesalers and retailers."

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

What We're Reading ~ 3/14/18

On buybacks and the instant gratification of financial engineering [Frank Martin]

Michael Mauboussin on the future of active management [Sumzero]

Google's Larry Page: flying taxis, now exiting stealth mode [NYTimes]

Amazon strategy teardown [CB Insights]

Netflix's secrets to success [Variety]

18 cognitive bias examples visualized [Visual Capitalist]

Crowdsourcing: what 5 stocks would you hold for 10 years? [Scuttlebutt Investor]

Which advertising channels have the highest conversion rates? [Priceonomics]

Business schools rethink MBA strategy as market demand shifts [FT]

On shifting institutional investors from benchmark-based to goal-based [Institutional Investor]

Pershing Square Trims Automatic Data Processing (ADP) Position

Bill Ackman's activist investment firm Pershing Square Capital has filed an amended 13D with the SEC regarding its position in Automatic Data Processing (ADP).  Per the filing, Pershing now owns 7.2% of the company with 31.79 million shares.

It notes that, Pershing "sold a net amount of 5,004,633 shares of Common Stock and American-style call options for portfolio management purposes.”  You can view the full list of transactions here.

For more on this fund, we highlighted some other recent portfolio activity from Pershing Square here.

Per Google Finance, ADP is "a provider of human capital management (HCM) solutions to employers, offering solutions to businesses of various sizes. The Company also provides business process outsourcing solutions. Its segments include Employer Services and Professional Employer Organization (PEO) Services. The Employer Services segment offers a range of human resources (HR) business process outsourcing and technology-enabled HCM solutions. These offerings include payroll services, benefits administration, talent management, HR management, time and attendance management, insurance services, retirement services, and tax and compliance services. ADP TotalSource, ADP's PEO business, offers small and mid-sized businesses a HR outsourcing solution through a co-employment model. As a PEO, ADP TotalSource provides HR management services while the client continues to direct the day-to-day job-related duties of the employees."

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Eminence Capital Increases Papa John's Pizza Position

Ricky Sandler's hedge fund firm Eminence Capital has filed a 13G with the SEC regarding shares of Papa John's Pizza (PZZA).  Per the filing, Eminence now owns 6.5% of the company with over 2.19 million shares. 

The filing was made due to portfolio activity on February 28th.  This means they've increased their position size up from the 568,026 shares they owned at the end of 2017.

Per Google Finance, Papa John's Pizza is "operates and franchises pizza delivery and carryout restaurants and, in certain international markets, dine-in and delivery restaurants under the trademark Papa John's. The Company operates through five segments: domestic Company-owned restaurants, North America commissaries, North America franchising, international operations and all other business units. North America is defined as the United States and Canada. Domestic is defined as the contiguous United States. International franchisees are defined as all franchise operations outside of the United States and Canada. As of December 25, 2016, there were 5,097 Papa John's restaurants in operation, consisting of 744 Company-owned and 4,353 franchised restaurants operating domestically in all 50 states and in 45 countries and territories. It offers pizza along with side items, including breadsticks, cheesesticks, chicken poppers and wings, dessert items and canned or bottled beverages. "

Tiger Global Shows Bright Scholar Education Stake

Chase Coleman's hedge fund firm Tiger Global has filed a 13G with the SEC regarding shares of Bright Scholar Education (BEDU).  Per the filing, Tiger now owns 5.8% of the company with over 1.57 million shares. 

The filing was made due to portfolio activity on February 28th.  They did not show an equity stake at the end of 2017 in their most recent 13F filing.

For more on this fund, we highlighted other recent portfolio activity from Tiger Global here.

Per Google Finance, Bright Scholar Education is "an operator of international and bilingual K-12 schools in China. The Company is engaged in providing international education to Chinese students. Its schools comprise international schools, bilingual schools and kindergartens. It offers a broad range of internationally-accredited curricula at its international schools. It also offers a range of complementary education services, including overseas camps and after-school programs. As of February 28, 2017, the Company had six international schools, which focus on internationally-accredited curricula and offer extracurricular activities and programs; 11 bilingual schools, which provide government-mandated curricula and developing students’ English proficiency; and 34 bilingual kindergartens, including 11 that deliver international curricula. As of February 28, 2017, the Company operated 51 schools."

Trian Partners Buys More Bank of New York Mellon (BK)

Nelson Peltz's activist investment firm Trian Partners has filed a Form 4 with the SEC regarding its position in Bank of New York Mellon (BK). 

Per the filing, Trian was buying 360,000 BK shares on March 9th at weighted average prices of $56.5188.  After this buy, Trian now owns over 16.12 million shares.

Per Google Finance, Bank of New York Mellon is "an investments company. The Company operates businesses through two segments: Investment Management and Investment Services. The Company also has an Other segment, which includes the leasing portfolio, corporate treasury activities (including its investment securities portfolio), derivatives and other trading, corporate and bank-owned life insurance and renewable energy investments, and business exits. As of December 31, 2016, the Company had $29.9 trillion in assets under custody and/or administration and $1.6 trillion in assets under management. The Company's Investment Management boutiques offer a range of actively managed equity, fixed income, alternative and liability-driven investments, along with passive products and cash management. The Company offers asset servicing, clearing services, issuer services and treasury services to its clients. "

Monday, March 12, 2018

Viking Global Discloses US Steel (X) Position

Andreas Halvorsen's hedge fund firm Viking Global has filed a 13G with the SEC regarding shares of US Steel (X).  Per the filing, Viking now owns 5.5% of the company with over 9.66 million shares. 

This is a newly disclosed equity position for the firm and the filing was made due to portfolio activity on February 27th.  This is now around a $425 million position, making it a top-20 US holding in their portfolio. 

Per Google Finance, US Steel is "an integrated steel producer. The Company is engaged in producing flat-rolled and tubular products with production operations in North America and Europe. The Company operates through three segments: Flat-Rolled Products (Flat-Rolled), U. S. Steel Europe (USSE) and Tubular Products (Tubular). The Flat-Rolled segment includes the operating results of its integrated steel plants and equity investees in the United States involved in the production of slabs, rounds, strip mill plates, sheets and tin mill products, as well as all iron ore and coke production facilities in the United States. The USSE segment includes the operating results of U. S. Steel Kosice (USSK) and its integrated steel plant and coke production facilities in Slovakia. The Tubular segment includes the operating results of its tubular production facilities, primarily in the United States and equity investees in the United States and Brazil."

Friday, March 9, 2018

Sohn Investment Conference New York 2018 & Investment Idea Contest

The 23rd annual Sohn Investment Conference New York is right around the corner.  It will be held on April 23rd at Lincoln Center from 8 AM to 7 PM.

The Sohn Conference Foundation in partnership with CNBC will see the event raise money for pediatric cancer research.  You can find out more about the event and register for it at their website:  http://www.sohnconference.org/new-york/

Sohn Conference New York Speakers List

Hedge fund managers that will be sharing their latest investment ideas to benefit charity include:

- Larry Robbins, Glenview Capital
- David Einhorn, Greenlight Capital
- Nathaniel August, Mangrove Partners
- Scott Ferguson, Sachem Head Capital
- Jeff Gundlach, DoubleLine Capital
- Bill Gurley, Benchmark
- Glen Kacher, Light Street Capital
- John Khoury, Long Pond Capital
- Chamath Palihapitiya, Social Capital
- Li Ran, Half Sky Capital
- John Pfeffer, Pfeffer Capital
- Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

Next Wave Sohn Speakers List

In the morning, prior to the main event, emerging managers will be pitching ideas in the fifth annual Next Wave Sohn series.  This year's speakers include:

- Alexander Captain, Cat Rock Capital
- Tim Garry, Pelorus Jack Capital
- Scott Goodwin, Diameter Capital
- Rashmi Kwatra, Sixteenth Street Capital
- Patrick McCaney, Oaktree Capital
- Oleg Nodelman, EcoR1 Capital

You can register for the Sohn Conference by clicking here.

Sohn Investment Idea Contest 2018

Submit your investment idea to be judged by a panel of Larry Robbins, Seth Klarman, Bill Ackman, David Einhorn, and Joel Greenblatt.

The winner will present his or her idea at the Sohn Conference to more than 3,000 attendees.  The contest supports the Foundation's mission to treat and cure pediatric cancer and is sponsored by GLG (Gerson Lehrman Group).

Contest Start Date: March 13th, 2018

Submission Deadline: 12pm EST on April 5th, 2018

Rules: Long or short marketable security with market cap above $1 billion.

Click here to enter the contest

Thursday, March 8, 2018

What We're Reading ~ 3/8/18

On interest rates and stock prices: it's complicated [Aswath Damodaran]

Why software is the ultimate business model [Medium]

Profile of JAB: the secretive company that pours America's coffee [WSJ]

Lessons from Spotify [Stratechery]

The state of the subscription economy [Forbes]

The economy is soaring & so is the deficit: that's a bad combination [538]

Ray Dalio sees 70% chance of recession before 2020 [Reuters]

Why Priceline or Expedia might be the next great hotel brand [Skift]

Pitch on Newell Brands [InvestPBA]

Persuasion as a skill and habit [First Round]

Fun little online game: can you run a struggling mall? [Bloomberg]

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Tiger Global Increases TransDigm Group Stake

Chase Coleman's hedge fund firm Tiger Global now owns 5.3% of TransDigm Group (TDG) with 2.78 million shares, per a 13G filed with the SEC.  The filing was made due to portfolio activity on March 6th.

This is up from the 1.91 million shares they previously owned at the end of 2017.  We've also posted about some other recent portfolio activity from Tiger here.

Per Google Finance, TransDigm Group is "a designer, producer and supplier of engineered aircraft components for use on commercial and military aircraft in service. The Company operates through three segments: Power & Control, Airframe and Non-aviation. The Power & Control segment includes operations that primarily develop, produce and market systems and components that provide power to or control power of the aircraft utilizing electronic, fluid, power and mechanical motion control technologies. The Airframe segment includes operations that primarily develop and market systems and components that are used in non-power airframe applications utilizing airframe and cabin structure technologies. The Non-aviation segment includes operations that primarily develop, produce and market products for non-aviation markets. Its product offerings include mechanical/electro-mechanical actuators and controls, engineered latching and locking devices, and seat belts and safety restraints."

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Lone Pine Capital Takes Exact Sciences Stake

Steve Mandel's hedge fund firm Lone Pine Capital has filed a 13G with the SEC regarding shares of Exact Sciences (EXAS).  Per the filing, Lone Pine now owns 5.3% of the company with over 6.39 million shares.

This is a newly revealed equity position for the firm.  The filing was made due to activity on February 23rd.

Per Google Finance, Exact Sciences is "a molecular diagnostics company. The Company focuses on the early detection and prevention of some forms of cancer. It offers a non-invasive screening test called Cologuard for the early detection of colorectal cancer and pre-cancer. Its Cologuard test is a stool-based deoxyribonucleic acid (sDNA) screening test, which utilizes a multi-target approach to detect deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and hemoglobin biomarkers associated with colorectal cancer and pre-cancer. The Cologuard test is intended for the qualitative detection of colorectal neoplasia associated DNA markers and for the presence of occult hemoglobin in human stool. It focuses on the development of additional tests for other types of cancer. It is developing a blood-based biomarker test to aid in the early detection of lung cancer in individuals with lung nodules discovered through a computerized tomography (CT) or other scan."

Makaira Partners Buys More Wesco Aircraft

Tom Bancroft's Makaira Partners has filed a Form 4 with the SEC regarding its stake in Wesco Aircraft Holdings (WAIR). 

Per the filing, Makaira acquired WAIR shares on March 1st and 5th.  In total, they bought 83,810 shares, with the bulk of the transaction coming at a weighted average price of $9.2699 per share. 

After these buys, they now own 10.81 million shares.  Bancroft and his family also own shares personally, according to the filing.  We've also previously detailed how Makaira was buying WAIR last August as well.

Per Google Finance, Wesco Aircraft Holdings is "a distributor and provider of supply chain management services to the global aerospace industry. The Company operates through two segments: North America and Rest of World. As of September 30, 2016, the Company supplied over 565,000 active stock-keeping units (SKUs), including C-class hardware, chemicals, electronic components, bearings, tools and machined parts. The Company's products include Hardware, Chemicals, Electronic Components, Bearings and Other Products. Its Services include Quality Assurance, Kitting and JIT Supply Chain Management. It caters to commercial, military and general aviation sectors, including the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and their subcontractors, through which it supports various Western aircraft programs, and also sells products to airline-affiliated and independent maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) providers. It also services industrial customers."

Trian Partners Sells Some Mondelez

Nelson Peltz's activist firm Trian Fund Management has filed a Form 4 with the SEC regarding its stake in Mondelez (MDLZ).  Per the filing, Trian sold over 6.52 million shares of MDLZ at $43.67 on February 27th. 

The filing notes that this sale was "made for portfolio management purposes, including in connection with the liquidation of a fund" that acquired shares prior to the end of 2012.  After this sale, the firm still owns 35.96 million shares.

Per Google Finance, Mondelez is "a snack company. The Company manufactures and markets snack food and beverage products for consumers. It operates through four segments: Latin America, Asia, Middle East, and Africa (AMEA), Europe and North America. As of December 31, 2016, its brands spanned five product categories: Biscuits (including cookies, crackers and salted snacks); Chocolate; Gum and candy; Beverages (including coffee and powdered beverages), and Cheese and grocery. Itsportfolio includes various snack brands, including Nabisco, Oreo, LU and belVita biscuits; Cadbury, Milka, Cadbury Dairy Milk and Toblerone chocolate; Trident gum; Halls candy, and Tang powdered beverages. The Company sells its products to supermarket chains, wholesalers, supercenters, club stores, mass merchandisers, distributors, convenience stores, gasoline stations, drug stores, value stores and retail food outlets. As of December 31, 2016, it sold its products to consumers in approximately 165 countries. "

Monday, March 5, 2018

Starboard Value's Letter To Newell Brands Shareholders

Jeff Smith's activist investment firm Starboard Value has taken a stake in Newell Brands (NWL).  They've teamed up with former Jarden management players in order to force change at the company.

We also highlighted last week that Carl Icahn owns Newell shares as well, though it doesn't look like they've teamed up at this point.

Starboard is seeking to replace the board of directors and today released a letter to Newell shareholders.  They write,

"While these have been  extremely challenging times for Newell, we believe that the recent poor financial  and  stock  price  performance  has  created  a unique  opportunity  to  invest  in  an  iconic company and embark on a multi-year operational turnaround that can deliver outstanding returns to  shareholders."

Embedded below is Starboard Value's letter to Newell Brands shareholders:

You can download a .pdf copy here

ValueAct Capital Trims CBRE Group Stake, Adds To Trinity Industries

Jeff Ubben's activist firm ValueAct Capital has submitted two SEC filings recently.

ValueAct Trims CBRE Group Stake

First, in an amended 13D with the SEC regarding its stake in CBRE Group (CBG), ValueAct now reports they own 5.9% of the company with 19.91 million shares.

The 13D indicates ValueAct sold 5 million CBG shares on March 1st at a price of $45.78.  This is the third time they've made filings indicating they've reduced their position over the past 6 months.

Per Google Finance, CBRE Group is "a holding company that conducts all of its operations through its subsidiaries. The Company operates as a commercial real estate services and investment company. The Company operates through the segments: The Americas; Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA); Asia Pacific; Global Investment Management, and Development Services. The Company provides commercial real estate services under the CBRE brand name, investment management services under the CBRE Global Investors brand name and development services under the Trammell Crow Company brand name. The Company's business is focused on commercial property, corporate facilities, project and transaction management, tenant/occupier and property/agency leasing, capital markets solutions (property sales, commercial mortgage brokerage, loan origination and servicing) real estate investment management, valuation, development services and proprietary research. "

ValueAct Adds To Trinity Industries Position

Second, ValueAct has also filed a Form 4 with the SEC regarding its position in Trinity Industries (TRN).  Per that filing, ValueAct acquired 950,000 TRN shares across February 28th, and March 1st and 2nd. 

They purchased shares around the $32.85 level and after these buys now own over 19.55 million TRN shares.

Per Google Finance, Trinity Industries is "a diversified industrial company that owns businesses providing products and services to the energy, chemical, agriculture, transportation and construction sectors. The Company's products and services include railcars and railcar parts; parts and steel components; the leasing, management and maintenance of railcars; highway products; construction aggregates; inland barges; structural wind towers; steel utility structures; storage and distribution containers, and trench shields and shoring products. The Company's segments include the Rail Group, Construction Products Group, Inland Barge Group, Energy Equipment Group, Railcar Leasing and Management Services Group, and All Other. Its All Other segment includes its captive insurance and transportation companies, and other peripheral businesses. It manufactures a line of railcars, including autorack cars, box cars, covered hopper cars, gondola cars, intermodal cars, open hopper cars and tank cars."

Lee Cooperman Buys More Ocwen Financial

Per a Form 4 filed with the SEC, Omega Advisors' Lee Cooperman has indicated he's purchased more shares of Ocwen Financial (OCN).  This is the second time this year he's purchased shares, as we highlighted his previous OCN buy as well.

In various trades on February 28th, March 1st, and March 2nd, Cooperman bought 539,798 shares in total at prices around $3.5872 for various Omega investment vehicles.

For more on this investor, be sure to also check out Cooperman's recent interview in the Graham & Doddsville newsletter.

Per Google Finance, Ocwen Financial is "a financial services holding company. The Company, through its subsidiaries, originates and services loans. The Company's segments include Servicing, Lending, and Corporate Items and Other. The Company's Servicing segment consists of its residential servicing business. The Company's Lending segment is focused on originating and purchasing conventional and government-insured residential forward and reverse mortgage loans. The Company's Corporate Items and Other segment includes revenues and expenses of Automotive Capital Services (ACS) and its other business activities. Its servicing clients include some of the financial institutions in the United States, including the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac), the Government National Mortgage Association (Ginnie Mae) and non-Agency residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) trusts. "

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Free Chapter From Dear Chairman Book: Dan Loeb and Hedge Fund Activism

Jeff Gramm's book, Dear Chairman: Boardroom Battles and the Rise of Shareholder Activism, has been featured on the site before and we reviewed it here.

We wanted to let everyone know that Gramm has generously made the chapter about Third Point's Dan Loeb available for free.  The chapter is entitled: Daniel Loeb and Hedge Fund Activism: The Shame Game.  This was one of our favorite parts of the book so if you haven't read it yet, check it out.

You can download a .pdf copy of the free chapter on the book's website here.

And if you haven't already, definitely be sure to pick up a copy of Dear Chairman.

Carl Icahn Reveals Newell Brands Stake

Per an interview with CNBC today, activist investor Carl Icahn reveals he has taken a stake in Newell Brands (NWL).  "I believe Newell itself is undervalued and that's why I bought it" Icahn noted.

He says he bought NWL around $25 and has a less than 5% stake in the company, though Icahn feels he has one of the largest positions in the company.

Another activist investor, Jeff Smith's Starboard Value is also involved in the company and has joined Jarden executive Martin Franklin in trying to replace the entire board.

Newell merged with Jarden and the Starboard contingent feels that the Newell management team has not managed the integration well.  The company features prominent consumer brands such as Rubbermaid, Elmer's glue, and more.

NWL was featured in the investment thesis summary section of  the Q3 2017 issue of our Hedge Fund Wisdom newsletter if you're looking to catch-up on the company's background.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

What We're Reading ~ 2/28/18

On decision regret [A Wealth of Common Sense]

Why competitive advantages die [Collaborative Fund]

Notes from the Wharton restructuring & distressed conference [Reddit]

The case against Google [NYTimes]

Consumer goods: big brands battle with the little guys [FT]

The end of the low volatility regime [13D]

Myths and facts about "risk parity" [FT Alphaville]

Inside Facebook's two years of hell [Wired]

How Softbank, world's biggest tech investor, throws around its cash [WSJ]

Canada's housing market flirts with disaster [FT]

Everything you need to know about 5G [IEEE Spectrum]

Inside T-Mobile's big, brash comeback [Fortune]

Boeing is killing it by squeezing its suppliers [Bloomberg]

From imitation to innovation: how China became a tech superpower [Wired]

Chinese tourists are taking over the earth [Bloomberg]

There's a global race to control batteries - and China is winning [WSJ]

Didi Chuxing took on Uber and won, now it's taking on the world [Wired]

Autonomous cars: no one wants to let Google win the war for maps all over again [Bloomberg]

Dyson bets on electric cars to shakeup industry [FT]

How to succeed in business?  Do less [WSJ]

Pershing Square Building United Technologies Stake; Covers Herbalife Short

Per CNBC, Bill Ackman's Pershing Square has reportedly been building a stake in United Technologies (UTX).  Ackman told Scott Wapner that he thought the company was "great."  The company has been awaiting the closure of its acquisition of Rockwell Collins (COL).  Additionally, UTX management has said they've been evaluating splitting up into a few different entities.

Secondly, Ackman has exited his bet against Herbalife (HLF).  He had previously been outright short shares, but then this past November restructured the short via put options.  Now, he's out of his short bet entirely.  

This comes after he said back in 2013 that he'd go to the "ends of the earth" to shut the company down, dubbing it a pyramid scheme.  Shares of HLF are already up 36% year-to-date after being up a similar amount already last year.

Pershing Square has been active lately, as it also recently revealed a new Nike (NKE) position.

For more from this investor, you can view a recent Pershing Square presentation here.

Tiger Global Selling eHi Car Service Stake

Chase Coleman's hedge fund firm Tiger Global has filed a 13D with the SEC regarding its stake in eHi Car Services (EHIC).  Per the filing, Tiger Global is selling 5.26 million ADR shares representing 10.52 million class A shares.

The SEC filing specifies the details:

"On February 23, 2018, Global Mauritius, a Reporting Person, entered into a Securities Purchase Agreement (the "Purchase Agreement") with BPEA Teamsport Limited (the "Purchaser") for the sale of 5,264,080 ADSs, representing 10,528,160 Class A Shares, to the Purchaser.  The closing of the transaction contemplated by the Purchase Agreement is scheduled to occur on or prior to May 30, 2018. The initial purchase price is US$12.00 per ADS, subject to adjustment as provided in the Purchase Agreement. The Purchaser is participating in that certain consortium including Mr. Ray RuiPing Zhang, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Issuer, and other potential investors, in connection with the proposed acquisition of the Issuer in a "going-private" transaction for US$13.35 in cash per ADS, as disclosed in Exhibit 99.1 to the Issuer's Form 6-K furnished with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission on January 2, 2018."

The entire securities purchase agreement is found here.

Per Google Finance, Ehi Car Services "is engaged in car rentals and car services. The Company provides self-drive car rental services to both individual customers, as well as corporate and institutional clients to meet travel, leisure, business and ground transportation needs. The Company operates its car rentals business primarily through its subsidiaries, including Shanghai eHi Car Rental Co., Ltd. (eHi Rental), eHi Auto Services (Jiangsu) Co., Ltd. (eHi Jiangsu), and their subsidiaries and branches. For its car services business, the Company provides vehicles and chauffeur services through different subsidiaries. The Company provides chauffeur services through its subsidiary, Shanghai Smart Brand Auto Driving Services Co., Ltd. (Shanghai Smart Brand), and its subsidiaries and branches. The Company has a limited operating history."

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Warren Buffett CNBC Interview: Summary & Transcript

CNBC's Becky Quick interviewed Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffett on a range of topics yesterday.  Below is a summary of noteworthy comments and a link to the full transcript.

On tax reform:  "It's a huge tailwind. And it's particularly a tailwind if you've got-- particularly for companies that have had lots of depreciation and taken bonus depreciation up front. So it's a big item-- there. Not as many companies have lots of appreciation and marketable securities, but it's a big item for those that do."

On market valuation:  "I mean, it--in fact, I-- the market-- the stock market relative to the long-term bond market-- people have free choices, pretty much, if they're going to be in marketable securities. They can own reasonably long-term bonds, they can own equities, or they can keep it in short-term cash equivalents. And--- if-you had to choose between buying long-term bonds or equities-- I would choose equities in a minute now ...

That doesn't mean I think the stock market is gonna go up or anything else. But if- I were going to own a 30-year government bond or own equity for 30 years, I think equities will considerably outperform that 30-year bond over the 30 years. I don't know what they're gonna do in any day or week or month ...

In-- so far this year we've been-- a net buyer, although we sold-- a chunk of Phillips to get below 10%"

On whether he would buy any parts of General Electric (GE):  "If we like the business and the price was right, we could write a check for cash. And that would apply to GE. They've got a few big businesses. I don't think they want to sell them, but they have some smaller units that they're interested in selling. But we're always in the market for a big business that we can understand and that we like, and we think that we've got the management for and so on."

On Buffett's favorite stock, besides Berkshire:  "Well, if you look at our holdings, you would assume that we like them in the order in which they rank by dollar value of holdings. But if you look at them in terms of recent purchases, you know, over the last year, we've bought more Apple than anything else ... I haven't told you what I might have been buying in the last week. Or month"

Shoutout to CNBC for asking the question we submitted on Twitter via the #AskWarren hashtag:  Has Buffett ever disagreed with any of Todd (Combs) or Ted's (Weschler) investments, and why?

"Yeah, well, they make their own decisions, 100% and they each manage $12 billion or $13 billion now. Well, they started actually, I think when Todd came about a year ahead of Ted. And I think maybe it was $2 billion, but it has increased at various points and then they've earned a lot of money for Berkshire, which builds up for them, too. There's certainly – they've done things I wouldn't have done. But I've done things they wouldn't do, too. I mean, I want them to figure out their own. The choices – they are good at managing money, and they've got the advantage of managing smaller sums than I'm running. But they've got the disadvantage of running quite a bit larger sums than most people run. I mean, it gets more difficult with size. But they not only have done a good job of managing the money and trusted them. But they've contributed to Berkshire in just dozens of ways. They were sensational hires."

Becky Quick then followed up and asked if he talks to Todd/Ted about investments beforehand:

"No, not ahead a time. And there's a number of them I haven't talked with them at all. I couldn't even – I couldn't name three quarters of their portfolio. I couldn't tell you the amounts. I don't remember that well. But I've gotten ideas from them. But they take on other tasks. I mean, Todd is on the health care situation. He's there on Saturday. I was there on Saturday. He's there all day talking to people around the country in terms of looking for the right CEO and that sort of thing. They are enormous contributors to Berkshire."

On owning Samsung in the past:  "I don't own them, and Berkshire doesn't own them now. But Berkshire has owned Samsung. It doesn't get reported in our 13F.  But I think I'm right on that. I'm 99% sure. And so we bought some when Samsung was at about a million yuan – you got to divide that by something over 1,000 – we bought a reasonable amount. We did sell it when it went up. It's higher than this now. It went up to 1.8 million, or something. I think it's around 2 million, 2.3 million or 2.4 million. The yuan went in our favor a little bit too. So we did a little bit better in dollars."

On why he sold IBM in favor of buying more Apple (AAPL):  "Well I was wrong on – at least I felt I was wrong on IBM. Now, I may have been wrong when I sold it, too. But I certainly was wrong when I bought it. And I've felt that Apple has an extraordinary consumer franchise. Apple's a different kind of business than IBM. They're both tech, obviously, in a major way. And they even have a joint venture, you know, on some things. But I think I understand consumer behavior perhaps better than I do the tech business. It wouldn't take much to beat it. And I liked it, I like Tim Cook very much. I like their policies. I see how strong that ecosystem is. It's to an extraordinary degree. I mean, I look at my grandchildren, my great grandchildren and everybody in the office, I mean, their families. I talk to the people at the Furniture Mart when the ten hadn't arrived, nobody goes over to, you know, buy an Android. I mean, you are very, very, very locked in at least psychologically and mentally, to the product you're using. I mean, you got all kinds of stuff up on there. It's a very sticky product."

On the airline industry (he owns stakes in AAL, UAL, DAL, LUV): "It's-- a business that's-- always subject to somebody doing something very dumb competitively. And—-- they've done it a lot in the past. There was more chance of them doing it when there were seven of 'em than the big ones, than-- than four. I mean, the industry was suicidally competitive for decades. I mean, they net lost money-- and-- while they were growing like crazy in units. And I was on the board of U.S. Air so I saw how it all happened. And it can turn into fierce competitive battles that'll wipe out earnings. Or it can be a business that's more decent, but still subject to lots of competition. And-- it's really hard to know, you know, for sure how it will develop. It's-- not risk free in their competition at all. In-- in the railroad business, all the tracks have been pretty much laid and all of that. So that settled into a business. Now, it's regulated and means that your earnings, you know, can only-- you're a common carrier. And-- many places, you compete with another railroad, and other places, you don't. And there're different rules that apply even in terms of pricing in those cases. But it's a perfectly decent business. It will lose volume in coal over time. And that's an important product. But it'll probably gain in other areas. So it's-- it's two different animals."

On stocks and volatility:  "Well, some people should not own stocks at all because they just get too upset with price fluctuations. If you're going to do dumb things because a stock goes down, you shouldn't own a stock at all ... But some people are not actually emotionally or psychologically fit to own stocks. But I think more of them would be if you get educated on what you're really buying, which is part of a business. And the longer you hold stocks, the less risky they become, whereas the longer the maturity of a bond, the more risky it becomes."

Here's a link to the full CNBC Warren Buffett interview transcript.

And for even more, be also sure to check out Warren Buffett's 2017 annual letter.

Charlie Munger Daily Journal Meeting 2018 Summary, Transcript, Audio Recording

Charlie Munger recently concluded his Daily Journal (DJCO) meeting for 2018.  We've pulled select quotes from a full transcript and an audio recording, thanks to LatticeWorkInvesting's great effort.  Here's select quotes from Munger with links to the other options below.

Summary of Charlie Munger's Daily Journal 2018 Meeting

On the banking industry: "Well, banking is a very peculiar business.  The temptations that come to a banking CEO are way…the temptations to do something stupid are way greater in banking than they are in most businesses.  Therefore it’s a dangerous place to invest because there are a lot of way in banking to make the near term future look good by taking risks you really shouldn’t take for the sake of the long-term future.  And so banking is a dangerous place to invest and there are a few exceptions.  And Berkshire has tried to (pick) the exceptions as best it could."

On incentive fees:  "Suppose you’re charging say 1 and 20, one percent off the top and twenty percent of profits…or even worse, two percent off the top and twenty percent of profits…and you’ve got $30 billion or so under management and an army of young ambitious people, all of whom want to get unreasonably rich very fast.  What are your chances of doing better for your clients?  Well the average entity that charges those fees, the chances the clients will do well is pretty poor.  That’s the reason Warren won that bet against the hedge funds.  Where he bet on the S&P averages and they bet on carefully selected bunch of geniuses charging very high fees.  And of course the high fees will just kill you.  It’s so hard in a competitive world to get big advantages just buying securities, particularly when you’re doing it by the billion, and then you add the burden of very high fees and think that by working hard and reading a lot of sell-side research and so forth, that you’re going to do well.  It’s delusional.  It’s not good to face the world in a delusional way.  And I don’t think, when Berkshire came up, we had an easier world than you people are facing this point forward, and I don’t think you’re going to get the kind of results we got by just doing what we did. "

On the best fee structure for investment funds:  He said it's the original Buffett Partnership structure and went on to say:  "Yeah, Buffett copied that from Graham.  And Mohnish Pabrai is probably here…is Mohnish here?  Stand up and wave to them Mohnish.  This man uses the Buffett formula, and always has, he just copied it.  And Mohnish has just completed 10 years…where he was making up for a high water-mark.  So he took nothing off the top at all for 10 years, he sucked his living out of his own capital for ten long years, because that’s what a good money manager should be cheerfully willing to do.  But there aren’t many Mohnish’s.  Everybody else wants to scrape it off the top in gobs.  And it’s a wrong system.  Why shouldn’t a man who has to manage your money whose 40 years of age be already rich?  Why would you want to give your money to somebody who hasn’t accumulated anything by the time he was 40.  If he has some money, why should he on the downside suffer right along with you the investor?  I’m not talking about the employees under the top manager.  But I like the Buffett formula.  Here he is, he’s had these huge successes.  Huge in Buffett’s career.  But who is copying the Buffett formula?  Well we got Mohnish and maybe there are a few others, probably in the room.  But everybody wants to scrape it off the top, because that’s what everybody really needs, is a check every month.  That’s what is comforting to human nature.  And of course half the population, that’s all they have, they’re living pay check to pay check.  The Buffett formula was that he took 25% of the profits over 6% per annum with a high water mark.  So if the investor didn’t get 6%, Buffett would get nothing.  And that’s Mohnish’s system.  And I like that system, but it’s like many things that I like and I think should spread, we get like almost no successes spreading that system.  It’s too hard.  The people who are capable of attracting money on more lenient terms, it just seems too hard.  If it were easier, I think there would be more copying of the Buffett system."

On investor Li Lu: "What was unusual about Li Lu.  Li Lu is one of the most successful investors.  Imagine him, he just popped out of somebody’s womb and he just assaulted life the best he could and he ended up pretty good at it.  But he was very good at a lot.  He’s ferociously smart.  It really helps to be intelligent.  He’s very energetic.  That also helps.  And he has a good temperament.  And he’s very aggressive, and he’s willing to patiently wait and then aggressively pounce. A very desirable temperament to have.  And if the reverse comes, he takes it well.  Also a good quality to have.  So it’s not very hard to figure out what works.  But there aren’t that many Li Lu’s.  In my life, I’ve given money to one outside manager, and that’s Li Lu.  No others in my whole life.  And I have no feelings that it would be easy to find a second.  It’s not that there aren’t others out there, but they’re hard to find.  It doesn’t help you if a stock is a wonderful thing to buy if you can’t figure it out."

On his view of big consumer brand moats in the age of Amazon and Costco Kirkland etc:  "Well the big consumer brands are still very valuable.  But they had an easier time in a former era than they’re going to have in the future era.  So you’re right about that.  And of course Amazon I don’t know that much about except that it’s unbelievably aggressive.  And the man who heads it is ferociously smart.  On the other hand he’s trying to do things that are difficult.  Costco I know a lot about because I’ve been a director for about 20 years and I think Costco will continue to flourish and it’s a damn miracle the way the Kirkland brand keeps getting more and more accepted.  You’re right about that.  So you’re right that it’s going to be harder for the big brands, but they’re still quite valuable.  If you could own say, the Snicker’s Bar trademarks and so forth, it will still be a good asset 60 years from now.  Now it may not be quite as good for the owner as it was in the last 60 years.  But it doesn’t have to be.  But in fact it makes it harder for you investors.  It use to be the groupie could buy Nestle and they’d think, ‘Well, I’ll just sit on…(inaudible)’.  I don’t think it’s quite that simple anymore.  It’s harder.  You’re right.  But you know that."

On Buffett's claim in 1999 he could return 50% if he ran only $1 million & if that's achievable today:  "Well I do think that a very smart man who’s patient and aggressive in combination, is willing to work hard, to root around in untraveled places like thinly traded stocks and other odd places.  I do think a person with a lot of shrewdness, working with a small amount of capital, can probably earn high returns on capital even today ... Generally speaking, I would say, if you’re shrewd enough with small sums of money, I think you can compound pretty well.  The minute you get bigger sums, I think it starts getting difficult.  It’s way more difficult for all you people sitting here than it was for me when I was in your position.  But I’m about to die and you have a lot of years ahead. You would not want to trade your position for mine"

On the airline industry and Berkshire's decision to invest:  "Well, we did change our mind.  For a long time, Warren and I (painted over) the railroad because there were too many of them, and it was too competitive, and union rules were too crazy.  They were lousy investments for about 75 years.  And then they finally…the world changed and they double decked all the trains and they got down to four big rail systems in all the United States in terms of freight and all of a sudden we liked railroads.  It took about 75 years.  Warren and I never looked at railroads for about 50 years, and then we bought one ... Now airlines, Warren use to joke about them.  He’d say that the investing class would have done better if the Wright Brothers would never have invented flight.  But given the conditions that were present when the stock was purchased and given the conditions of Berkshire Hathaway where it was drowning in money, we thought it was ok to buy a bunch of airline stocks.  What more can I say?  Certainly it’s ok to change your mind when the facts change.  And to some extent the facts had changed, and to some extent they haven’t.  It is harder to create the little competing airlines than it was.  And the industry has maybe learned something.  I hope it works better, but I don’t think its…I think the chances of us buying airlines and holding them for 100 years is going to work that well.  I think that’s pretty low."

General quote:  "Why would you risk what you have and need in order to get what you don’t have and don’t need?  It really is stupid."

Here's the link to the full transcript and to a soft audio recording of the event; shout out to LatticeWork again for posting these up.

And for more from this great investor, head to Charlie Munger's recommended reading list.

Warren Buffett Annual Letter 2017

Warren Buffett is out with his 2017 annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders.  In it, he details the full results of his hedge fund bet pitting fund of funds versus an index fund which is worth reading in full.  TLDR: They performed well the first year, but then not so much after that. Not to mention layers of fees.

In the mean time, here are some select quotes with the full document below.

"Despite our recent drought of acquisitions, Charlie and I believe that from time to time Berkshire will have opportunities to make very large purchases. In the meantime, we will stick with our simple guideline: The less the prudence with which others conduct their affairs, the greater the prudence with which we must conduct our own."

"There is simply no telling how far stocks can fall in a short period. Even if your borrowings are small and your positions aren’t immediately threatened by the plunging market, your mind may well become rattled by scary headlines and breathless commentary. And an unsettled mind will not make good decisions.

"Investing is an activity in which consumption today is foregone in an attempt to allow greater consumptionat a later date. “Risk” is the possibility that this objective won’t be attained."

"I want to quickly acknowledge that in any upcoming day, week or even year, stocks will be riskier – far riskier – than short-term U.S. bonds. As an investor’s investment horizon lengthens, however, a diversified portfolio of U.S. equities becomes progressively less risky than bonds, assuming that the stocks are purchased at a sensible multiple of earnings relative to then-prevailing interest rates."

Embedded below is Warren Buffett's 2017 annual letter:

You can download a .pdf copy here.

For more from the Oracle of Omaha, be sure to also check out Warren Buffett's interview with CNBC this week.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

33% Discount Expires in 5 Days: New Issue Just Released

The brand new Q4 issue of our Hedge Fund Wisdom newsletter was just released.  Subscribers please login at www.hedgefundwisdom.com to download it.

New Q4 Issue Just Released Today

Our limited time sale ends in 5 days.  You'll save 33% off normal prices, so take advantage below before it's too late. To see a sample of the newsletter, check out a full past issue here.

The brand new issue features:

- Consensus buy / sell lists of the most popular hedge fund trades

- Reveals the latest portfolios of 25 top hedge funds (Appaloosa, Baupost, Tiger Global, Glenview, Lone Pine & 20 others)

- Investment thesis summaries on 2 stocks hedge funds were active in. Quickly catch up on the current situation and bull/bear thesis on each stock

33% Discount Expires in 5 Days

The discount expires on February 25th.  After signing up, you'll get immediate access to the new issue & the archive of past issues.

1-year Subscription (4 issues): Normal Price $299.99 Sale Price $199.99

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Wednesday, February 7, 2018

What We're Reading ~ 2/7/18

George Soros remarks at the World Economic Forum [George Soros]

It's hard to predict how you'll respond to risk [Collaborative Fund]

How delivery apps may put your favorite restaurant out of business [New Yorker]

Older piece but interesting: Disney as a service [Redef]

QVC plans to survive Amazon and escape the cable TV death spiral [Bloomberg]

Why one firm passed on investing in Ecolab [Intrinsic Investing]

A new mental model for investing [MicroCapClub]

Germany is still obsessed with cash [Bloomberg]

Why Rimowa rules the luggage carousel [FT]

Investing in UK retailers: bargains or basket cases? [FT]

The new robot revolution in manufacturing [WSJ]

Ikea's success can't be attributed to one charismatic leader [HBR]

The American sedan is dying, long live the SUV [Bloomberg]

Like great coffee, good ideas take time to percolate [FT]

Monday, February 5, 2018

Ken Griffin Talk at Georgetown: Leaders of Global Finance Speakers Series

Ken Griffin of Citadel was interviewed at Georgetown University McDonough School of Business as part of the Leaders of Global Finance Speakers Series in September last year. 

He talked about how he doesn't think machines will completely dominate the finance industry.  He says that good old fashioned stockpicking won't die because there's so many qualitative aspects of the process that machines can't necessarily do like interacting with management teams, supply chain, competitors, etc.

"Computers will never, in my opinion, replace the judgment and intellect and the ability to connect dots that people do who are world class analysts in equities."

Griffin noted that machine learning is about pattern recognition and cited outlier events such as Brexit and the machines not knowing how to react or trade.  "Machine learning works really well when you have persistent, consistent patterns."

He says one of the keys to success in finance is to work in the industry because you're passionate about it and love it, not just because you want to make money.  This is because if you're just in it for the money, you're competing with people who absolutely love what they do and will work harder than you.

Griffin said that even his best colleagues at Citadel win 53% of the time and lose 47% of the time with their trades.  That's incredibly humbling, especially when that person is used to getting "A's" in all their classes their whole life. 

Regarding the low volatility last year, he thinks it's a part of the business cycle and one that normally comes in the 7th or 8th innings. 

Asked what hedge funds and private equity firms he admired, Griffin said Paul Tudor Jones (Tudor Investment Corp) he's always looked up to, as well as Ed Thorp. 

On the private equity side, he said he has great respect for Blackstone Group and Steve Schwarzmann, as well as Henry Kravis at KKR.

When asked what advice he'd give to people starting their own fund:  "You do not own your business, your business owns you.  #2: The best advice I've ever had in my life: Hire the best people you can possibly hire."

Embedded below is the video of Ken Griffin's talk at Georgetown followed by the Q&A session:

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Graham & Doddsville New Issue: Lee Cooperman, David Poppe, John Harris & More

The Winter 2018 issue of Columbia Business School's Graham & Doddsville newsletter is out.  It features interviews with Lee Cooperman of Omega Advisors as well as David Poppe and John Harris of Ruane, Cunniff & Goldfarb.  Also, they talk with Vulcan Value Partners' C.T. Fitzpatrick, as well as Seth Fischer of Oasis Management.

Cooperman talked about the market's run: "I believe we're adequately priced.  I think we're heading to a normalization.  We have been living through a very strange period."  He doesn't see euphoria in the market yet, though notes everyone expects the market to head higher.  He pointed to 1987 as an example where the market traded at 27x earnings.

The gentlemen from Ruane Cunniff talked about their investment in Alphabet (GOOG) which they recently bought more or and it's now around 10% of their fund.  They also touched on their thesis on Credit Acceptance Corp (CACC).  (We recently posted Sequoia Fund's Q4 letter here.)

The issue also includes student investment pitches including long Staples 8.5 2025 unsecured notes, long FleetCor Technologies (FLT), and long First Data (FDC).

Embedded below is the Winter 2018 issue of CBS's Graham & Doddsville newsletter:

You can download a .pdf copy here.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Pershing Square Portfolio Update Presentation: Nike, S&P Global & More

Bill Ackman's activist firm Pershing Square recently made a presentation to investors about the current state of their portfolio and how they're re-tooling the organization after a few years of poor performance.  In 2017, Pershing was down 4%.

The presentation provides brief updates on all their holdings, including their new Nike (NKE) stake.

Pershing Square on New Nike Stake (NKE)

They bought Nike because it's "a high quality business that should compound long-term earnings at a high rate due to strong revenue growth and margin expansion."

They see it as an iconic brand with a dominant market position.  The company has assets via patents, a huge marketing budget, brand loyalty, manufacturing skill, and leverage with suppliers and customers.

Pershing thinks the company can continue to grow revenue in the high single digits.  They note positive secular trends of health/wellness and emerging market growth as key contributors, as well as pricing power.

The firm sees Nike expanding margins via new manufacturing processes and growth in distribution channels with "more favorable economics."

Ackman Bought & Sold S&P Global (SPGI)

The presentation also reveals that Pershing Square was buying shares of S&P Global (SPGI) during 2017 but sold the stake because they couldn't build a full position size as markets rose.

Their thesis was that "S&P is an annuity-like business with pricing power, strong secular growth and a margin opportunity."  It's a credit ratings and financial data services firm with the former comprising 55% of EBIT and the latter 45%.

Lastly, Pershing Square also bought an undisclosed position but sold that as well.  It's interesting that they aren't revealing the name.  Does this mean perhaps they might want to revisit it if the share price hits a level they're comfortable with? Who knows.

The presentation also includes updates on their stakes in: ADP, Chipotle, Howard Hughes, Mondelez,  Restaurant Brands, Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac, Platform Specialty Products, and their short of Herbalife (HLF).

Embedded below is Pershing Square's portfolio update presentation:

For more from this fund you can also read Pershing Square's Q3 letter.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Hedge Fund Links ~ 1/26/18

Steve Cohen is about to make his return [Business Insider]

Seth Klarman watching for stumbles among unicorns [WSJ]

Clash between founder and protege at Och-Ziff [WSJ]

This massive hedge fund is betting on AI [Bloomberg]

Sachem Head pushes Whitbread to consider breakup [Reuters]

David Tepper says market is as cheap as year ago [CNBC]

Jana Partners more invested today than ever [CNBC]

ValueAct launching fund with social goals [CNBC]

World's best female poker player joins Bridgewater [Bloomberg]

One of Paulson's funds is down 70% over four years [Bloomberg]

Pershing Square cuts staff, shuns limelight [Reuters]

Boone Pickens closes energy hedge fund [Reuters]

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Pershing Square Takes Nike Stake

Bill Ackman's activist firm Pershing Square has taken a passive stake in Nike (NKE), according to a Reuters report.  Ackman apparently announced the position at an investor event but doesn't plan to go activist as the company is already heading down the right path.  The fund manager reportedly accumulated the stake since October.

We joked on Twitter that perhaps he read Shoe Dog recently?  Shoe Dog, of course, is the book about Nike's founder Phil Knight and has been recommended by the likes of Warren Buffett and numerous other investors.

For more on this fund we've also previously posted Pershing Square's Q3 letter.

Per Yahoo Finance, Nike is "designs, develops, markets, and sells athletic footwear, apparel, equipment, and accessories worldwide. It offers NIKE brand products in nine categories: running, NIKE basketball, the Jordan brand, football, men's training, women's training, action sports, sportswear, and golf. The company also markets products designed for kids, as well as for other athletic and recreational uses, such as cricket, lacrosse, tennis, volleyball, wrestling, walking, and outdoor activities. In addition, it sells sports apparel; and markets apparel with licensed college and professional team and league logos. Further, the company sells a line of performance equipment, including bags, socks, sport balls, eyewear, timepieces, digital devices, bats, gloves, protective equipment, and other equipment under the NIKE brand for sports activities; various plastic products to other manufacturers; athletic and casual footwear, apparel, and accessories under the Jumpman trademark; action sports and youth lifestyle apparel and accessories under the Hurley trademark; and casual sneakers, apparel, and accessories under the Converse, Chuck Taylor, All Star, One Star, Star Chevron, and Jack Purcell trademarks. Additionally, it licenses agreements that permit unaffiliated parties to manufacture and sell apparel, digital devices, and applications and other equipment for sports activities under NIKE-owned trademarks. The company sells its products to footwear stores, sporting goods stores, athletic specialty stores, department stores, skate, tennis and golf shops, and other retail accounts through NIKE-owned retail stores and Internet Websites, mobile applications, independent distributors, and licensees. The company was formerly known as Blue Ribbon Sports, Inc. and changed its name to NIKE, Inc. in 1971. NIKE, Inc. was founded in 1964 and is headquartered in Beaverton, Oregon."