Mark Foley & Tina Larsson's Pendo LLC: International Value Investing ~ market folly

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mark Foley & Tina Larsson's Pendo LLC: International Value Investing

Today we're taking a look at the latest commentary from Tina Larsson and Mark Foley's investment firm, Pendo LLC. Pendo seeks absolute returns (or as they put it, "We don't hug an index") through in-house bottom-up fundamental analysis in order to find undervalued companies outside the United States while remaining agnostic regarding market cap, industry, sector, geography, traditional weightings, etc. As of the end of August, Pendo's International Strategy Fund was -5.34%. Their trailing twelve month return is 8.83%.

In the letter, Larsson and Foley note that despite tumultuous and volatile world markets, they remain quite optimistic about the future of their international investments, and not just for the long term, as they believe their investments will out perform their benchmark indices over the next 6-12 months. While not satisfied with their recent performance, they believe their strategy is now ready to outperform as the global economy improves and they continue to hold businesses that are insulated from the ails of the US market and dollar.

Their portfolio is currently trading at 13.5x trailing earnings, down from an ~18x multiple at the beginning of the year. A PE expansion back to previous multiple would provide a 33% return on its own. They believe this is reasonable considering that the MSCI EAFE benchmark currently only trades at ~20x but has traded at an average PE ratio of ~25.5x real earnings since 1982. Larsson reiterates that they are not market timers, but they remain committed to actively managing their long-term value approach by reducing positions as they become over-valued while increasing positions that become undervalued.

As of August 31st, Pendo International Strategy's top ten holdings are as follows:

1. Sichuan Expressway (China)
2. Tsingtao Brewery (TSGTY)
3. Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ)
4. Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing (Hong Kong)
5. Philip Morris International (PM)
6. JSE Ltd (South Africa)
7. CEMIG (Brazil)
9. Anglo American (UK)
10. Silver Wheaton (SLW)

Pendo's Global Value Strategy holds different names and here is their top ten:

1. BM&F Bovespa (Brazil)
2. Deluxe Corp (DLX)
3. McDonald's (MCD)
4. Sanofi-Aventis (France)
5. Vodafone (VOD)
6. Walt Disney (DIS)
7. Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ)
8. Newmont Mining (NEM)
9. Philip Morris International (PM)
10. Leucadia (LUK)

There are some names worth highlighting above because Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway has been fond of Sanofi-Aventis. Additionally, David Einhorn's hedge fund Greenlight Capital has a large position in Vodafone (VOD) and you can see their investment thesis here. In terms of overlap between both of Pendo's portfolios, Philip Morris International (PM) and Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ) are found in both strategies.

The second half of Pendo's letter focuses on recent developments in China where the visiting Premier Wen Jiabao addressed the need for political reform, or more specifically, the need to curtail excessive political control. Such sentiment reassured Larsson that China understands they will have to continue to allow more freedom in the marketplace in order for China’s 30+ years of overall growth and development to continue.

Larsson and Foley feel that centralized planning can work very well in steering a nascent economy towards a more developed, functioning entity. Yet, she also acknowledges that, “in order to fully develop and remain an expanding, dynamic, and innovative powerhouse, free markets must be respected and embraced.” Like China, Brazil is another country that has benefited from starting to separate itself from socialism, as GDP growth is expected to be a robust 7.34% in 2010. Brazil is becoming a global leader through providing financial and technological aid to developing countries, and thus building good will and valuable trading partners (Larsson notes that these developing countries are notably commodity-rich).

Pendo cites a quote from July 17th issue of The Economist to drive home their point: “This aid effort—though it is not called that by the government—has wide implications. Lavishing assistance on Africa helps Brazil compete with China and India for soft-power influence in the developing world. It also garners support for the country’s lonely quest for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Since rising powers like Brazil will one day run the world, argues Samuel Pinheiro GuimarĂ£es Neto, the [minister for strategic affairs], they can save trouble later by reducing poverty in developing countries now.”

Embedded below is Pendo's latest commentary:

You can download a .pdf copy here.

We almost exclusively cover fundamental bottom-up stockpickers and you can follow our coverage of these hedge funds and their investments here. For more commentary and market analysis, head to our compilation of recent hedge fund investor letters as well.

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