Grey Owl Capital on Investing in a Low-Return Environment: Q1 Letter ~ market folly

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Grey Owl Capital on Investing in a Low-Return Environment: Q1 Letter

Jeff Erber and Grey Owl Capital are out with their Q1 letter to investors and in it they highlight how they're approaching investing in a low-return environment.  They're employing a three-pronged attack as follows:

1. Look for undervalued securities:  They've been "high-grading" their portfolio by buying cheaper, high quality US names.  This is a concept long echoed in commentary from Oaktree's Howard Marks as well as GMO's Jeremy Grantham for the past few years as rates have remained low for a prolonged period.

Here's what individual names Grey Owl's been trading in:

New stakes: Pepsico (PEP), Blackrock (BLK), BMC Software (BMC), and Excelon (EXC)
Added to existing stakes: eBay (EBAY)
Exited: Apollo Residential Mortgage (AMTG) and Western Union (WU)
Trimmed: Apollo Group (APOL), Bridge Point Education (BPI), Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX), Lexmark (LXK), and Transocean (RIG).

2. Invest in short dated high-yield fixed income:  Given that the Fed has in the past signaled potentially raising rates in 2013, this short-dated approach makes sense.  They've purchased the following bonds (with full write-ups on each stake in the below letter):

MGM Resorts 6.75% 9/2012 - purchased in December 2011
CSC 5.5% 3/2013 - purchased in January
Western Alliance Bancorp 10% 9/2015 - purchased in early April

3. Hold plenty of dry powder anticipating better opportunities: This might look counterintuitive at first glance given that holding cash earns you practically nothing, especially in a low yield environment.  However, consider that many hedge fund managers often hold cash as a hedge and as a utility to deploy when better investment opportunities arise. That's exactly what Grey Owl has done as they've deemed the current set of opportunities less desirable and they think better prices to buy at lie ahead.

Embedded below is Grey Owl Capital Managment's Q1 letter & you can download a .pdf here:

For more investor letters we've posted up Dan Loeb's Third Point Q1 letter as well as Passport Capital's letter.

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