Martin Whitman

Martin Whitman

Last Update: 2014-06-23
Related: Third Avenue Management

Number of Stocks: 38
Number of New Stocks: 1

Total Value: $2,092 Mil
Q/Q Turnover: 3%

Countries: USA
Details: Top Buys | Top Sales | Top Holdings  Embed:

Martin Whitman Watch

  • Third Avenue Management Comments on Toyota

    Perhaps because it has "Toyota" (TM) in its name or perhaps because it spun out Toyota Motor years ago, many people view Toyota industries as largely an automotive parts type company. it is, but also derives around 50% of operating income from its material handling equipment business, where it is the global market share leader. The company also has a logistics segment and a textiles machinery business. The company is profitable and growing and, furthermore, has an attractive investment securities portfolio, the value of which exceeds Toyota industries' current market value. The businesses are separable but not likely saleable (perhaps if it were not a Japanese company). Changes in corporate governance are afoot in Japan. The government is working on new corporate governance rules requiring independent directors, or in the absence of that, an explanation of deviations. Further, Japan is working on a Stewardship Code to encourage institutional investors to disclose their proxy votes and engage in dialogue with companies on issues that could impact long-term share value. a new stock index, the JPX- Nikkei 400, highlights this new focus. To be included in the index, companies must meet certain corporate governance and profitability requirements.

    From Martin Whitman (Trades, Portfolio)'s 2Q 2014 Shareholder Letters.  


  • Third Avenue Management Comments on Symantec

    Symantec (SYMC) operates in security software and IT storage management businesses with its well-known brands, such as Norton. Recently, it has experienced management turnover, with its second CEO terminated by the Board in as many years. The surprise announcement was due to what appears to be slower than expected execution of a previously announced new strategy. The company had already started to embark on its new strategy to improve growth capabilities, including restructuring the sales force and eliminating duplicative organizational and operating structures. While not central to our original investment thesis, we have long thought that the company's businesses seem separable and saleable. Strategic firms could be potentially interested in its various businesses, though it could also be interesting to private equity firms given the strong cash flow characteristics of the business.

    From Martin Whitman (Trades, Portfolio)'s 2Q 2014 Shareholder Letters.  


  • Third Avenue Management Comments on Bank of New York Mellon

    BNY Mellon (BK) ("BK") participates in two businesses –asset management and investment servicing. The company had $1.6 trillion in assets under management and $27.9 trillion of asset under custody and/or administration, as of March 31, 2014. The businesses seem separable and more valuable on a sum-of-the-parts basis. The asset management business with its iconic Dreyfus Funds and stable of boutique managers could certainly be a stand- alone entity or would seem to attract interest from strategic or financial buyers. BK has been in the news recently given more shareholder scrutiny of its operating efficiency. Recently, there have been news reports that BK could be looking to sell its Corporate Trust unit, which has been a detractor due to the run-off of high-margin securitizations.

    From Martin Whitman (Trades, Portfolio)'s 2Q 2014 Shareholder Letters.  


  • Third Avenue Management Comments on Cavco Industries

    The Fund's largest position is the common stock of Cavco industries inc. (CVCO), which represented 5.6% of the Fund's net assets as of quarter end. Since Cavco is not a household name, we thought it would be helpful to discuss the history of the investment and why we are so excited about its future. The Cavco investment originated during the 2008 financial crisis. Fleetwood Enterprises, a leading producer of manufactured homes and recreational vehicles ("RVs") had filed for bankruptcy, and its announcement of the sale of its RV business in a bankruptcy auction indicated that the manufactured housing business could be available on similar terms. Fund Management had long followed the manufactured housing industry and knew that Fleetwood had a strong brand name and reputation as a quality manufacturer. Fund Management contacted Joe Stegmayer, the Chairman and CEO of Cavco, to discuss the situation and learned that Cavco was also interested in the Fleetwood manufactured housing business. Fund Management had known Joe Stegmayer for many years, dating back to when he was president of industry leader Clayton Homes, and had tremendous respect for his managerial capabilities. Cavco was a small (three plants) regional manufactured housing producer based Arizona. Under Joe Stegmayer's prudent management, the company had maintained generally profitable operations and a strong, debt free balance sheet during the long industry downturn (See Manufactured Housing Shipments chart that follows on the next page ). Therefore, the company was in position to consider acquisitions. However, given Fleetwood's considerably larger size, Cavco wanted a financial partner for the acquisition, and, hence, we formed a 50-50 joint venture company ("Fleetwood Homes") to purchase the Fleetwood assets. The Fund and Cavco each contributed $35 million to fund the joint venture.

    Fleetwood's manufactured housing assets, consisting mostly of seven manufacturing plants, were purchased by our joint venture for $26 million in august 2009 at a bankruptcy auction. The only other bidder for the assets was Clayton Homes, which is now owned by Berkshire Hathaway. Under the terms of our joint venture agreement, Cavco operated the assets. Impressively, despite continued industry weakness, Cavco was able to operate Fleetwood profitably in 2010. Therefore, when a larger, vertically integrated competitor, palm Harbor, experienced financial distress in 2010, Fund Management was willing to make an additional contribution to the joint venture ($36 million) to pursue this attractive expansion opportunity. after much negotiation and diligence on palm Harbor, the Fleetwood Homes joint venture agreed to provide debtor in possession ("Dip") financing for palm Harbor's November 2010 bankruptcy filing. In 2011, Fleetwood Homes rolled this Dip loan into a purchase of substantially all of palm Harbor's assets for $84 million at another bankruptcy auction. These assets consisted mostly of five manufacturing facilities, 49 retail outlets and 100% of the common stock of profitable insurance and finance subsidiaries that had not filed for bankruptcy.

    In 2013, the Fund sold its stake in the Fleetwood Homes joint venture to its partner, Cavco, in exchange for approximately 21% of Cavco's common stock. The sale price equated to a 29% premium to our cost, but, more importantly, the Fund received Cavco stock at $49 per share, compared to $78 as of quarter end. Fund Management wanted to take Cavco common stock as opposed to cash because we believe the company's long- term prospects are very attractive.

      


  • Third Avenue Management Comments on Chong Hing Bank Ltd

    The majority, 77%, of the Fund’s Chong Hing (HKSE:01111) Common position was accepted for tender by Yuexiu Financial Holdings, part of the Yue Xiu Group, a Chinese company. As discussed in the 2013 year end letter, Fund Management was very pleased with the price of this transaction (2.4 times book value, including a special dividend), particularly considering that the shares had been purchased below book value.

    From Martin Whitman (Trades, Portfolio)'s 2Q 2014 Shareholder Letters.  


  • Third Avenue Management Comments on Vodafone

    Additional shares of Vodafone (VOD) Common were purchased following the completion of the company's sale of its 45% stake in Verizon Wireless to Verizon. This transaction resulted in a significant distribution to shareholders consisting mostly of Verizon common stock and also of cash. Fund Management elected to sell the Verizon shares owing to concerns about slowing growth and increasing completion in the US along with the company's leveraged balance sheet. Vodafone has a very strong financial position and is well positioned to benefit from consolidation in the European telecommunication market and growth in emerging markets. Vodafone Common accounted for 2.5% of the Fund's net assets at quarter end.

    From Martin Whitman (Trades, Portfolio)'s 2Q 2014 Shareholder Letters.  


  • Third Avenue Management Comments on White Mountains

    Property and casualty insurance companies (Alleghany Common and White Mountains (WTM) Common). Both companies have generated solid (high single digit) annual book value growth since the Fund invested in 2012 despite a challenging environment characterized by low interest rates and competitive underwriting. Shares of both companies, which account for 3.1% of the Fund’s assets in total, were purchased at modest discounts to book value.

    From Martin Whitman (Trades, Portfolio)'s 2Q 2014 Shareholder Letters.  


  • Third Avenue Management Comments on Alleghany

    Property and casualty insurance companies (Alleghany (Y) Common and White Mountains Common). Both companies have generated solid (high single digit) annual book value growth since the Fund invested in 2012 despite a challenging environment characterized by low interest rates and competitive underwriting. Shares of both companies, which account for 3.1% of the Fund’s assets in total, were purchased at modest discounts to book value.

    From Martin Whitman (Trades, Portfolio)'s 2Q 2014 Shareholder Letters.  


  • Third Avenue Management Comments on Posco

    The position in Posco (PKX) common was increased slightly at about a 50% discount to book value. Despite excess capacity and pricing pressure in the global steel industry, particularly in China, Posco's steel business continues to perform relatively well as evidenced by its 7% operating margin in both 2013 and the first quarter of 2014. The company continues to have a strong financial position, and its recent investments in non-steel businesses should start to contribute more meaningfully over the next couple of years, particularly in energy (more on this later in this letter). Posco common accounted for 5.4% of the Fund's net assets at quarter end.


    Posco recently experienced a change in management. The new CEO, Oh-joon Kwon, started in March 2014. He had previously been the Chief Technical Officer. His stated mission is to reform the company and, to that end, four out of five board members have been replaced and three new outside directors added. His focus is on enhancing the existing business via organic growth and reducing leverage, whereas the prior CEO's focus was more about empire building. Despite the weakness in the steel business due to macroeconomic challenges, Posco has a substantial non-steel business. For example, via its stake in Daewoo international, Posco participates in the profits of Daewoo's Myanmar gas field which is just starting to ramp up. The field began production in June 2013 and was producing only 20% of potential production capacity in the fourth quarter of 2013. Posco expects the project to provide 150 billion KRW in pre-tax income in 2014, growing to KrW300 billion in 2015. Posco also has potential growth opportunities from its Engineering and Construction business and opportunities to divest non- core assets. Recent media reports suggest the company seeks to raise 2 trillion won by selling assets and is seeking to make an initial public offering of some of its affiliates including Posco Energy, Posco Engineering and Posco Specialty Steel.

      


  • Third Avenue Management Comments on Apache

    Oil and gas exploration and production (“E&p”) companies (Encana Common and Apache Common (APA)). Shares of both companies were purchased below our estimates of net asset value, despite generally improving business fundamentals, particularly for natural gas.

    From Martin Whitman (Trades, Portfolio)'s 2Q 2014 Shareholder Letters.  


  • Third Avenue Management Comments on Encana

    Oil and gas exploration and production (“E&p”) companies (Encana Common (ECA) and apache Common). Shares of both companies were purchased below our estimates of net asset value, despite generally improving business fundamentals, particularly for natural gas.

    From Martin Whitman (Trades, Portfolio)'s 2Q 2014 Shareholder Letters.  


  • Third Avenue Management Comments on AGCO Corp

    Fund Management initiated a position in the common stock of AGCO Corp. (AGCO) ("AGCO") during the quarter. AGCO is a pure-play agricultural company dedicated to farm machinery, grain storage solutions and protein production equipment. It is a global company with sales generated across the following geographies: 23% U.S., 53% Europe, 23% Latin America and 1% Asia pacific. It maintains an investment grade balance sheet, is highly cash generative, and has been consistently profitable. Despite these appealing characteristics, the current valuation is depressed due to short-term concerns.

    Agricultural spending drives AGCO's top-line and it is primarily driven by farm income. Farm income has grown rapidly in the U.S. over the past five years and many are projecting that spending growth will slow down or decline in the near term. This is putting pressure on agricultural- related companies like AGCO (See AGCO's valuation history below). AGCO 10 -year Valuation History Source: Capital IQ Note: Hi: 8.2X, low: 2.0X, average: 7.3X although we agree that agricultural spending will likely be challenged in the near term, there are mitigating factors to combat slowing end-market activity. First, AGCO's exposure to North America is only 23%, which trails peers by wide margins. Over half of AGCO's sales are in Europe. There seems to be less risk in Europe, as farm incomes have been more stable when compared to U.S. farm incomes. Second, AGCO's operating margins are lower (8%) than peers and management is focused on improving them to double digit rates. Management's potential to improve margins provides a cushion to sluggish sales. Finally, management has responded to the attractive valuation by implementing a $500 million stock buyback program (roughly 10% of current market capitalization) and has been aggressively purchasing shares at current prices.

    What we find most interesting is how the short-term concerns seem to be overshadowing attractive long-term agricultural trends. as economies develop, per capita protein demand tends to grow. Productivity in North America exceeds other geographies as well. Higher protein demand and the potential for productivity improvement outside the U.S. should provide tailwinds for agricultural spending even if U.S. farm incomes are challenged. AGCO is well positioned to take advantage. in addition, outside the U.S. and Europe, between 10% to 15% of annual grain harvest is wasted due to insufficient storage capacity. AGCO's grain storage products are a very important part of the solution for this fundamental problem. With AGCO's strong market positions in areas such as Latin America, it should have ample ability to grow sales over the long haul.

      


  • Martin Whitman's Third Avenue Funds 2Q 2014 Shareholder Letters

    Dear Fellow Shareholders:


    High Frequency Trading (“HFT”) has been on the front pages of the financial press ever since the publication earlier this year of Michael lewis’ book, Flash Boys. The book demonstrates once again how difficult it is to prosper as an investor in markets where longer-term fundamental analysis of companies and securities are ignored. The ways most market participants who lack specific knowledge about individual companies and the securities they issue can prosper seems to encompass at least one of the three factors:

      


  • Third Avenue Management Comments on Nintendo

    During the quarter, we trimmed several positions that had appreciated, particularly in financial services, and eliminated the Fund's position in Nintendo Common (OSE:7974). During the year and a half in which we owned nintendo Common, the business performance was poor while the stock performance was strong. Therefore, we elected to sell and lock-in our 30% return, rather than wait for a turnaround which, while possible, will be challenging.

    From Third Avenue Management (Trades, Portfolio)'s first quarter 2014 letter.  


  • Third Avenue Management Comments on Kurita Water Industries Ltd.

    We also initiated a position in the common stock of Kurita Water Industries Ltd. ("Kurita") (TSE:6370), a Japan-based provider of water treatment chemicals, facilities and maintenance. Kurita's business is currently depressed, as many of its Japanese electronics customers have been struggling and the company has experienced cost over-runs as part of its recent international expansion efforts. nevertheless, Kurita has remained profitable and generated positive free cash flow despite the challenging industry environment. The company is well positioned, with a debt free and cash rich balance sheet. This financial flexibility will allow for the continued international expansion efforts. The management team has a good long-term track record, having operated the business profitably in each of the last ten years. Additionally management is much more shareholder friendly than most Japanese companies, as evidenced by a history of share repurchases (7% of the outstanding shares since 2011) and a dividend increase in each of the last ten years. Kurita common was purchased at a slight premium to book value and about a 7.5% free cash flow yield. Cash and marketable short-term investments account for about one third of the company's market cap.

    From Third Avenue Management (Trades, Portfolio)'s first quarter 2014 letter.  


  • Third Avenue Management Comments on Michelin

    We initiated a position in the common stock of Compagnie Generale des Etablissements Michelin SCA ("Michelin") (XPAR:ML) during the quarter. This purchase added to the Fund's growing exposure to European Blue Chip common stocks, which we discussed in last quarter's letter. Other recently initiated European Blue Chip common stock positions include Total, Pargesa and Vodafone. Each of these companies has a very strong financial position, capable management team, healthy growth prospects and a common stock selling at a meaningful discount to our estimate of net asset value with a mid-single digit dividend yield.


    Michelin is a leading producer of tires for cars, trucks, motorcycles, aircraft, subway trains and mining equipment. The company has a very strong market position, with nearly 15% of the global tire market, trailing only Bridgestone. The company's auto tire business is heavily weighted towards the premium and replacement tire markets, which have attractive growth prospects. Michelin has an extremely strong financial position with net debt to capital and net debt to Earnings Before Interest, Taxes Depreciation and Amortization ("EBITDA") of only 12% and 0.3 times. Management has an impressive long-term track record, as evidenced by profitability in each of the last ten years and an improvement in operating margins over that period to 11.5% from 5%. return on capital has increased to 13% from 5% over this period, and management is targeting as 15% return on capital by 2020. The stock was purchased at about 11 times earnings with attractive free cash flow and dividend yields of 9% and 3%, respectively.

      


  • Marty Whitman's Third Avenue Management First Quarter 2014 Letter

    Dear Fellow Shareholders: Much emphasis is placed on general "debt levels" in the belief that the amounts borrowed by u.S. Federal, State and Local governments are excessive. Indeed, 74% of recent poll 1 respondents stated that a high priority ought to be given to debt reduction by governments.


    It is obvious that this almost universal emphasis on general debt levels is misplaced. rather the emphasis should be on the credit-worthiness of borrowers, specifically what are the borrower's abilities to access capital markets, if needed.

      


  • How Do Good and Financially Sound Companies Become Cheap - Amit Wadhwaney of Third Avenue



  • HAR, AMAT, KEY, FCE.A - Third Avenue Management Sells in Review

    The updated portfolio of Third Avenue Management, founded by value investor and Guru Martin Whitman, includes 163 stocks, 24 of them new, a total value at $5.17 billion, and a quarter-over-quarter turnover of 9%. The portfolio is currently weighted with top three sectors: financial services at 18.1%, basic materials at 16.1% and real estate at 15.1%. The stocks bought by Third Avenue Management in the past 12 months have an average return of 11.65%.

    Here are the firm’s third quarter high-impact decreases, starting with the sell out of more than 8.8 million shares of Applied Materials Inc. (AMAT). The company reported financial results for its fourth fiscal quarter, ending Oct. 27, 2013, with orders of $2.09 billion, up 5% sequentially, and silicon systems orders up 16%. AMAT’s net income was $183 million for the reporting quarter, up from a loss of $(515) million in the same fiscal quarter of the prior year. The quarter’s earnings of $0.15 per share (GAAP) were also up from $(0.42) per share in the prior year. Net sales for the quarter were up 1% sequentially, at $1.99 billion, compared to 1.65 billion in the same fiscal quarter of the prior year. Operating income was $211 million for the quarter, up from a loss of $(499) million in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2012.  


  • Martin Whitman Sells and Reductions in US, Tokyo and Hong Kong Markets

    Guru Martin Whitman’s Third Avenue Value Fund portfolio update lists 37 stocks, three of them new, and a total value of $2.29 billion. The fund’s quarter-over-quarter turnover is 8%. The portfolio is currently weighted by sector with financial services at 26.3%, real estate at 26.3% and technology at 12.4%. Guru Whitman has averaged a return of 5.15% over 12 months, and Third Avenue Management has averaged a return of 7.97% over 12 months.

    Here are the US companies Guru Martin Whitman reduced or sold in the third quarter of 2013:   


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