Martin Whitman

Martin Whitman

Last Update: 06-30-2016
Related: Third Avenue Management

Number of Stocks: 35
Number of New Stocks: 1

Total Value: $1,203 Mil
Q/Q Turnover: 3%

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

Martin Whitman Watch

  • Chip Rewey Cuts General Motors Position in Half

    Third Avenue Value Fund manager, Robert “Chip” Rewey, slashed 696,700 shares of General Motors (NYSE:GM), a 53% reduction to his position, during the second quarter. The sell had a -1.75% impact on the Third Avenue Value Fund portfolio.



  • Third Avenue Management Buys 6 Stocks in Second Quarter

    Third Avenue Management (Trades, Portfolio) has based its investing on value-driven, bottom-up principles since a recognized leader in the field, Martin Whitman (Trades, Portfolio), founded it in 1986. The firm frequently files its quarterly portfolio update ahead of the deadline of 45 days past the end of the quarter and before many other investors. Third Avenue reported buying one new stock and buying more shares of five of its existing holdings on Thursday, the final day of the second quarter.

    Whitman, chairman of Third Avenue, already posted his second-quarter thoughts in a letter on April 30, where he primarily reflected on the shortcomings of one of the central pieces of his investing strategy: buying growth in net asset value at a discounted price. Namely, managements of well-financed companies are in 2016 often hording cash at the expense of getting returns on it or are apathetic because they do not own any stock or have Wall Street pressure.


  • Third Avenue Value Fund Purchases Stake in Johnson Controls

    Third Avenue Value Fund purchased a 325,700-share stake in Johnson Controls Inc. (NYSE:JCI) on April 30.

    Milwaukee-based Johnson Controls is a global technology and industrial leader serving customers in more than 150 countries. The company invented the first electric room thermostat in 1885; since then it has been using the principles of delivering innovative products that help the world run in an efficient, rational and safe manner. The company creates products, services and solutions to increase energy efficiency and lower operating costs for buildings worldwide. The company also creates batteries and energy storage — including advanced batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles as well as stationary energy storage.


  • Thoughts on the Brexit - Third Avenue Management

    On June 23, 2016, the United Kingdom held a referendum which resulted in the majority of voters expressing a will for the United Kingdom to sever its existing arrangement with the European Union (“EU”). By voting to abandon the existing terms of its relationship with the EU, the referendum result has opened a host of European economic and sovereignty considerations which are likely to linger for some time. Uncertainty will be the norm as the long-term impacts of Brexit unfold.

    At Third Avenue Management (Trades, Portfolio) we have steered through political and macroeconomic upheaval in our more than 30 years of investing. Events similar to “Brexit” in terms of shock value are simply facts of life for investors. As a result of these hard-earned experiences we have learned not to rely upon specific macroeconomic forecasts but instead strive to prepare for the unexpected. In this pursuit we favor companies with strong financial positions, modest valuations, and are mindful of fundamental risks such as currency mismatches. While these approaches do not fully minimize short-term stock price volatility, they do, in our view, reduce fundamental risks which could lead to permanent impairment of our capital. We also strive to exercise prudence with regard to position sizing and geographic and industry exposures.  

  • Answers to the Hardest Question: When Do I Sell a Stock?

    The most common complaint I have heard from investors over my 40-plus years in the financial services industry is as follows: "Everyone wants to tell me what to buy and when, but no one ever tells me when to sell."

    Consequently, it seems to me that whether you are a novice investor or a grizzled old veteran, the decision as to when to sell a stock is the most difficult decision investors have to make.


  • Third Avenue Comments on Visteon Corp

    An example of one of our portfolio holdings which has had, and continues to have, opportunities for self-help is Visteon Corp. (NYSE:VC), a well-capitalized automotive electronics company. The stock was a top contributor to the Fund's performance during the quarter, with a total return of 19.1%.

    Visteon provides products to automotive OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) such as Ford, GM, Daimler, BMW, Nissan and Honda for their digital cockpits, i.e., the instrument cluster, information displays and infotainment - each of which has a presence in the connected car. Comparing today's cars to those just five years ago, the amount of additional functionality is amazing - from infotainment that connects to your smartphone to driver assistance safety features such as rear back-up cameras, collision detection, and blind spot and lane departure warnings. Integrated instrument clusters can be personalized if,for example, you'd rather see the weather than your tachometer. There are even over-the-air software upgrades where, instead of having to take your vehicle to the dealer for an update, the upgrade can happen seamlessly while you're asleep and your car is in your own driveway.

    The media is abuzz about self-driving cars and the car as an extension of people's mobile life. For the auto OEMs, having connectivity is a strategic differentiator and one that can be the deciding factor to a customer when choosing a particular car. Visteon is an enabler of connectivity with its cockpit electronics products - it enables the information to be gathered from various sources and displayed in the vehicle.

    Visteon's roots can be traced back to its role as an automotive supplier to Ford Motor, providing climate control systems, electronics and interiors. The company was spun off in 2000, but then fell upon difficult times during the financial crisis. It reorganized and emerged from Chapter 11 in 2010. Two years later, management embarked upon a path to shift to higher margin products, deciding to exit the commodity interiors business and ultimately deciding to sell its stake in its climate control business to focus solely on electronics. It is here that the Fund got involved with Visteon. Management sold its stake in the climate control business at an attractive 10x EBITDA valuation and committed to return a substantial portion of the proceeds to shareholders. It had also acquired the automotive electronics business from Johnson Controls to bolster its overall electronics business and was actively pursuing new business wins with OEMs as well as reaffirming its technological strength and longer-term roadmap to re-win existing platforms. Further, a new CEO, Sachin Lawande, was brought in. Sachin had previously been the president of the Infotainment division at peer company, Harman. Since his arrival at Visteon, he has brought in additional talent along with a greater focus on software development, a key driver for this business.

    Visteon continues on its path to building value. Even after a sizable capital return, the company maintains a net cash position. It remains focused on driving growth with its presence in the connected car. It has won business across various classes of vehicles from luxury to mid/entry level. It achieved its targeted cost synergies related to the acquisition of the JCI automotive electronics business ahead of plan, and has targeted reducing overhead costs further to improve margins. Adjusted EBITDA margins have improved from 7.2% in 2014 to 9.5% in 2015 and 11.9% in the first quarter of 2016.

    We remain excited about the prospects for growth at Visteon as it expands its presence in the connected car and believe the stock, at current levels, still represents significant upside to our estimated NAV.

    From Chip Rewey's second quarter 2016 Third Avenue Small-Cap Value Fund letter.


  • Third Avenue Comments on NetScout Systems Inc.

    NetScout Systems Inc. (NASDAQ:NTCT) Near-term concerns over a slowdown in carrier spending provided us an opportunity to acquire shares of NetScout common at a substantial discount to our estimate of NAV.

    NetScout is a well-financed provider of 24x7 network monitoring solutions to carriers and enterprises. Its offerings provide high-quality performance analytics that help its customers resolve technology issues that could negatively impact service quality and/or result in outages/downtime and compromised security. Last year, the company acquired certain communications assets from Danaher which doubled its addressable market by broadening its product offerings, providing an entrée into the cyber security space and increased its distribution. Cost synergies estimated at around $45-55 million are expected from the elimination of redundancies and economies of scale, with additional synergies generated over time as the company moves toward common infrastructure platforms, distribution and support programs.

    In the long term, demands for increasing amounts of data seem to continue unabated (not only Big Data but more and more use of streaming video!), requiring more monitoring and troubleshooting of network traffic which should benefit NetScout. For carriers, the cost of monitoring to keep existing customers happy with their service is a small price to pay compared to the cost to acquire new customers.

    From Chip Rewey's second quarter 2016 Third Avenue Small-Cap Value Fund letter.


  • Third Avenue Comments on Kennedy Wilson Holdings

    Kennedy Wilson Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:KW) During the quarter, the Fund was able to acquire shares of Kennedy Wilson Common at a substantial discount to our estimate of NAV, as the general market sell off, combined with unfounded fears of market liquidity for deals, pushed the stock down significantly.

    Kennedy Wilson Holdings (Kennedy Wilson) is a U.S.-based real estate operating company. The company is an integrated global real estate investment and services company with a $2 billion portfolio of investments in a diversified mix of commercial and residential assets. In addition, Kennedy Wilson has more than $18 billion of assets under management (AUM) on behalf of third parties.

    The management team owns 18% of the company's stock and has historically been a savvy capital allocator, having made substantial investments in Japan during the 1990s, in the U.S. following the financial crisis, and in Europe and the U.K. in more recent years. The template has been the same in all markets: invest capital in out-of-favor regions or property types at substantial discounts to underlying value, actively manage properties and add value during the holding period, realize profits over the long term, and recycle capital into new opportunistic investments. This model has produced a notable 10-year tangible book value growth CAGR of 13.5%. Our knowledge and due diligence of Kennedy Wilson was aided significantly in partnership with Third Avenue's Real Estate team, who have owned the stock since early in 2015.

    At our average cost of just over $17 per share, we not only have significant upside to our NAV estimate of $25, but also what we consider to be a "free option" on performance fees and monetization of low basis (and now entitled) land acquired in conjunction with income-producing properties. The company appears poised to generate sizable NAV growth as it expands third-party AUM and harvests profits (including promotes) from a series of the well-timed investments it made over the past several years.

    From Chip Rewey's second quarter 2016 Third Avenue Small-Cap Value Fund letter.


  • Third Avenue Comments on Interface Inc.

    Interface, Inc. (NASDAQ:TILE) Interface has been on our radar for some time and during the quarter its stock price reached a level we viewed as an attractive entry point, having declined more than 40% within the past few quarters due to investor concern around the company's level of growth. While we agree that growth in the short-term is likely to be muted, we believe the company's core product - modular carpet - is poised for long-term secular growth.

    Interface is the world's leading manufacturer of carpet tile. The strength of its brand and its reputation for service, quality, design and performance provide a competitive advantage. Interface's global manufacturing capabilities across four continents also provide an advantage in serving multinational corporate customers quickly and cost-effectively.

    Central to our thesis on Interface is the fact that carpet tile has reached the point where it is cost-competitive with traditional 'broadloom' carpet but offers numerous advantages, including efficiency in installation and replacement. In addition, the company is well-financed and well-managed, with a long-tenured management team.

    Having made our investment in the company at an undemanding valuation of 13-14x free cash flow and a substantial discount to our estimate of NAV,we believe the market is likely to assign Interface a higher valuation over time as commercial construction levels continue to improve and Interface continues its expansion overseas and into newer verticals such as education. Moreover, we would not be surprised to see Interface become an acquisition target itself if its current depressed valuation in the public markets persists.

    From Chip Rewey's second quarter 2016 Third Avenue Small-Cap Value Fund letter.


  • Third Avenue Comments on Carrizo Oil & Gas

    Carrizo Oil & Gas, Inc. (NASDAQ:CRZO) Since our initial purchase in February, Carrizo Oil & Gas has been a strong performer. With a solid balance sheet and a significant drilling inventory,we see Carrizo as a multi-year compounder into recovering oil prices, however long that takes.

    Based in Houston, TX, Carrizo is an exploration and production company focused on oil and gas plays in the U.S. Its most important acreage is in the high quality core areas of the Eagle Ford shale in South Texas, the Delaware basin in the Permian in West Texas, and the Utica shale in Ohio. Carrizo's share price, like those of all oil and gas production companies, came under extreme price pressure in February, as the market sold off and investors feared sustained oil prices in the low-$20 per barrel range.

    Carrizo is unique from our perspective as a small cap company thanks to its high quality acreage (what we call good rocks) and a strong balance sheet. It fits our criteria for creditworthiness, with a disciplined hedging program to forward sell 50% of production, and a recently re-determined borrowing base on its $600 million revolving loan versus $50 million drawn.

    As for its acreage, Carrizo rocks aren't just good, their 88,000 acres in the Eagle Ford play in South Texas are great, with about 75% oil cuts and a PV103 break-even of $32.50 per barrel. Further, Carrizo has the ability to respond quickly to higher prices, with drilled but uncompleted inventory of 53 net Eagle Ford wells, which represents upwards of almost 12,000 barrels of oil equivalent production per day (B0Epd), or almost half of their current production run rate. With stronger prices, Carrizo has the balance sheet and the acreage to opportunistically increase production in 30 days through fracking and completing these wells. Moreover, it has a long horizon of drilling visibility with 53 planned Eagle Ford wells in 2016, vs. a base well inventory of 915 drilling locations and potentially an inventory of 2,100 locations with tighter spacing. Indeed, as good oil plays get better,

    Carrizo has the sweet spot acreage in one of the best.

    From Chip Rewey's second quarter 2016 Third Avenue Small-Cap Value Fund letter.


  • Third Avenue Comments on Cambrex Corp

    Cambrex Corp. (NYSE:CBM) We took advantage of the February sell off in the market to acquire shares of Cambrex at around $38 per share, an attractive discount to our estimate of NAV. We see the combination of a strong balance sheet and a healthy revenue outlook as supportive for book value growth to continue, given the dynamics of Cambrex's business.

    Cambrex is a well-financed specialty chemical company focused on life sciences; it develops and commercializes active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs). Cambrex also produces Generic APIs, Controlled Substance APIs and is expanding into finished-dosage generic API manufacturing. Cambrex's API business is unique in that it manufactures the active ingredient in several leading pharmaceuticals and serves as a supplier to various drug companies. As such, it generates revenues from volumes sold and not price per finished pill. Cambrex's customers focus not only on product purity but also on quality, consistency and documentation of the manufacturing process ascompetitive attributes.

    Several long-term drivers support revenue growth for Cambrex.


  • Chip Rewey's Third Avenue Small-Cap Value Fund 2nd Quarter Commentary

    Dear Fellow Shareholders:

    We are pleased to provide you with the report of the Third Avenue Small-Cap Value Fund (the "Fund") for the quarter ended April 30, 2016.


  • Martin Whitman's Third Avenue Funds 2nd Quarter Shareholder Letter

    Dear Fellow Shareholders:

    One conservative, but highly productive, approach to long-term common stock investing is to acquire issues which have the following characteristics:


  • Third Avenue Management Q2 2016 Value Fund Letter

    During the fiscal second quarter, oil prices rallied, credit markets improved and stock prices rebounded as macro fears were replaced by optimism. That trend followed a period when oil prices fell, credit markets deteriorated and stock prices sagged. And that followed a period when…well, you get the idea. There’s been no shortage of market volatility.

    Some may delight in trying to ride this bucking bronco of a market. But we have never been momentum jockeys. We are value investors, which means we care deeply about company fundamentals. We look for companies with strong management that can deliver long-term shareholder value regardless of macro trends or market movements. We buy securities of quality companies at attractive prices. We hold onto them. For a long time. And we don’t pay much attention to what markets may do in the interim, as long as our investment thesis remains intact.


  • Marty Whitman's Third Avenue Buys Lennar, Fidelity, Howard Hughes

    Marty Whitman, veteran investor and founder of Third Avenue Management (Trades, Portfolio), said in his recent shareholder letter that his team was “taking the opportunity to deploy capital in some of what we believe are the most unduly punished names in the portfolio as well as in new investment opportunities.” In the first quarter, he acted on seven of those opportunities.

    Whitman’s philosophy is to buy stocks of companies based on their credit worthiness, ability to compound book value and share price below intrinsic value. His holding period is about three to five years.


  • Third Avenue Buys Ralph Lauren, Boosts Baxalta

    Martin Whitman (Trades, Portfolio) is founder and former portfolio manager of the Third Avenue Value Fund. Chip Rewey now manages the fund after Whitman stepped down from active management duties. During the first quarter of the year, the fund bought many stocks and the following are the most heavily weighted.

    Third Avenue acquired 229,973 shares in Harman International Industries Inc. (HAR) with an impact of 1.45% on the portfolio.


  • Martin Whitman Takes Stake in Harman International Industries

    Martin Whitman (TradesPortfolio) purchased 229,973 shares of Harman International Industries Inc. (NYSE:HAR) in the first quarter.

    Harman International Industries designs and engineers connected products and solutions for automakers, consumers and enterprises worldwide, including connected car systems, audio and visual products, enterprise automation solutions and connected services with leading brands including AKG, Harman Kardon, Infinity, JBL, Lexicon, Mark Levinson and Revel. More than 25 million automobiles on the road are equipped with Harman audio and connected car systems.


  • Third Avenue Value Sells NVIDIA, Cavco

    Martin Whitman (Trades, Portfolio) is the founder of the Third Avenue Value Fund (TAVFX), which is now managed by Chip Rewey. The fund sold many stocks during the first quarter including the following.

    The fund reduced its stake in Cavco Industries Inc. (CVCO) by 30.57% and the deal had an impact of -2.46% on the portfolio.


  • Third Avenue Value Buys 2 Stocks With Short-Term Struggles

    Third Avenue Management (Trades, Portfolio)’s flagship fund, the Third Avenue Value Fund, is led by Chip Rewey and remains dedicated to its principles in value investing after founder Martin Whitman (Trades, Portfolio) stepped down from portfolio management in 2012.

    Year to date, the fund is up 0.04% through March 29. During the first quarter of fiscal 2016 ended Jan. 31, the fund added two new holdings to the portfolio.


  • Third Avenue Management Comments on Insight Enterprises

    Insight Enterprises (NASDAQ:NSIT) is a value added reseller and servicer of hardware and software. The company assists large corporations, and state and federal governments on Information Technology issues such as designs and implementation of networking, data storage practices, disaster recovery, and hardware and software technologies. It distributes products from large vendors such as Cisco, Dell, Hewlett Packard, Apple and Microsoft, selling everything from tablets to network servers to software licensing.

    While distribution is a thin margin business, transactions are not based solely on price. The “value-added” characteristic requires the gaining of confidence from technology vendors to be an approved seller as well as from the IT professionals at the clients to be on the first-call basis. This relationship erects barriers to entry and creates recurring sales.


  • Third Avenue Management Comments on Multi-Color Corp

    During the quarter we increased our investment in Multi-Color Corporation (NASDAQ:LABL), a leading label company, after a significant decline in share prices following quarterly results short of Street estimates. While we are attracted to the unusual stability of Multi-Color's business, we were encouraged by management's proactive decision to exit a modest amount of low-margin business during the quarter and continue to view the company as a very high-quality compounder at an attractive valuation. With a very fragmented label industry around the world and Multi-Color's strong cash flows and stellar management team, the company remains very well-positioned to continue growing organically and inorganically across the globe.


  • Third Avenue Management Comments on Visteon

    During the quarter, as part of its capital return program related to the sale of its stake in its climate control business last year, Visteon (NYSE:VC) made a $1.75 billion special cash distribution to shareholders ($43.40 per share). The Board also authorized a $500 million share repurchase program, which is in addition to the $500 million repurchased last year. Post these actions, the company is still well-financed, with net cash on its balance sheet. We used some of the proceeds we received from the distribution to increase our position in Visteon common as the shares continued to trade at a material discount to our estimated NAV. Since focusing on being a standalone automotive electronics company, centered on cockpit electronics, Visteon has been successful in re-winning and winning new business, reducing costs and showing margin improvement. We believe Visteon is well-positioned to participate in the growing connected car market.


  • Third Avenue Management Comments on SemGroup Corp

    Shares of SemGroup Corp. (NYSE:SEMG) declined as investors sold down the Master Limited Partner (MLP) group aggressively. SemGroup is a midstream transportation company that owns the General Partner stake in MLP Rose Rock Partners. Specific worries regarding SemGroup stem from its midstream exposure to independent E&P companies who may cut production or seek pipeline rate reductions. Also, investors worried about the potential competition for SemGroup’s White Cliffs pipeline serving the Denver-Julesburg basin. While there is potential for production softness and rate pressure if oil prices remain at current low levels, we feel the market is overlooking the power of SemGroup’s in place assets.

    The midstream fractionation assets will be required for any E&P production and thus will have solid negotiating power, and similarly, the White Cliffs pipeline has excess capacity that can be marketed to be competitive with new entrants and thus serve as a deterrent to irresponsible capital expansion by peers.


  • Third Avenue Management Comments on Anixter

    Anixter (NYSE:AXE) is a value-added distributor of data cables, security products, as well as low-voltage and high voltage electrical wires. It sells some 500,000 different SKUs sourced from thousands of manufacturers. Manufacturers rely on Anixter to reach target customers and the customers depend on Anixter to evaluate and test appropriate products for their particular needs. In a very general sense, Anixter’s business model is similar to that of a broker, earning a relatively stable gross margin, without assuming inventory or obsolescence risks. Since most product costs are passed through, gross profit serves as a revenue base to cover the operational expenses such as the company’s 230 warehouses and some 3,000 person salesforce.

    Over the last few months, investors sold off AXE shares due to weaker economic conditions. Spending on nonresidential construction, oil and gas, and general capital expenditures all have slowed down. The stronger US dollar also weakens foreign sales as well as causing negative financial translation. We see these pressures as transitory and likely abating over 2016. Moreover, we see a long-term visible path to cost reduction and deleveraging spurred by acquisition integration and internal cost controls, which should leverage the benefit of recovering revenue growth.


  • Third Avenue Management Comments on Interfor Corp

    Shares of Vancouver, Canada based Interfor Corporation (IFP), which harvests timber and markets lumber products for North American residential and commercial construction markets, was the top detractor of performance for the quarter. Despite its Canadian headquarters, over 64% of Interfor’s lumber board feet are sourced in the US. Moreover, a full two-thirds of this is from the US South, where Interfor has spent $400 million since 2013 to build a clustered presence.

    Shares sold off as log prices softened into 3Q15 earnings due to weaker than expected US housing starts and fears of weaker log exports to China, although these account for a small portion of Interfor sales. We believe the outlook for Interfor remains strong based on i) accelerating US housing starts, ii) stronger free cash flow in 2016 which will be applied to deleveraging now that the Castlegar new build facility is complete, and iii) a $50 million profit improvement target over 2015 and 2016 including $10 million in Castlegar income, $35 million in US South restructuring savings and $5 million corporate wide best practice savings.


  • Third Avenue Management Comments on CSGS

    CSGS (NASDAQ:CSGS) is a premier provider of customer support functions for the cable industry. It manages a full suite of customer service functions, starting from initial activation of accounts to service changes to bill presentment and collection, and receivables management. Through its platform, the company extends its capabilities to adjacent markets such as telecommunication and media and international. As entertainment and communication converge and distribution thus becomes more disintermediated due to digitalization, media distributors are outsourcing more of their customer management, billing and collection to specialists such as CSGS. Based on its existing large investment in software and personnel training, CSGS can process complex, high volume transactions and at the same time provide the human support that enhances customer experience that is so crucial in brand building. Its three largest customers, Comcast, DISH and Time Warner, account for 24%, 14% and 12%, respectively, of total revenue.


  • Third Avenue Management Comments on Vail

    Vail (NYSE:MTN) is the largest publically-traded ski resort company. It owns and operates some of the top ski resorts in the US, including Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, and Keystone. The company also manages a portfolio of luxury hotels as well as a real estate development company. Due to the world-class nature of its ski resorts, Vail counts 12% of all skiers in the US as customers, despite operating only 11 out of some 620 existing resorts in the country.

    As a ski resort company, of course snowfall drives traffic and season pass sales, but management has been every effective in leveraging its franchise to create comprehensive vacation destinations and develop customer loyalty. To diversify geographical coverage, extend its operational expertise and grow earnings power, the company buys and improves less well managed resorts. The most recent acquisitions were Park City in Utah, Perisher, the largest ski resort in Australia, and Wilmot Mountain near Chicago.


  • Third Avenue Management Comments on Alamo Group

    Alamo Group (NYSE:ALG)'s principal activity is to manufacture, distribute and service equipment for right-of-way maintenance and agriculture. Alamo Group was a strong relative performer for the Fund during the quarter after posting solid results for its third quarter against a backdrop of low investor expectations centered mostly on larger agriculture and mining markets where Alamo does not compete. Bucking the trend seen in other companies exposed to agricultural end markets, Alamo’s industrial mowing equipment business was resilient and the company reported organic growth and expanded margins, driving profits higher than last year. Alamo also reported a record backlog further reflecting the recovery in the budgets of its municipal customers and the less cyclical, more maintenance nature of much of its product line.

    From the Third Avenue Value Fund 1st quarter 2016 letter.


  • Third Avenue Management Comments on Harman International

    We initiated a position in Harman International (NYSE:HAR), a leading provider of in-car software solutions for infotainment, high-end audio and telematics with annual revenues of approximately $7 billion. Harman may be better known to many of you through their brand named audio divisions serving automotive, high end consumer and professional markets under the Harman/Kardon, JBL, Mark Levinson and Bang & Olufsen brands.

    We have known Harman for many years, and have taken advantage of market fears and misunderstanding about Harman as an automotive exposed stock to initiate a position. Harman has sold off from almost $150 per share in May 2015, to the current price in the mid-$70’s as the Street has grown concerned about the current auto cycle approaching ‘peak’ levels. Investors, based on a primacy of the income statement mentality, have sold the stock off to approximately 10x FY2017(June) EPS, in line with most auto suppliers. However, despite roughly 70% of Harman’s revenue coming from automobiles, we think Harman can continue to grow revenues and compound earnings at double digit rates for at least the next several years. This revenue growth, in our opinion, is more secular than cyclical, as automakers accelerate both the penetration and functionality of infotainment and telematics across their vehicle fleet. Harman has historically served the higher end luxury automakers—BMW, Mercedes and VW—who were early adopters due to the price point of more luxury vehicles. However, Harman has developed a scalable platform that will accelerate adoption through the mid and low range of vehicle fleets. Indeed, Harman has won significant business with GM, Fiat Chrysler, Subaru, Hyundai and even Geely in China. We further believe, as has been stated by

    Harman and demonstrated with win rates, that Harman’s systems will be an enabler of Apple, Google and Baidu automotive products and not a competitive offering, as Harman’s software will be the platform to access these offerings, while providing the safety and security features necessary in an automotive environment. Indeed, it is our speculation that at ‘only’ a $5 billion market cap, Harman would make a nice acquisition for any of these larger players.

    Beyond infotainment, Harman has increased its offerings in its home audio lineup, and is now entering high end earphone markets. Even more exciting is Harman’s new Connected Car division, which incorporates its recent Symphony Telca and Red Bend acquisitions, which enable ‘over-the-air’ software updates for any connected device, whether a car, or perhaps a turbine or a dishwasher, and thus is an emerging leader in the nascent ‘Internet-of-things’ space. This division now has over $735 million in revenues and 15% EBITDA margins, with mid-teens revenue growth and 20% EBITDA margin targets.

    We believe Harman is a compelling addition to the portfolio as it meets all three tenets of our investing philosophy. From a creditworthiness standpoint, Harman has a strong balance sheet with a 21.5% Debt to Capital Ratio, made up of approximately $1.0 billion in debt and $438 million in cash. Harman refinanced its senior debt in 2015 into two tranches, $390 million due in 2022 at a rate of 2% and $400 million due in 2025 at 4.15%, providing long -term maturities at low rates. Debt to expected FY16 EBITDA is .74. Harman is returning excess cash to shareholders with a dividend yield of about 2% and has $463 million remaining on its share repurchase authorization; it is looking to step up repurchases on current share price weakness.

    Harman has compounded book value growth over the trailing 5 years at 18.2%, when adding back dividends. More importantly, we see Harman well positioned to continue this growth as it has a $23 billion backlog, revenue growth estimated at 14% for 2016 and likely double digit over the next few years, and continued margin expansion driven by price mix and sales leverage. At our average purchase cost of $77, Harman offers over 30% upside to our mid-case NAV of $100, and as such we look to continue to build the position size opportunistically on market weakness.

    From the Third Avenue Value Fund 1st quarter 2016 letter.


  • Third Avenue Management Comments on Ralph Lauren

    Ralph Lauren (NYSE:RL) is one of the crown jewels in retail. It is well capitalized with a net cash balance sheet and has historically earned a premium valuation. Given its compounding history, the premium valuation is justified. Due to short-term factors, the stock price has dropped over 40% from recent highs and now trades at absolute valuation levels last seen shortly after the financial crisis. It is a rare opportunity to buy a well-managed, well capitalized, owner-operator at an attractive price.

    Although retail has historically been an area that Third Avenue Management (Trades, Portfolio) (TAM) shies away from, RL is an exception. It meets our three pillar criteria as it is a credit worthy compounder trading at a discount to NAV. Over the past five and ten year periods, RL has grown book value (including dividends) 11% and 13%, respectively. It is a blue-chip asset with a more stable operating history than most players in the space. For example, sales only declined marginally in 2009, following the financial crisis. Although it could be categorized as a retail company, considering that roughly half of RL’s sales are wholesale/licensing and its brand strength, it’s more comparable to Nike than a typical retailer.

    Besides macro concerns about an economic slowdown, company specific issues have soured RL’s near-term outlook. We have assessed these risks and feel it is a classic case of investor short-termism. First, the strong USD has impacted sales. One-third of RL’s sales are from outside the US, so currency translation has pinched sales and margins. Also, 20% of RL’s sales come from foreign tourists shopping in the US. Those sales have been pinched as tourists are choosing to stay home as the costs of traveling to the US have risen with the stronger USD. RL continues to experience double digit same-store sales growth in flagship stores overseas, so it does not appear to be a brand problem.

    Another major factor impacting RL is the implementation of its Global Reorganization Plan (GRP). Management is investing for growth by creating a brand based operating structure, implementing a global SAP system (US completed and Europe in-process) and expanding its global footprint and internet presence. All initiatives make sense in the long-run, but have been costly in the short-run. The slower than expected sales and additional costs have pressured margins, creating investor angst. Management projects cost savings of $100 million per year once the initiatives are completed later this year. Investors are struggling to see through the near-term noise which has created a worst-case scenario valuation.

    A final catalyst is the hiring of CEO Stephan Larsson. Larsson is a young, ambitious retail executive who had highly successful stints at H&M and Old Navy. With Ralph Lauren now 75 years old, Larsson’s hiring makes strategic sense. Lauren will remain a creative force at the company, but Larsson’s expertise in understanding the fast fashion landscape (H&M) and turnarounds (Old Navy) might be the shot in the arm RL needs.

    In summary, we feel that the favorable long-term prospects heavily outweigh the near-term concerns embedded in RL’s current valuation. Higher sales, a weaker USD and lower GRP costs can all contribute to a brighter outlook for RL’s operations. With the additional benefit of a highly motivated new CEO, the pace of change has probably been accelerated.

    From the Third Avenue Value Fund 1st quarter 2016 letter.


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