The Partners Value Fund’s Investor Class returned -1.4% in the third calendar quarter, compared to a +1.1% return for the S&P 500 and flat results for the Russell 3000. The largest companies were generally the strongest performers in the third quarter, most notably Microsoft (MSFT) (+12%), Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B) (+9%) and Valeant Pharmaceuticals (VRX) (+4%) for our Fund. Conversely, small cap stocks fell sharply in July and again in September, with the Russell 2000 index finishing down 7.4% for the quarter. While smaller companies account for approximately 10% of our net assets, these stocks drove most of the Fund’s quarterly decline. Iconix Brand Group (ICON) (-14%), Redwood Trust (RWT) (-14%) and Interval Leisure Group (IILG) (-13%) were the primary small cap detractors. Energy holdings Range Resources (RRC) (-22%) and Apache (APA) (-6%) also impacted results as natural gas and oil prices dropped. We remain optimistic on the long-term outlooks for all five of these stocks, which trade at moderate to large discounts to our business value estimates.
For the calendar year-to-date, the Fund’s Investor Class returned +2.9% compared to +8.3% for the S&P 500 and +7.0% for the Russell 3000. DIRECTV (DTV) (+25% on AT&T’s buyout offer), Martin Marietta Materials (MLM) (+30% on its acquisition of Texas Industries) and Valeant Pharmaceuticals (VRX) (+12%, and in the news for its hostile takeover battle for Allergan) benefited from the robust deal environment in different ways. Interval Leisure (IILG) (-37%) was the largest detractor and one of our few companies where business value declined. Our earnings estimates fell roughly 15% when Interval announced that four large, multi-year corporate relationships renewed at less favorable rates in their timeshare exchange business. We think the stock has overreacted to this news, and the company continues to add strategically to its platform. Other small-cap stocks that detracted from year-to-date results included XO Group (XOXO) (-25%) and Redwood Trust (RWT) (-11%). Broader themes behind the relative shortfall include our overweight position in consumer discretionary companies (the weakest sector in the market year-to-date), our lack of near-term big winners in health care and technology (the strongest sectors in the market year-to-date) and our conservative portfolio positioning in the first half of the year. We are not pleased with recent results. It is natural for our concentrated investing style to be out of step with the market at times. Continue Reading »