Martin Whitman

Martin Whitman

Last Update: 03-31-2017
Related: Third Avenue Management

Number of Stocks: 36
Number of New Stocks: 1

Total Value: $1,116 Mil
Q/Q Turnover: 3%

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

Martin Whitman Watch

  • 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.


  • Third Avenue Management Comments on Baxalta

    We initiated a position in Baxalta, a biopharmaceutical company, in the prior quarter. The company was the target of a takeover bid from Shire during this most recent quarter. Under the agreement, Baxalta (NYSE:BXLT) shareholders will receive $18.00 in cash and 0.1482 Shire ADS for each Baxalta share. Based on Shire’s closing price, this represented a value of $45.57 per Baxalta share, resulting in an unrealized IRR of 26.0%. We are pleased that another party found Baxalta’s assets as interesting as we did. The Fund has owned NVIDIA shares since 2012. The company has done a good job building value over the years. Demand for its graphics processing units (GPUs) has grown, driven by growth in gaming along with more computer-intensive applications such as professional graphics, automotive and artificial intelligence. We exited the position during the quarter for valuation reasons, realizing an IRR of 35.4%, and redeployed the proceeds into other investments.

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


  • Martin Whitman's 1st Quarter 2016 Third Avenue Funds Chairman Letter

     Chairman of the Board

    Dear Fellow Shareholders:


  • Martin Whitman Invests in Ralph Lauren

    Legendary guru Martin Whitman purchased 114,465 shares of Ralph Lauren Corp. (NYSE:RL) in the first quarter.

    Ralph Lauren was incorporated on March 20, 1997, under the laws of Delaware. The company produces premium lifestyle products, including men's, women's and children's apparel, accessories, fragrances and home furnishings. It operates in three segments: wholesale, retail and licensing. The wholesale segment consists of women’s, men's and children's apparel, accessories and related products which are sold in department stores, specialty stores, in the U.S. and overseas.


  • Popular Guru Stocks With High, Growing Yield

    The following are companies with high and growing dividend yields that gurus are buying according to GuruFocus' All-in-One Screener.

    KeyCorp (KEY) has a trailing dividend yield of 2.6% with a three-year growth rate of 35.70% and a five-year growth rate of 35.30%. The stock is now trading with a trailing 12-month P/E multiple of 10.43 and an estimated forward P/E multiple of 8.01. During the last 12 months, the stock price has dropped by 17%.


  • Third Avenue Value Fund Trims Stake in NVIDIA

    Legendary guru Martin Whitman has more than 67 years of experience in the investment industry. A Bronx native, Whitman began his career shortly after graduating from Syracuse University with a degree in business administration in 1949. Whitman seized an opportunity to begin his career working as a security analyst for Shearson Hammill. After gaining valuable experience, Whitman took advantage of another opportunity and began working as an investment banker for the owners of the Sears Roebuck fortune, the Rosenwald family who actively managed Sears' department stores in the early 1900s.

    In 1990, he founded Third Avenue Management, whose portfolio owns about 130 stocks.


  • Western Union, Wells Fargo Among Popular High Yield Guru Stocks

    The following are companies with high and growing dividend yields that gurus are buying according to GuruFocus' All-in-One Screener.

    Western Union Co. (WU) has a trailing dividend yield of 3.6% with a three-year growth rate of 17.30% and a five-year growth rate of 45%. The stock is now trading with a trailing 12-month P/E multiple of 10.70 and an estimated forward P/E multiple of 9.34. During the last 12 months, the stock price has dropped by 2%.


  • Third Avenue Value Fund Sells Nearly Half of Stake in POSCO

    Although Martin Whitman (Trades, Portfolio) has a reputation for being a “buy and hold” investor, many of Third Avenue Value Fund's largest transactions in the fourth quarter, which ended Oct. 31, 2015, were reductions.

    The fund’s most significant fourth-quarter transaction was the reduction, by more than 48%, of the stake in POSCO (NYSE:PKX), a Pohang, South Korea-based steelmaking company. Third Avenue sold 572,600 shares for an average price of $39.14 per share. The deal had a -1.41% impact on the portfolio.


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