Unleashing Value’s Aggressive Side
While aggressive growth products abound, the realm of aggressive value is a road less traveled. In this episode we uncover the secrets that make the Cambiar Aggressive Value ETF truly distinctive.
- Portfolio has benefited from energy and industrial exposures
- No theme to new purchases – a diverse set of new positions
- Goal is to attach to good businesses
- Strategy is leaning slightly towards cyclicals
For current performance, holdings, and to learn more about the strategy mentioned in this episode please click below:
Hello and welcome to another episode of QPD Highlights. I’m your host, John Le, and we’re about to embark on another fascinating journey through the world of investments. This week, we’re shining a spotlight on the Cambiar Aggressive Value ETF, a unique strategy that’s been delivering impressive performance since its launch in February 2023.
We’re in for a treat as we have portfolio manager Brian Barish joining us to discuss the portfolio’s positioning and outlook. Whether you’re a seasoned investor or someone looking to stay informed about the latest strategies and market trends, you’ve come to the right place. It’s time to unlock the insights that could make a real difference in your financial journey. Let’s get started.
Brian, you’ve built a healthy allocation within energy and industrials since the launch of the ETF. Are there any new interesting positions you’ve taken on or are you comfortable with how the portfolio is allocated?
Yeah, we built up a big position in energy in particular in the first half of the year. We’re of the view that over time, oil markets are going to lean tight. We don’t have a highly specific commodity price in mind. Obviously, commodity prices are very volatile, but we think it’s a price that allows for pretty solid returns for producers. And what we try to do is look for the producer side energy companies that embed unreasonably low commodity prices in their valuations. At the time that we purchased positions in Chevron, Suncor, and Cenovus, those are our big three producers. They were embedding energy prices in the 50s, which we think is not realistic in terms of the long-term oil price deck.
For Aggressive Value, what I try to do is identify stocks where there’s a base upside case and also a blue sky upside case. The blue sky upside case is not necessarily going to happen, and I can’t count on it happening, but the belief is there is a better than you might suppose probability that that happens.
Let’s take the Canadian oil sands companies, for example. They have historically traded very cheaply versus North American peers in the United States because it’s viewed that they are higher cost producers and therefore they have more beta essentially to the oil price. They’re higher cost based on how much it costs to get oil sands production going, but once you get the production going, they’re actually very stable and pretty low cost to produce. Secondly, what I believe is that we’re going to have a problem in the not so distant future. It could be as soon as right now, with the availability of heavier and more sour grades of crude, which is what the Canadian grades happen to be.
I could see a meaningful case for revaluing these things upwards. It so happens that Exxon just made a big purchase of Pioneer just in the last week or so. That’s obviously a shale play, but what Exxon is honing in on are long-term, highly visible producible reserves, that’s exactly what the Canadians happen to have. It’s just that people don’t pay a lot of attention to those. So that was where the opportunity set was in the second quarter, obviously oil prices have moved up and oil companies by and large are less interesting now with prices higher.
What’s become more interesting is it is not very thematic. One stock that we bought in the third quarter is a company called Waters. So Waters is basically involved in a lot of things relating to the drug discovery and drug production process. There was a bit of a bubble back in COVID period and even before that in small cap biotech companies raising money and spending money like crazy researching things.
And they probably participated a little bit in that excess euphoria essentially around that. But the use case for their products in liquid chromatography and other product quality and assurance elements to the drug production process has very good long-term visibility. It’s a pretty interesting franchise that was trading at a discount when we got involved.
One other area that where we added a position in the very recent past is railroads. We’ve always liked railroads here. Railroads, I know they’ve been around since the late 1700s, but they’ve turned into a very sneaky, good industrial transportation business. Basically it’s the lowest cost way to transport bulky goods. It’s literally 40 to 50 times cheaper per ton of stuff that you’re moving than trucking it. They always have this great cost advantage versus trucking. We put on a position in Union Pacific and I think we’ll probably hold that one for a long time.
The third stock we bought in the third quarter is going to sound a little bit out of left field, is Nintendo. Japanese company with some very iconic gaming IP and as well, they make hardware. So for many, many years, there’s been a Super bull case on Nintendo. I’ll tell you what it is. It’s that they stop making hardware and they open source their software. So it’s available on Apple devices and Microsoft devices and Android devices. Based on everything I know about the company, that’s probably never going to happen. They seem absolutely committed to making their devices and forcing you to consume their hardware. So they’ve artificially constricted their addressable market. But what’s very interesting about Nintendos, if you think about it versus a company like Disney for instance, that also has very iconic IP, they’ve got a lot of opportunities in movies and games that aren’t directly playable on their platform that they’ve barely tapped into.
I do have a Super bull thesis, which is at some point people stop using their cell phones and just use their Nintendo Switch devices to do cell phone type of things, whether it’s texting your friend or using apps like that. I’m not convinced that this is real, but if it ever happened, my goodness, what an interesting stock this could be. That’s all kind of just general flavor. The setup is you’re going into a new console cycle. The Nintendo Switch has been out for six and a half years. The new Switch, whatever they’re going to call it, Switch 2, something that’ll be out sometime next year. That would be consistent with how long their console cycles normally are. There’s enough known about it that it will be 4K output. It will have a bigger and somewhat nicer screen. Will have better silicon than the switch, but it’ll be backwards compatible, that practically assures that you’ll have a fairly successful console cycle and normally Nintendo trades very well as console cycles get underway. Those are the stocks that we’ve acquired recently.
Can you briefly describe the type of businesses you’re looking for within CAMX?
For Aggressive Value, we’re omnivores here. Okay. We’ll look at anything but what we want to do ultimately, and this is consistent with Cambiar’s overall discipline, is attach to good businesses. Okay, so what is a good business? This is a useful question to understand. It’s a business where because of the nature of the product or the nature of the service, the business in question has pricing power. They can raise prices and they’re not going to slaughter demand. There is something about the product that it’s sticky with the customer. It’s hard to stop using the product. One thought just in terms of the digital economy, which we very much find ourselves in today, is that there are a lot of interoperability issues in the digital economy that don’t get picked up particularly well by extremely traditional value processes. So one example of that is the concept of a platform and interoperability.
We talked about Nintendo, Nintendo is a platform. You must use their platform if you’re a game producer. You must use their platform if you are a person who likes playing games, particularly likes playing mobile games. That creates a stickiness factor. That’s just a simple example of it. Anyway, those are the kind of businesses that we are attracted to. There will be opportunities in not so sticky businesses where you get to the front end of an economic cycle or the front end of some very product-specific cycle, and you can have earnings kind of go one, two, four. In certain situations when that happens, but those are very tricky to try to play. It’s not that we’re allergic to them, but it’s not something that we’re looking to do a huge amount of.
Brian, how would you describe the overall positioning of the ETF right now?
The overall positioning of the Aggressive Value strategy, if you’re just thinking global macro, and I would encourage you not to think too hard about it, because I think it’s going to be very difficult to predict and derive useful conclusions about, is we have definitely a leaning towards somewhat cyclical businesses at the moment, and also idiosyncratic return businesses. So for example, one other position that we’ve added to just very recently with Goldman Sachs, sure you know what it is, big investment bank. It happens to be trading for book value. We think they can earn a 15% return on intangible equity over the cycle. That’s what they’re committing to. Normally, something with that kind of returns profile would be valued at more like 1.4 to 1.7 times book value.
That’s very cheap. You’re going to need to see some better elements to the financial landscape for that to actually happen, but we think that’s reasonable to expect in the next one to two years. So that’s a straight up the middle type of situation, but we would want a more favorable financial and economic backdrop to eventually unfold. There’s other companies, I mentioned Waters, that really doesn’t have anything to do with the global economy, and it just has to do with pharmaceutical products and R&D for various kinds of drugs, and it’s just not really going to be tied to what interest rates are, GDP rates are, or any of that stuff.
And that’s a wrap for this episode of QPD Highlights. We hope you enjoy our dive into the Cambiar aggressive value ETF. Before we part ways, we’d like to extend our gratitude to all of our listeners for joining us on this financial journey. If you found this episode valuable, please consider subscribing and don’t forget to leave us your comments and reviews. Your feedback drives our commitment to delivering top-notch content. Thank you for making us part of your day. Stay curious, stay informed, and stay tuned for more enlightening episodes of QPD Highlights. Until next time, keep exploring the world of finance and making the most of your investment journey. Take care.
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