Strategy

The Next Global Downturn: Corporate Debt & the Concept of Fragility

By |2018-07-24T10:14:59+00:00July 16th, 2018|Cerno Capital Posts, Cerno Global Leaders, Developed Equities, General Investment, Global Leaders, Other Posts, Strategy|

Our aim, within the context of the Global Leaders Fund, is to own great companies over multiple market cycles. In this way we operate over a timeframe where competition is scarcer, allowing us the best opportunity to outperform global markets. This overarching objective is underpinned by three concepts: growth, long term relevance (sustainability of returns) and financial soundness. All three are crucial in delineating the leading businesses we want to own. Companies that we can employ in a concentrated, low turnover portfolio and sleep comfortably at night. Growth is perhaps the easier to define: does the company have the tools at its disposal to compound earnings at an attractive rate over time. Relevance and sustainability has sharply diverging meanings depending on who one asks. Our preference is to cast the net as broadly as possible: simply, a company whose current earnings to do not borrow from its future earnings. This concept is wide ranging and influences the fund exclusions. Tobacco for example, where new customers must be found to offset the natural elimination of the existing base by the product itself. Old energy with the extensive disruption from renewables already in full swing. Banks, where inherent leverage hangs like a [...]

The Custom Option

By |2018-07-11T08:54:19+00:00July 9th, 2018|Cerno Capital, Cerno Capital Posts, Cerno Global Leaders, General Investment, Global Leaders, Investment Quarterly, Other Posts, Strategy|

Conducting big business in the decades following the industrial revolution normally entailed the marshalling of labour and resources in a profitable sinecure. Fur trappers and tin miners, agriculture and energy, railroads and steel all fit this model. These industries persist today but are becoming scarce in the pantheon of very top companies measured by market capitalisation or economic value addition. Labour has mobilised, a thicket of laws exists to prevent excessive exploitation and monopolies of international scale are prohibited. Only perhaps in the world of software and social media have we seen the kind of recently accrued market share power that breeds exploitative practices: Microsoft’s dominance of operating system software is a matter of historic fact and Facebook’s control of the network effect across its platforms are prime examples of predatory corporate behaviour: rabid until checked. Outside these large and unusual cases, successful companies conducting business across multiple continents need to balance of standardisation against customisation. Standard so often entails stand-still which is a death curse for companies. At the other end of the spectrum, few businesses can adopt a fully bespoke offering and hope to grow beyond their artisanal roots. There is another category, companies and sometimes just one-person [...]

Going, Going, Gold

By |2018-05-03T15:44:24+00:00May 3rd, 2018|Asset Allocation, Asset Classes, Cerno Capital, Cerno Capital Posts, General Investment, Other Posts, Strategy|

Our view on gold has changed recently and we have sold the positions in full across all portfolios. Gold has a few things going for it. It has had a prescribed value for thousands of years – stemming directly from the fact that it was, for much of the past three millennia, a medium of exchange, a savings product - in effect a currency. In 1971, when the US finally came off the gold standard, the direct link between paper currencies and gold was lost. Forty years is a relatively short time in a period measured in centuries, so institutional and personal memories of the linkage remain strong. However, Gold is an example of a putatively safe asset which is, on investigation, not reliable in all environments. Gold is not necessarily a beneficiary from higher inflation, as is commonly thought. The price of gold demonstrates no stable statistical relationship with the measured rate of inflation. No matter whose CPI series one adopts, the relationship is unstable by virtue of the very large swings in the gold price. The case for believing that gold offers a very long run store of value is not well constructed. In face of these inconvenient [...]

Investment Letter Feb 2018 Cobras in the Basket

By |2018-05-15T09:41:15+00:00February 5th, 2018|Asset Allocation, Cerno Capital, Cerno Capital Posts, General Investment, Investment Letters, Strategy|

Cobras in the Basket: Bonds, their curves, their relationship with equities and market tops In the last two months, we have seen a meaningful rise in bond yields. Key maturities in the US curve have crept up. The 2Y US Treasuries now stand at 2.15%, the 5s (5 years maturity) have moved up to 2.53% and the 10s to 2.73%. This has not been accompanied by any visible change in central bank policy or rhetoric. It is our belief that investors should take heed and begin to adjust their portfolios, if they have not already done so. This is not the first time in the post crisis period (a period that will soon be 10 years long) that bond yields have fluttered. During the so called “taper tantrum” that occurred between February 2013 and January 2014, those same maturities ran up considerably: 5s went from 0.63% to 1.86% and 10s 1.62% to 2.80%. There were other noticeable sell offs after the post 2008 low. The 10s moved from 2.0% points in early 2009 only to crest at 4.0% in 2010. As we can see, in those previous periods, yields then proceeded down, with the curve compressing to new lows. [...]

FAQs on the Cerno Global Leaders Fund

By |2018-04-26T11:31:58+00:00September 20th, 2017|Asset Allocation, Cerno Capital, Cerno Capital Posts, Cerno Global Leaders, General Investment, Global Leaders, Strategy|

Fay Ren compiles a glossary of questions asked in recent investor meetings and the related answers. Would you discuss your idea generation screen? Our permanent source of ideas is a screened universe of companies. We narrow the global universe of publicly listed companies by applying liquidity, size and profitability parameters. We also exclude banks, energy and basic materials companies given the leverage inherent in the former and commodity price sensitivity of the latter two groups. This screen provides a list of approximately 500 companies which are qualitatively reviewed for Global Leader characteristics. This list is not restrictive and analysts are free to generate ideas from multiple sources, however the screen ensures there is always a ready supply of ideas to work on. Do you have positive ESG filters?   We anticipate holding our companies for very long periods of time and therefore look for those businesses which embrace sustainable practices. While we have not set ethical screens, we have found that our positive screening rules out many of the sectors most associated with ethical screening, for example, our growth criteria rule the tobacco companies out of consideration. Do you invest in utility companies? We do not invest in utilities as [...]

Cerno Global Leaders – The Podcast

By |2017-10-17T10:30:22+00:00September 15th, 2017|Cerno Capital, Cerno Capital Posts, Cerno Global Leaders, General Investment, Other Posts, Strategy|

On November 1st, Cerno Capital will launch a concentrated, low turnover, global equity fund, TM Cerno Global Leaders. The strategy has been active in client accounts since 2013 and target 25-30 holdings are identified via proprietary research from our investment team. In the captioned podcast, Lead Manager James Spence explains the underlying thinking and portfolio structure and protocols which we believe make it a unique offering in the global equity sphere. Listen to the podcast here, or using the player below.

Risky thoughts

By |2017-10-17T10:34:14+00:00March 3rd, 2017|Cerno Capital Posts, General Investment, Other Posts, Strategy|

The investment world can be split into many camps, but, in discussions of risk, owners and custodians of capital, their agents, academics, analysts and journeymen pitch their tents firmly in one of two camps. In one field we have those for whom risk means the probability of a permanent loss of capital which would cancel all hope of achieving an investment objective. This group will oft reference the Sage of Omaha, Warren Buffet, who has been robust in his observation that risk is not synonymous with the preferred definition of the other camp – volatility. In business school classrooms, university lecture halls and many of the world’s largest asset managers it has been standard practice to use volatility, or the “spikiness” of a price chart, as a proxy for the risk of a tradeable asset, sector or asset class. The use of volatility stems from the study of the role markets play in setting the price of individual assets in the short term. It is the role of markets to rapidly assimilate information and establish a price. The mechanism by which this is achieved is the assessment of future returns by a myriad of market participants, each of whom will [...]

Ham & Eggs – our view of the proposed merger of Luxottica and Essilor

By |2017-10-17T10:34:40+00:00January 26th, 2017|Cerno Capital, Cerno Capital Posts, Cerno Global Leaders, Other Posts, Strategy|

Luxottica is a new addition to the Global Leaders portfolio. Italian sunglasses & frames maker Luxottica and French optical lens maker Essilor have announced a €46bn “merger of equals”. When it is completed, it will represent one of the largest cross-border deals attempted by European companies, and the news was well-received by the market. The stock of both companies rose +8% and +12%, respectively, on the day of the announcement. The marriage makes strategic sense, considering the highly complementary nature of the two businesses, which are already leaders in their respective fields. Luxottica is known for their strong brand portfolio: 7 proprietary brands including Ray-Ban and Oakley, and over 20 licensed designer brands incl. D&G, Bulgari, Chanel. They also have a notable retail presence including Sunglass Hut, LensCrafters, Sears Optical, among others. Its size dwarfs the next largest competitor Safilo (also Italian) by almost 6 times. Essilor, who controls over a quarter of the global lens market, also houses over 13 brands including Essilor, Varilux and Crizal. In recent years, the two companies have been tentatively treading onto each other’s turf, evidenced by Luxottica developing lens finishing techniques in-house and Essilor acquiring sunglass maker Costa and moving into online spectacle [...]

Defining Megatrends: Demographics & Debt

By |2015-06-17T11:04:58+00:00June 17th, 2015|Asset Allocation, Cerno Capital Posts, Other Posts, Strategy|

When investors talk of long-term trends, they are often referring to the next three to five years. Few envisage horizons past the ten year mark. Yet super long-term trends do exist and are slowly but definitively changing the world socially, economically and politically. In our minds, some of the largest of these are demographics, debt, the technology of energy provision and gene based medical discoveries. We address the first two, which represent more of a threat than opportunity, in a chart book. https://cernocapital.com/wp-content/files_mf/1434122306LTSS_DemographicsDebt.pdf The world is getting older. This is a topic that has been acknowledged and fretted over by academics, economists and governments, whilst relatively little can be done on a supra-state basis. In the recent past, people worried about world population exploding to unmanageable levels, which at the time seemed realistic. They noted that the world’s population doubled twice in the 20th century. However, future demographic shifts in many countries from today will be driven by longevity and low fertility rates. This will lead to a sharp fall in working population relative to retirees and eventually lead to a decline in overall numbers as the fertility rate is on trend to fall below the replacement rate (2.1 children per [...]