If you and your clients like to buy low, there are certainly opportunities in the market right now (Citigroup for $3.40, anyone?)
But how do you decide on the best options?
Well, you could sit around and make snide jokes about the stocks that have been beaten up. But if you’re more serious about it and actually want to find investments, you’ll have a better option by this time next week when two new value funds from Evermore Global Advisors will be available on major platforms including Fidelity, Schwab [SCHW] and TD Ameritrade and Pershing.
These new funds — Evermore Global Value Fund and Evermore European Value Fund — live in a space that founder, chief executive officer and chief investment officer David Marcus calls “active value.”
He characterizes this as a different strategy from the traditional notion of value.
Value investing can be divided into two camps, he says. The traditional approach is to buy undervalued stocks, or “cheap for cheap’s sake,” and wait for the market to bid those stocks higher.
To be sure, that approach has some heavyweight fans, such as Benjamin Graham, the godfather of value investing, said Russel Kinnel, director of fund research at Morningstar. [MORN]
But Marcus, who began his career at Mutual Series working for renowned investor Michael Price, said that approach can lead to a “value trap.” After all, “maybe there’s a reason that stock is trading at 50 cents,” he said.
So he invests in companies that are not only undervalued, but also are undergoing a strategic change. He calls these changes “catalysts” for the stock’s upside and they can take the form of a corporate reorganization or a new management team, as just two examples, he says. He cited Siemens of Germany as an example.
That electronics and engineering company is undergoing massive changes, including new management, a restructuring and a spinoff.
Marcus said that there are no constraints on the global fund geographically. “We’re pure opportunists.... if there is an opportunity in Russia, we’ll go to Russia,” he says, although the further-flung investments will be considered riskier and, therefore, will need a higher expected return to entice him.
He also will be able to sell short, which many funds cannot do. The funds are “intentionally broad,” but he does not feel that today’s investors will shun them in favor of investments that fit more neatly into a grid of specific holdings, such as small-cap value or large-cap growth. “I would argue that there’s a spot for most investors to own a broad-based, opportunistic fund that is dedicated to providing an attractive return,” he says.
Morningstar’s Kinnel said that value has gone in and out of favor over the past decade. Starting with the bear market of 2000 and 2001, it outperformed and enjoyed a growing popularity in subsequent years. So much so, he says it became overrated as many investors and advisors sought a sort of back-to-basics mindset after the tech bubble burst.
But in 2008, value got hit “square between the eyes,” Kinnel said, even more so than growth, so it lost some of its luster. In the historic ebb and flow of the popularity of value, Kinnel said that today it’s about middle of the road.
The two new Evermore funds are tiny so far, Marcus said, with about $5 million combined. But once they’re more widely available on major platforms next week, he thinks they will resonate with investors. “There are real opportunities out there [for value buyers], there is a timeliness in what we’re doing,” he said.
Marcus’ background indicates that looking for undervalued companies in the middle of strategic changes would be second nature. After working for Price at Mutual Series, and eventually rising to senior vice president of Franklin Mutual Advisers, Marcus launched a hedge fund that was largely seeded by Jan Stenbeck, a Swedish financier interested in building businesses as opposed to straight stock picking.
Marcus credited the influence of those two mentors with shaping his career, although he also had an inherent interest in the markets (he subscribed to Forbes and Fortune as the age of 12).
That’s why today he refers to corporate CEOs as either “value creators” or “value destroyers.” And it’s not always easy to get with the right crowd. “You’d be surprised how many managers are value destroyers,” he said.
Maybe, but with that ignorance at least comes the bliss of being able to make snide jokes about cheap stocks instead of actually working.
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