The following is a brief introduction to each of your portfolio companies, with a description of why we believe they deserve a position in the Marlin portfolio.
Abbott Laboratories is a global healthcare company with leading market positions in medical devices, infant formula, adult nutrition, diagnostics and branded generic drugs.
Abbott Laboratories is well placed with market leading positions in a number of growing end markets driven by an aging population and emerging market growth. Abbott Laboratories has a long track record of profitable investment into fast growing healthcare segments and we expect them to continue to reinvest in the business to strengthen its competitive position and drive continued growth over the long term.
Adidas is the largest European and second largest global sportswear manufacturer.
Adidas is one of the world's leading brands and has a strong track record of growth and shareholder return. After going through a difficult period due to factors that are largely outside the company's control, management have turned the business around and are now growing revenues and earnings rapidly. They have started to take market shares in the lucrative US market, and we see many years of strong growth ahead.
Alibaba is the largest e-commerce player in China with an overall online shopping market share of over 70%.
Alibaba is the online marketplace leader in China and is over five times larger than its nearest competitor. It has sustainable competitive advantages through its extensive network and scale. Alibaba is also a major beneficiary of strong online shopping growth in China due to continued urbanisation, increasing incomes and a poor physical retail infrastructure in many Chinese cities. Alibaba is expected to grow in excess of 25% per annum over the next few years.
Alphabet is the holding company which owns the world's leading internet search provider, Google. Google is the world's most visited website and the largest global advertising platform by advertising revenue.
Alphabet has wide moats arising from its dominant position in online search, significant intellectual property and a strong brand. We believe Alphabet is well-positioned to grow strongly as global advertising budgets gradually shift away from television to digital formats.
Cerner is the world’s largest healthcare information technology provider with a range of solutions for all the software needs of healthcare organisations including electronic medical records, practice management and billing systems, as well as applications in the area of population health management (data analytics which predicts medical care requirements for patient populations).
Cerner’s software is critical to its clients operations. Switching costs are high and switching tendencies are very low. It has superior technology that has allowed it to continuously win market share as the industry consolidates. Cerner has a strong track record and attractive growth outlook as a result of increasing IT requirements in the healthcare sector.
Cognizant is a leading IT services company providing information technology, consulting and business services to a range of mainly larger global companies.
Cognizant is a wide moat company that is deeply ingrained with its customers as a partner in IT and wider business strategy. Cognizant has invested heavily to position itself to capture the significant move of IT towards digital (social, media, analytics and cloud) which should underpin long term growth. Furthermore, Cognizant has a strong management team and a great track record of growth and innovation.
Core Laboratories is a US based oil services company specialising in enhanced oil production and oil reservoir management with an ultimate goal of maximising the efficiency of hydrocarbon recovery by oil companies.
Core Laboratories is a rare wide moat company in the energy sector given its unique and difficult to replicate library of oilfield data that is used by their clients to increase the extraction and return from their oilfields. Core Laboratories offers a strong value proposition to their clients, allowing them to generate high returns through improved production efficiency at relatively low cost. The company has a track record of generating strong cash flow and returning this to their shareholder base.
Descartes is a logistics software business.
Descartes business moat is centred on its Global Logistics Network (GLN). The GLN connects supply chain participants, in real time, giving visibility and control of movement of goods across increasingly regulated and complex global supply chains.
Dollar General is the leading discount retailer in the US, selling a range of everyday household items including food and cleaning products, as well as toys, stationary, and basic apparel. Dollar General has a talented management team, strong track record, and a scale advantage over its competitors. Its stores offer an attractive proposition to a growing cohort of US households that are financially stretched and are not well served by traditional retailers.
There are currently 15,000 Dollar General stores across the US and it is rolling out approximately 1,000 new stores every year. We believe the company should continue to deliver low double-digit earnings growth as Dollar General expands its store base at attractive returns, takes market share, and repurchases shares. Along with the growth story, we think Dollar General’s business model has defensive qualities. Low price points and value proposition supports its business in difficult economic environments, with sales growth actually accelerating in the last two recessions as consumers traded down.
Within Dollar Tree, there are two banners, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar, with the latter being acquired in 2015. Both banners have around 7,500 stores.
Dollar Tree is a best in class retailer. Over the last 5-years, same-store-sales growth has averaged 3% and 5% over the last decade. Very impressive when you consider everything in store has a fixed price of US$1. Dollar Tree sells a 50/50 mix of everyday and discretionary items with the latter focusing on events like birthdays and back to school or on twelve or so different holidays (Valentine’s Day, St Patricks, Easter, Halloween, Christmas, etc.). The chain’s fast moving assortment creates a treasure hunt experience that results have shown resonates well with consumers.
Family Dollar is slightly different discount store with a multi-price point offering and selling predominantly everyday items (toothpaste, bread, laundry detergent, etc.). Family Dollar customers are financially stretched with an annual household income of US$35,000.
We own Dollar Tree for three reasons. Firstly, when Dollar Tree brought Family Dollar in 2015 the retailer was underperforming due to lack of investment. After three years of paying down debt, Dollar Tree is now in a financial position to ramp up Family Dollar investment through store remodels and customer proposition initiatives, which we expect to flow through into better financial results. Secondly, there is a possibly Dollar Tree could move away from its US$1 fixed price, which if executed well, could be a tailwind for sales growth. Lastly, we think Dollar Tree has counter-cyclical qualities.
Ecolab is market leader in providing cleaning and sanitising solutions for the foodservice, hospitality and healthcare industries. It also provides chemicals and technologies to the water treatment and oil production industries.
Ecolab offers a strong value proposition for its vast client base with their product innovations resulting in reduced energy and water usage, lower labour costs and reduced downtime. Ecolab is a high quality company that invests significantly more than its competitors into developing innovative products and this has resulted in continued market share gains. Ecolab has an excellent record of stable growth and strong growth prospects.
Edwards Lifesciences is the global market leader in the treatment of heart valve disease, which impacts millions of people worldwide and carries a poor prognosis if left untreated. Edward’s main product allows for the treatment of this disease without the need for risky open heart surgery.
Edwards Lifesciences continues to lead the industry in innovation, investing in the development of new products which both improve medical outcomes for patients and help doctors treat a wider range of previously untreated patients using a lower risk approach. With a dominant market share and continued investment in research and development, Edwards Lifesciences is well positioned for long term growth.
Electronic Arts ('EA') is one of the world’s leading video game publishers, with hit franchises including FIFA, Madden and Battlefield. EA’s game titles are a mix of licensed content, original IP and collaboration with external partners. The company’s games are played across consoles, PC’s and mobile devices with consoles representing a significant proportion of revenue.
The company operates in an industry that we believe is positioned for sustainable revenue growth and margin expansion. The gaming industry is transitioning from a hit-driven revenue model, based on game units sold, to more of a recurring revenue model, where customers not only pay the up-front cost of a game, but also spend money on in-game items, which may be cosmetic or improve game play. The result of this transition is that Electronic Arts is able to better monetise games, with these new digital revenue streams also having higher profit margins.
Essilor is the leading global manufacturer of corrective lenses, selling to optometrists and other eyewear retailers. More recently, Essilor has expanded into branded sunglasses and online retail, where it owns a number of leading eyewear ecommerce sites.
Essilor is the market leader and continues to drive innovation in corrective lenses. They are well positioned to take advantage of the structurally growing prescription eyewear market, driven by an aging population and increased adoption in emerging markets. Essilor’s proposed merger with Luxottica, the largest manufacturer and retailer of frames and sunglasses, will if approved by regulators, create a dominant industry player from manufacturing through to retail.
Facebook owns four of the most dominant social networking and messaging platforms in the world – the Facebook App, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp. It monetises these platforms by selling advertising slots to millions of businesses globally.
The average US user spends over an hour a day on Facebook and Instagram combined. This high user engagement, combined with Facebook’s unparalleled ability to deliver an audience of over 2 billion users to advertisers, has created one of the most valuable advertising platforms in the world. We see significant growth ahead as Facebook captures a significant share of advertising dollars as media budgets move away from TV and towards digital platforms.
Fresenius is a market leader in the global dialysis industry, and is the only vertically integrated player – providing both products and services to the dialysis market.
Fresenius has strong growth prospects globally as kidney disease becomes more prevalent in an aging population. Fresenius’ depth of knowledge and data around dialysis should allow them to improve patient outcomes while reducing the overall cost of treatment for this growing global dialysis population.
Hexcel is the leading supplier of advanced composite materials (like carbon fibre) for aerospace and other uses including wind turbines and automobiles. Advanced composites are generally lighter and stronger than traditional materials such as aluminum, which has seen the composite content of aircraft and other industrial applications increase significantly over time.
The aerospace composite industry has high barriers to entry due to scale, the close integration of processes with its aerospace manufacturer clients, and the lengthy qualification processes required to be able to supply Airbus and Boeing’s aircraft programmes. Only a few manufacturers are qualified to supply composite parts and materials to these aerospace customers.
Known as a contract research organisation (CRO), Icon provides specialised services in clinical trial management for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.
The increasing complexity and regulatory requirements of clinical trial management are forcing pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies all over the world to seek the help of specialist CROs such as Icon. Icon’s global footprint and broad strengths in clinical management make it one of only a few companies qualified to provide these services. Growth is being driven by this increased shift to outsourcing, the increase in drugs being tested and larger trials required by regulatory bodies such as the FDA.
LKQ is the largest distributor of alternative replacement parts and components used to repair cars and trucks in the US and Europe.
The value proposition is strong, as these alternative parts cost 20%-50% less than new parts and have been growing in popularity with auto repair shops and insurers. LKQ is the only nationwide distributor of these parts in the US and is growing its footprint in Europe. We believe LKQ can grow strongly over the next few years with minimum impact from the economic cycle.
MasterCard is the second largest payment network in the world, operating in 210 countries and supporting more than 2 billion cards across its network.
MasterCard's growth outlook is underpinned by the secular shift to electronic payments and away from cash, particularly in emerging markets where MasterCard has significant presence. These structural growth drivers combined with increasing margins and high cash flow generation (allowing for substantial share buybacks) supports a strong growth outlook over the medium to long term.
PayPal is a global leader in online payments.
We are attracted to PayPal due to its broad based and sustainable competitive advantages and strong growth prospects. PayPal has technology, scale and global network advantages which give it a considerable advantage over its competitors. Furthermore, PayPal benefits from continued growth in e-commerce.
Signature Bank is a specialist regional bank, lending largely to wealthy families and private businesses in and around New York. They have a sticky deposit base that comes from managing transactional business accounts for businesses like law firms, accounting firms, and property management companies, a long track record of profitable growth and a very strong history of credit control.
Signature Bank has an uncomplicated relationship driven business model and industry profitability. Its ability to attract and retain senior bankers from other firms through an attractive profit sharing compensation model has allowed them to grow loans and deposits at over 20% pa over the last 10 years. It is still a small bank in a very large market and we see many more years of growth ahead.
Tencent is China’s largest online gaming company with over 50% market share and also owns WeChat, the leading social network and messaging platform with over a billion users. The WeChat app is deeply ingrained into daily life in China with the average user spending an hour a day on the platform doing everything from messaging, social feeds, news feeds, e-commerce, hailing cabs, ordering food, booking travel, paying utility bills and watching videos. Tencent also has leading positions in a range of adjacencies including digital payments (WeChat Pay), music & video streaming, and cloud computing.
While Tencent’s core business is its gaming business, the WeChat platform is allowing it to create significant value in adjacent areas such as advertising and payments which we do not think is fairly reflected in the current share price. The digital advertising opportunity in China is large and rapidly growing, and WeChat is ideally placed to capitalise given it share of online time and ability to connect businesses with users. Payments is also a large opportunity in a market where credit and debit cards aren’t widely used and cash is rapidly being displaced by WeChat Pay and AliPay.
TJX Companies (TJX) is an off-price retailer in the US, which also has stores in Canada, Europe and Australia. The company sells branded clothing, such as Nike and Ralph Lauren, as well as some homeware at a 20%-60% discount to a full-price retailer (think Briscoe’s, but predominantly for apparel). TJX can sell inventory cheaper than other retailers as it sources stock from store closures, order cancellations and manufacturer overruns – allowing them to sell at a significantly lower price.
The company has a longstanding management team with a strong track record. TJX has a good growth runway for new stores openings and growing sales at existing stores. TJX should grow its earnings at close to 10% per annum, while paying a steady and increasing dividend. Despite having solid growth prospects, TJX’s valuation has been depressed given market concerns about the broader US retail sector, combined with a couple of company specific headwinds that we believe are transitory.
Tyler Technologies is the leading provider of software to the local government sector in the US. The specialised nature of this software has resulted in hundreds of regional software players that provide some solutions, but none with the broad coverage and scale of Tyler (ERP, finance, billing and collection, HR, payroll, justice/courts, public safety, appraisal, and tax). Tyler is the only company that can offer a full suite of products and it continues to extend its lead through both research & development and bolt-on acquisitions.
Local authorities are well behind the software adoption curve in the US and two-thirds of local authorities are still maintaining old in-house systems or using legacy systems that are no longer supported by competitive vendors. Most of these government entities will need to upgrade over the next 10-20 years. Despite being the industry leader, Tyler only has around 15% market share and we see continued market share gains and margin expansion over the long term. Tyler has a longstanding management team and a great track record. We see Tyler delivering mid-teens earnings growth over an extended period, with the potential for upside from a faster than expected shift of clients to Tyler’s hosted software offering.
United Parcel Service (UPS) is the world’s largest package delivery company and operates in over 220 countries and territories with its fleet of 100,000 ground vehicles and 530 aircraft.
The market dynamics of the global freight industry are compelling, with high barriers to entry given the need for a large international network and delivery route density to be competitive. Despite the size of its business, we believe UPS is well-positioned for robust growth, supported by the growth in e-commerce activity and increasing cross-border trade volumes in Asia and Europe.
Zoetis a leader in the animal health space (both livestock and companion animal) – an industry with attractive attributes.
Zoetis has a wide moat built around intellectual property, brand and a large direct sales force giving it access to key decision makers (including veterinarians) and end-users. The growth runway is underpinned by a couple of secular growth drivers – increased global protein requirements and increased pet ownership and ‘humanisation’ of pets.