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.
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.
Amazon is the dominant e-commerce platform in the Western Hemisphere. Alongside the e-commerce platform, the company offers marketing services to vendors and subscriptions to customers, which includes everything from free shipping to music and video. Amazon’s AWS (Amazon Web Services) business is the largest global cloud computing platform, helping clients with data storage and computing power.
Amazon.com sits at the crossroads of powerful megatrends. These include growth in e-commerce, migration of advertising spend online and the increasing adoption of public cloud. The company has significant scale and network advantages. With a long growth runway, Amazon is in a prime position to monetise these opportunities.
Boston Scientific is a leading manufacturer of innovative medical devices used to treat a range of medical conditions to over 30 million patients each year. Boston Scientific focuses on minimally invasive therapies, which generally improve patient outcomes versus traditional surgery and reduce the overall cost of treatment for health systems.
Boston Scientific is well positioned with market-leading positions in a number of fast-growing medical device markets. With a strong pipeline of new product launches and a track-record of investment in innovation, we expect Boston Scientific to sustain its above-market growth and increase its market share.
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, stationery, 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 bought 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.
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.
First Republic is a founder led bank, providing private banking, business banking and wealth management in Urban, Coastal markets in the US. First Republic offers a high-touch, service orientated model where customers have a single point of contact across all banking needs. This differentiates First Republic from main street peers.
With its superior service offering, First Republic has consistently generated superior loan growth, while maintaining extremely prudent lending standards. Given these characteristics, First Republic offers a high quality investment with attractive earnings growth potential.
Floor and Décor is a leading specialty retailer in the US. The company warehouse format stores, which are roughly the size of a Bunnings, only offer hard surface flooring. The company offers the industry’s broadest in-stock assortment at everyday low prices. Floor and Décor has 123 stores across 30 states.
The company has potential to dominate the niche hard surface flooring category, which has been growing mid-single digits year over year. There is significant runway for future store growth with the potential to quadruple its footprint to around 400 stores. Given the company’s size and scale, Mom and Pop retailers, which have 50% market share, cannot compete on price or service with Floor and Décor.
Gartner is a leading research, consulting, and advisory company. Its information technology research service is seen as a ‘must-have’ at most large corporates and is used by 75% of Fortune 1,000 companies. Gartner provides up-to-date industry research and analysis to help these business leaders make informed decisions around their technology, such as the selection of software vendors or current best practice in cyber-security or cloud infrastructure.
In a world of constant technological change and business model disruption – Gartner’s research and analysis is becoming increasingly important to help companies to navigate this challenging environment. Gartner estimates there are 138,000 businesses globally that could use its service, of which just over 13,000 are current customers – indicating a long growth runway. Gartner is now looking to replicate this model in adjacent business functions including HR, Finance, and Supply Chain, with early progress looking promising.
Greggs is a vertically integrated food-on-the-go operator in the UK. The company operates more than 2,000 stores and is the leader in the UK take-away sandwich and savoury market.
Greggs continues to be an attractive long-term growth story with the potential to gain share of a fragmented market given the strength of Gregg’s value proposition. We see plenty of opportunity for Greggs to continue rolling out stores, while also implementing strategic initiatives (e.g. evening trade, delivery, click and collect) to increase sales turnover at established stores.
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.
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.
Previously known as Facebook and has rebranded to Meta Platforms Inc who is the parent organization of Facebook.
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.
Microsoft is a dominant software business that develops, manufactures, licenses, sells and supports software products, and is viewed by many IT departments as their most critical vendor. Products and services include many well-known franchises such as the Windows operating system, Office productivity applications, Azure cloud services, LinkedIn and Xbox.
Microsoft is poised to benefit from the global trend of enterprises shifting their computing storage and power to the cloud. Microsoft’s Azure business unit is helping customers all over the world of all sizes make this transition to the cloud and should benefit from this secular trend for many years to come.
Netflix is the world’s leading streaming service with 222 million members in over 190 countries. Members pay a monthly subscription fee to access TV series, documentaries, feature films and mobile games across a wide range of genres and languages.
Netflix’s scale in creating original content and ability to spread this cost over a huge global audience base gives it a significant cost advantage versus peers. We believe this advantage will only get stronger with time, and ensure Netflix continues to gain subscribers for many years to come – there are 750 million potential subscribers globally (ex-China). We are also confident in the company’s ability to continue raising prices at a rate that lags the value of the content it delivers. Netflix has raised prices regularly since 2015, while maintaining best-in-class churn rates, and a standard Netflix subscription – equivalent to one or two movie tickets a month for countless hours of entertainment – still presents incredible user value compared to satellite or cable TV.
NVR is the 4th largest homebuilder in the US. Unlike most homebuilders, which are also land developers, NVR focuses solely on homebuilding, using options to control land, which gives them the right but not the obligation to buy lots on a just-in-time basis. NVR also differentiates itself from peers by pre-fabricating frames, roofs, staircases in one of its eight manufacturing facilities. Most of NVR competitors still do everything on site.
NVR’s asset-light model, central pre-fabrication and local economies of scale allow NVR to generate higher returns on investment capital than peers, and grow without having to reinvest much capital. Combined with what is a very fragmented market comprising many small players, NVR’s competitive advantages should allow it to deliver superior returns and take market share for many years to come.
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.
Salesforce is the dominant provider of cloud customer relationship management (CRM) technology globally. 90% of Fortune 500 companies use Salesforce’s business-critical software offerings, such as Slack (communications) and Tableau (data visualisation).
Salesforce is well-positioned to continue capturing market share in the fast-growing software-as-a-business (SaaS) and platform-as-a-business (PaaS) markets. It benefits from customer switching costs, high customer lifetime value, and brand reputation as a reliable partner for Fortune 500 companies which assuages adoption concerns for new customers. We see a long growth runway ahead for Salesforce as businesses continue to digitise and move to the cloud.
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.
Stone Co is a rapidly growing payment service provider in Brazil that allows small merchants to accept digital payments in-store and online. Stone was founded in 2012 in response to deregulation in the Brazilian payments market, which allowed competition with the two bank-owned payment providers for the first time. Stone’s technology, service, and unique business model has proven disruptive and enabled them to gain significant market share.
Digital payment penetration is still low in Brazil, but is increasing rapidly due to the shift away from cash and growth in e-commerce. We believe Stone will benefit from this strong industry growth, but also continue to take market share from the banks-owned incumbents. All considered we believe Stone is an attractive founder-led business with many 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.