Commentary

Oakmark International Small Cap Fund: Fourth Quarter 2014

December 31, 2014

The Oakmark International Small Cap Fund declined 2.7% for the quarter ended December 31, 2014, slightly less than the MSCI World ex U.S. Small Cap Index, which declined 3.4% for the same period. For the year ended December 31, the Fund declined 8%, and the MSCI World ex U.S. Small Cap Index declined 5%.  Since the Fund’s inception in November 1995, it has returned an average of 10% per year.

The top performing stock in the Fund this past quarter was gategroup (“Gate”), a Swiss company that provides services to the travel industry, including flight catering, airport services and lounge operation. During the quarter Gate reported its third quarter results, which showed that its multiyear restructuring program was beginning to have a positive impact on group margins. Furthermore, 2014 proved to be one of the better operating environments for the airline industry (Gate’s key customers) since the financial crisis due to robust passenger growth and recent declines in oil prices, which have helped airline profitability. The more favorable macro backdrop should benefit Gate into 2015, but the key driver to value creation will be the continued execution of its cost-reduction plans. In November, Gate’s board appointed Christoph Schmitz as its new Chief Financial Officer, which we hope leads to better execution of the cost-reduction plan and increased focus on improving the cash conversion of the business. 

The Fund’s largest detractor for the quarter was DGB Financial Group, a regional South Korean financial holding company that provides a full range of consumer and commercial banking-related financial services. Late in October, DGB released its third quarter results, which were only slightly below our estimates but were weaker than its peers in South Korea. In mid-November, DGB announced a rights issuance, which ignited a significantly negative market response. DGB plans to use the additional capital to accommodate growing its loan business, to initiate an auto finance business and to acquire Woori Aviva Life Insurance Company. We also have concerns about the issuance, as the use of capital appears to be suboptimal and is counter to DGB’s previously stated intentions of slowing growth in order to focus on harvesting better margins. However, we continue to believe DGB’s primary business region and its current undervaluation support the stock’s attractiveness.

Netherlands-domiciled geological engineering company Fugro was the largest detractor from performance for the calendar year due to continued declines in oil prices, which led to further postponements/cancellations of off-shore projects. During the fourth quarter Fugro announced another significant downgrade to its earnings outlook as well as a host of restructuring/impairment charges, which put into question its ability to comply with financial covenants. As the quarter progressed, Fugro’s balance sheet improved as Royal Boskalis Westminster acquired nearly a 15% stake in the company and Fugro secured amendments to its financial covenants. However, falling oil prices could make the operating environment in 2015 even more challenging than it was in 2014.

Fugro is a highly operationally-geared business, and our original investment thesis assumed a continuation of high single-digit growth in off-shore exploration and production capital expenditures (E&P CAPEX), which has proven to be inaccurate. Because we miscalculated the operating environment for Fugro, over the past six months we have significantly reduced our estimate of Fugro’s intrinsic value. However, even with the challenges Fugro faces, we believe that off-shore E&P CAPEX trends will eventually improve and that Fugro’s market positions are strong, Thus, we remain invested in the name.

We added one new security to the Fund during the quarter, Spain-based Applus Services. Applus is a leading global certification company specializing in testing, inspection and certification services. The company provides solutions for clients in all sectors to ensure that their assets and products comply with environmental, quality, health and safety standards and regulations. During the quarter we sold Nifco and Yamaha Motor from the Fund.

Geographically we ended the quarter with 20% of our holdings in Asia, 65% in Europe and 12% in Australasia. The remaining positions are in North America (Canada and the U.S.), Latin America (Brazil) and the Middle East (Israel).  

While the U.S. dollar has strengthened, we still maintain hedge positions on three of the Fund’s currency exposures. As of the recent quarter end and as a result of the strengthening dollar, we decreased the Fund’s Australian dollar hedge to 24%, the Norwegian krone exposure to 19% and the Swiss franc exposure to 25%. 

We thank you for your continued confidence and support and wish all of you a very happy and healthy 2015!  
 

David G. Herro, CFA
Portfolio Manager
oakex@oakmark.com

Michael L. Manelli, CFA
Portfolio Manager
oakex@oakmark.com

 

 

Average Annual Total Returns (12/31/14)
10–year 6.80%
5–year 7.21%
1–year -7.72%
Expense Ratio as of 9/30/14 was 1.31%

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. The performance data quoted represents past performance. Current performance may be lower or higher than the performance data quoted. The investment return and principal value vary so that an investor’s shares when redeemed may be worth more or less than the original cost. The performance of the Fund does not reflect the 2% redemption fee imposed on shares redeemed within 90 days of purchase. To obtain the most recent month-end performance data, view it here.

As of 12/31/14, Gategroup represented 1.6%, DGB Financial Group, Inc. represented 1.9%, Woori Aviva Life Insurance Company 0%, Fugro NV 0.9%, Royal Boskalis Westminster 0%, Applus Services SA 0.3%, Nifco 0% and Yamaha Motor 0% of the Oakmark International Small Cap Fund's total net assets.  Portfolio holdings are subject to change without notice and are not intended as recommendations of individual stocks.

Click here to access the full list of holdings for The Oakmark International Small Cap Fund as of the most recent quarter-end.

The MSCI World ex U.S. Small Cap Index (Net) is a free float-adjusted market capitalization index that is designed to measure global developed market equity performance, excluding the U.S. The MSCI Small Cap Indices target 40% of the eligible Small Cap universe within each industry group, within each country. MSCI defines the Small Cap universe as all listed securities that have a market capitalization in the range of USD200-1,500 million. This benchmark calculates reinvested dividends net of withholding taxes using Luxembourg tax rates. This index is unmanaged and investors cannot invest directly in this index.

Oakmark International Small Cap Fund: The stocks of smaller companies often involve more risk than the stocks of larger companies. Stocks of small companies tend to be more volatile and have a smaller public market than stocks of larger companies. Small companies may have a shorter history of operations than larger companies, may not have as great an ability to raise additional capital and may have a less diversified product line, making them more susceptible to market pressure.

Oakmark International Small Cap Fund: The percentages of hedge exposure for each foreign currency are calculated by dividing the market value of all same-currency forward contracts by the market value of the underlying equity exposure to that currency.

Oakmark International Small Cap Fund: Investing in foreign securities presents risks that in some ways may be greater than U.S. investments. Those risks include: currency fluctuation; different regulation, accounting standards, trading practices and levels of available information; generally higher transaction costs; and political risks.

The discussion of the Fund’s investments and investment strategy (including current investment themes, the portfolio managers' research and investment process, and portfolio characteristics) represents the Fund’s investments and the views of the portfolio managers and Harris Associates L.P., the Fund’s investment adviser, at the time of this letter, and are subject to change without notice.

Note:  The closing NAVs reflect the year-end distributions of Thursday, December 14, 2017. View Historical Distributions.

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Investing in value stocks presents the risk that value stocks may fall out of favor with investors and underperform growth stocks during given periods.

Before investing in any Oakmark Fund, you should carefully consider the Fund's investment objectives, risks, management fees and other expenses. This and other important information is contained in a Fund's prospectus and summary prospectus. Please read the prospectus and summary prospectus carefully before investing. For more information, please call 1-800-OAKMARK (625-6275).

OAKMARK, OAKMARK FUNDS, OAKMARK INTERNATIONAL, and OAKMARK and tree design are trademarks owned or registered by Harris Associates L.P. in the U.S. and/or other countries.

Copyright 2017, Harris Associates Securities L.P., Distributor, Member FINRA.
Date of first use: January 24, 2013.

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