For Akre Capital Management Founder Charles Akre, investment success is all about the power of compounding. As Akre puts it, “Many people think of us as a ‘value investor’ and others ask whether we are a value or a growth investor. We’ve started to say, we’re neither, we are a compounding investor.” Whatever you call it, Akre’s strategy has worked exceptionally well for a long time. Akre Capital’s 13F portfolio has averaged a 14.61% return since 2001, more than doubling the S&P 500’s average total return.
“Chuck” Akre runs his namesake fund, $13.7B Akre Capital, out of Middleburg, Virginia. There, Chuck and his team spend their days searching for undervalued “compounding machines” — rare businesses that are the foundation of Akre’s long history of market beating returns.
The “three-legged stool” is the foundation for Akre Capital’s consistently good performance
The compounding machines Akre’s team looks for have three core components: 1) an ability to generate above average returns on shareholders’ capital, 2) a management team with the skill and judgment to sustain the process of compounding over a long period of time in the face of competition, and 3) opportunities to deploy additional capital at above average returns. Akre calls it the “three-legged stool” approach: Business, Management, Reinvestment.
We strive to invest in businesses with these three ingredients of compounding, and to buy them at reasonable prices. If we do this, there is no reason or need to trade in and out of these businesses to achieve above average returns. We don’t want to rely primarily on our contrarian instincts or our ability to play market volatility in order to generate returns. Like the private investor, we want the businesses we buy to be growing in real economic value each day.
We like to hold investments for many years to allow their internal compounding to do its work. It’s a wonderful thing not to have to realize a taxable gain. The tax deferral available by investing in businesses that compound internally is an enormous and often under-appreciated advantage.
Akre Capital’s13F portfolio added Live Nation and Adobe Systems in Q1
Indeed, a look at Akre Capital’s Q1 13F portfolio shows that of the 28 positions held by the fund, 16 were first bought in 2014 or earlier. The funds top two positions as of Q1, American Tower (AMT) and Mastercard (MA), were first purchased in 2001
Commenting on the volatile quarter in his Akre Focus Fund Letter, Chuck Akre said:
We believe all three “shock absorbers” were firmly in place when the coronavirus hit the market’s collective consciousness. In absolutely no way does that mean our Fund has been or will be immune to the downturn. We will take our lumps. But, we hope that our three “shock absorbers”enable our portfolio to decline less than the broad market, recover faster, and allow us to capitalize by putting substantial cash to work at advantageous valuations.
The pandemic’s impact on the market has supplied buying opportunities in both existing and several long-coveted names. Accordingly, our cash weighting declined from 17% at year-end to just over 10% as of March 31st. Since neither we nor anyone else knows where or when stocks will see their bottom, we have spooned rather than shoveled cash into select positions, mindful of the extremes to which price and value can become decoupled in times like this.
As I write, equities appear to be heading south again after a major bounce from March’s panic low. Now may be a great time to zero-in on a few of the stocks in Chuck Akre’s portfolio that may be “shock absorbers” if volatility escalates once again.
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