"Many a genius has been slow of growth. Oaks that flourish for a thousand years do not spring up into beauty like a reed." - George Henry Lewes
Quality > Price
The best businesses rarely go on sale and often appear expensive when using short hand valuation metrics
Ignore the noise
The only thing that matters is volume and price in the short term and growth of cash flow in the long term
Volatility creates opportunity and buy-able weakness, especially in smaller cap / illiquid securities
Patience is key, minimize mistakes and behavioral errors, reduce trading costs, defer taxes
Proper due diligence provides the conviction needed to hold through volatility and buy in the face of uncertainty
Give positions the size and flexibility to move the needle, but know key levels of support/resistance and when and where to de-risk
Do not fall too in love with any one company, do not let financial and social media or day-to-day price fluctuations impact decision making
Trend = Friend
Do not fight the market trend
(or the Fed)
The investment universe is broken down into two segments, Growth and Core. The Growth portfolio is broken down into three sub-segments; Acorns, Saplings and Oaks. In general, Acorns are small/mid cap and younger/emerging companies with a long term story that is just beginning to unfold. In these names, we want to be early and are willing to take risk and be a first mover while the investment thesis develops and plays out. We accept that there is higher risk and likely higher volatility, and partially mitigate this by keeping Acorn positions relatively small (<2-3%). When an Acorn takes root, the investment thesis is proven correct. Management has executed, the trend or theme is still strong, or hopefully accelerating with awareness, and more capital is allocated as the position grows into the Sapling segment. The Sapling positions represent the majority of the Growth portfolio as Saplings offer the best risk/return in our perspective, as the companies are in the sweet spot for growth relative to volatility and expected downside. Having a position go through the transition of starting as an Acorn and becoming a Sapling is important; as our monitoring, further research and patience allow us to build conviction and mitigate some of the early risks, providing us later confidence to hold through short-term volatility. Sapling position sizes are usually ~5-7%. The third segment are Oaks. These are the Saplings that have fully grown to the expected valuation or target range and often have significantly lower perceived upside relative to the other segments of the Growth portfolio. In most Oaks, the growth cycle has matured and slowed, and over time, the positions are sold into strength and reallocated into the Acorn and Sapling segments. Oaks can reach up to 10% allocations. Alternatively, Oaks can be moved into the Core portfolio, which has a less tactical and more of a buy-and-hold approach. The portfolio manager will tactically weight the Acorn, Sapling and Oak segments to best fit the market environment.
The Core portfolio holds mature, large cap companies. These are considered to be some the best businesses in the world and generally can be held and owned them at any price. These are companies that have displayed the key attributes that make up Oak River's definition of high quality such as organic revenue growth, stable cash flows, low debt, pricing power or a sustainable competitive advantage/moat (expanded below). The Core portfolio is buy-and-hold with a minimum 10+ year investment horizon. Positions are almost never completely sold, but will be occasionally reduced on strength or bought on weakness. The Core portfolio has no scheduled re-balancing mechanism and positioning is opportunistic. If a company we love for the long term goes on sale, we will overweight the position until we believe the price has normalized to a more fair valuation.
In addition to the Core portfolio, we have a Core Plus watch list which contains companies that we love, but tend to be more cyclical, consumer sensitive, out of favor/downtrend, etc. These positions will opportunistically be added to the Core portfolio if and when prices become attractive, but are not considered own at any price.
The investment universe contains mostly U.S. domiciled companies that generate the majority of revenue in the U.S.. In general, Oak River focuses on the healthcare, consumer discretionary and technology sectors, where we believe high quality companies with enduring competitive advantages are often underappreciated and mispriced. The Core portfolio is made up of timeless American household brands, while the Growth portfolio focuses on finding the next generation of these blue chip businesses. While are always searching for new small and mid-cap opportunities and brands of the future with a long growth runways ahead - selling at a reasonable valuations, and spend the lion share of our time on the Growth segment... we are happy to "uncover" established long standing businesses growing single digits with stable cash flows and a strong MOATs or competitive advantage - selling at a discount, that are more reflective of the Core segment. In general, Oak River's tends to focus on companies with premium products or services that have strong pricing power and often an above average income end consumer. A combination of the below characteristics define a high quality company and from our experience, often outperform in both up and down markets, as during periods of economic stress, the lack of financial leverage and steady/reoccurring cash flows help shield companies from negative cyclical impacts.
Timeless Franchise / Brand / household name (product recognized globally by any almost age)
Premium U.S. customer (target customer above average discretionary income, less press sensitive)
Reoccurring revenue (predictable cash flows, subscription/accessories/maintenance)
Pricing power (ability to raise prices without losing customers)
Easy to understand business model (clearly identifiable growth opportunity)
Disruption / Trend (innovation, technology/services, changing consumer preference)
Dominant and durable intangible assets (difficult to recreate - innovation, customer loyalty, copyrights, network)
Low Capital Intensity / Clean balance sheet (no (low) debt)
High gross margins (ability to generate outsized profits in the long term)
High return on invested capital (ROIC) (compounder, growth funding growth (no dilution/interest expense))
Strong MOAT (competitive advantage, barriers for competitors to enter market, regulation, high switching cost)
Growth & market position (strong top/bottom line growth, growing faster than peers, gaining market share)
Attractive Valuation Metrics (PE, FCF, PEG, yield relative to comparables)
G.A.R.P. (growth at a reasonable price)
New product or revenue stream (potential for meaningful increase in revenue/earnings)
Strong Management Team (owner-operator, vision for growth, smart m&a, interests aligned)
Takeover target (valuation or strategic)
COMPOUNDERS & RETURN ON INVESTED CAPITAL
Compounding occurs when management is able to reinvestment the cash flow from the businesses operations back into the business wherever the best growth opportunity, achieving a higher return than available anywhere else. This is easier said than done and many management teams are incredibly poor capital allocators, whether it be a bad acquisition (overpaying or buying a company that will inevitably be written off) or bad capital return policy (buying back shares at a poor time, paying a special dividend). Management teams that target high return on invested capital often take a long term approach, focusing on growth and market share capture instead of profitability. Companies that put too much emphasis on hitting quarterly EPS targets are likely not appropriately investing for the long term. Over time, many great companies will ultimately end up destroying value and losing their competitive advantage. What the company is doing with the cash the business generates is essential to growth and early strategic investments to increase the width of the MOAT could last a lifetime.
Oak River combines the fundamental approach for investment selection with technical analysis, searching within the investment universe for attractive long term entries in both momentum or oversold/out of favor sectors . When adding to a momentum trade, we are usually looking to buy at short term moving averages (10-20 day and week) and trying to follow volume and strength in the tape. Alternatively, we are always happy to buy the companies that we love on sale when the market gets distracted or underappreciated the story. Buying at depressed prices provides a "Margin of Safety" and flexibility to change investment horizon if needed. While most purchases are made with an intended 5-10 year holding period, price targets are often conservative and achieved significantly faster than expected resulting in a significant tactical approach in the short term.
This patience leads to never needing to chase a trend, instead waiting for prices to return to key support levels. The result tends to be high risk/reward entries and minimal draw downs upon taking a position. The approach to technical analysis, similarly to our fundamental screen, is relatively simply. We seek to identify support / resistance levels and trend lines and combine with sentiment data to identify extreme highs/lows with potential for mean reversion. We do favor the Darvas Box Theory and prefer buying the lower range of consolidation boxes or a breakout/re-test of a horizontal consolidation level. Our favorite technical set ups target breakouts from long term periods of price consolidation and pullbacks to the 200 week moving average, all while fundamentals improve or remain stable.
Momentum and trend following (10/20 day or week moving averages)
Darvas Box breakout (price expansion from period of horizontal consolidation)
“Margin of Safety” (discount to historic valuations or perceived intrinsic value)
30-40-50% pullback to longer term support/trend while fundamentals improve (long term price consolidation)
Mean reversion (price reverts to long term trend from above or below)
Market Sentiment Extremes (capitulation, oversold/overbought conditions)
Technical buy indicators (lack of supply, short interest)