Quick Take: By using a discounted cash flow model, the managers of the Loomis Sayles Growth Fund/A (LGRRX) select stocks that are growing earnings through internal revenue generation, rather than by cutting costs. The fund invests in larger-cap stocks exhibiting at least 11% annual EPS growth, and delivering upward earnings revisions.
For the one-year period through Oct. 29, 2004, the $74-million fund gained 6.8%, versus 3.5% for the average large-cap growth fund. For the three-year period, it has returned 5.9% annualized, while the peer group rose just 0.5%. The portfolio is somewhat less volatile than its large-cap growth peers, as reflected by its lower standard deviation. It also carries lower expenses than its peers. However, turnover runs high, making it a better fit for non-taxable accounts.
While the fund started operations in May 1991, the current management team — Mark Baribeau (since 4/99), Pamela Czekanski (since 1/00), and Richard Skaggs (since 1/00) — is approaching its fifth anniversary together. The team also manages the USAA Mutual Growth Fund (USAAX) and USAA Growth & Tax Strategy Fund (USBLX).
The Full Interview:
S&P: How do you select stocks for this fund?
SKAGGS: We screen companies with a market caps of at least $3-billion — our median market-cap is about $20 billion, our weighted-cap is about $53 billion — that are chartered in the U.S. This gives us a universe of between 500-600 stocks. Next, we screen for companies with a minimum annual earnings growth rate of 11%. We avoid those that are increasing earnings primarily by cutting costs. Instead, we seek profit growth driven by internal revenue generation.
We like companies that can become market leaders, and that possess leading products, sustainable competitive advantages and strong management teams. The company must also have an above-average, preferably rising, return-on-capital, and stable or upward earnings revisions.
At this stage, we have filtered our universe down to 100-125 stocks. (Our goal is to construct a portfolio of 45 to 55 stocks, and we currently have 51.) We use disciplined fundamental analysis, including meeting with management and reviewing financial statements to measure risk-reward profiles.We measure a stock’s prospects for price appreciation by evaluating the company on a discounted cash flow model.
S&P: How, if at all, did your team change the way the portfolio was run when you took it over?
SKAGGS: We moved the fund exclusively to large-cap growth. The prior managers adhered to a more multi-cap growth strategy.
S&P: What are your largest holdings?
SKAGGS: As of Sept. 30, 2004: eBay Inc. (EBAY), 3.7%; Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), 3.4%; Avon Products Inc. (AVP), 2.6%; Home Depot Inc. (HD), 2.6%; QUALCOMM Inc., (QCOM) 2.5%; Apple Computer (AAPL), 2.5%; Procter & Gamble (PG), 2.5%; UnitedHealth Group Inc. (UNH), 2.4%; Zimmer Holdings (ZMH), 2.4%; and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), 2.4%. The top ten stocks accounted for 26.9% of total assets.
S&P: What steps do you take to control risk?
SKAGGS: Although our stock selection process is bottom up, we impose certain constraints to control risk and volatility. For example, none of our individual holdings can exceed 5% of total assets, and we typically do not go above 4%. An individual stocks’s weighting in the fund reflects the magnitude of our conviction in that company.
Also, our industry exposure is typically under 25%. Our sector exposures are never twice the allocation in our benchmark, the Russell 1000 Growth Index, for sectors that represent more than 10% of that Index.
S&P: Can you illustrate how your discounted cash flow analysis works?
SKAGGS: We maintain a discounted cash flow model for all our holdings, and update them periodically. For example, one of our smaller holdings, Chico’s FAS Inc. (CHS), a specialty retailer, just reported quarterly earnings that we thought would be negatively impacted by their presence in Hurricane-ravaged Florida. However, Chico’s posted better-than-expected profits, in-line revenues, and much better-than-expected margins. Based on the earnings surprise and the company’s expansion plans in 2005, we updated our discounted cash flow model, and raised the stock’s price target to about $50. It is currently at about $38, and we think it can reach the target in six to 12 months, convincing us to add to our position.
S&P: What are your top sectors?