David Winters' Q3 Letter: All China, But No CokeVW Staff
Asian Market Sell-Off Offers Long-Term Opportunities Further signs of an economic slowdown in China’s economy sent the markets lower during the third quarter, with the late-September demonstrations in Hong Kong adding to the unsettled conditions. Real estate prices declined, factory output slowed, and consumers put the brakes on spending. While the speed of the economic slowdown occurred at a faster pace than many had predicted, the Chinese government’s efforts at “taking away the punch bowl” before a bubble could form (and burst) have been wellscripted. Chinese banks have been reducing liquidity and cutting back on new loans for some time now. We believe these measures are a rational and appropriate response to an economy that was growing at an unsustainably fast pace. The trillion-dollar question is whether China can manage to head off a bubble without stalling the economy.
David Winters: Long-term belief in China
We are long-term believers in China. The country’s central bank recently announced an injection of $81 billion into the banking system in an effort to reignite economic growth. We take this as a sign that the government is willing to take meaningful steps to keep the economy growing at or near its desired rate of 7.5% per year. With 1.4 billion consumers diligently working to improve their situation in life so their children will have a better life, we believe China will remain a powerful driver of global growth in the coming decade.
This is not to say that there won’t be bumps along the way – companies listed in Hong Kong or that do extensive business in the region, and to which the Fund has exposure, saw their shares decline during the third quarter. From Macau gaming to Swiss watches, many companies with substantial exposure to China have been battered in recent months. However, we did not sit idly by as shares of companies we believe in fell out of favor in the third quarter. To the contrary, we added to our holdings of Asian companies in the quarter. We believe recent prices offer compelling value for investors who have long-term horizons and are not overly concerned with day-to-day market fluctuations that may be driven more by momentum than fundamentals. Although the Fund trailed both the S&P 500 and the MSCI World Index during the quarter primarily because of the impact of our Asian exposure, we believe that the Fund is well positioned to benefit from what we consider to be an inevitable rebound in economic growth and sentiment in China and broader Asian markets.
David Winters: Protests in Hong Kong
Recent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong have led to further volatility in Asian markets. We believe crises often create opportunities, as market participants sell on the negative headlines while ignoring the underlying fundamentals. Much as the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 led to the eventual unleashing of a great economic powerhouse, recent Hong Kong protests may well lead to further pro-democratic and pro-growth reforms.
As Mark Twain said, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme. Buying quality companies with what we view as improving economics, management working on behalf of all shareholders, and a compelling price is Wintergreen’s goal. As we work diligently trying to protect and enhance our clients’ investments, we believe the current storm clouds over Asian economies will pass and that utilizing the Fund’s cash reserves to accumulate positions in what we view as strong companies should prove rewarding. At Wintergreen, we try to remove the emotions from the investment process and instead focus on long-term opportunities. The Fund has, we believe, a solid portfolio of well financed, conservatively managed businesses that have good prospects and management teams focused on returns for all shareholders. Although market fluctuations are viewed by many as a risk, we believe they can be a gift to long-term investors.
David Winters: Positive and negative contributors to the Wintergreen Fund
For the quarter, positive contributors to the Fund included Union Pacific Corporation (NYSE:UNP)(+8.7%), Altria Group Inc (NYSE:MO) (+9.5%), and Consolidated-Tomoka Land Co. (NYSEMKT:CTO) (+6.9%). Negative movers included Birchcliff Energy Ltd. (TSE:BIR) (-24.8%), Galaxy Entertainment Group Limited (HKG:0027) (-26.6%), and Wynn Macau Ltd (HKG:1128) (-18.8%). In addition to our purchases in Asia, the Fund has found interesting new investments in both the U.S. and Europe, the details of which will be disclosed in upcoming Fund filings. We are also pleased to report that we have again identified what we believe to be a compelling arbitrage situation that offers a potential positive return above that of short-term cash equivalents. Stay tuned!
The views in this material were those of Fund management as of the date written and may be subject to change. This material should not be considered as an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy shares of any other funds or individual securities mentioned.
The Fund is subject to several risks, any of which could cause an investor to lose money. Please review the prospectus for a complete discussion of the Fund’s risks which include, but are not limited to, the following: possible loss of principal amount invested, stock market risk, interest rate risk, income risk, credit risk, currency risk, and foreign/ emerging market risk. These risks include currency fluctuations, economic or financial instability, lack of timely or reliable financial information or unfavorable political or legal developments. These risks are magnified in emerging markets. Short sale risk is the risk that the Fund will incur an unlimited loss if the price of a security sold short increases between the time of the short sale and the time the Fund replaces the borrowed security. In light of these risks, the Fund may not be suitable for all investors. The S&P 500 Index is a broad based unmanaged index representing the performance of 500 widely held common stocks. The MSCI World Index is a capitalization weighted index that is designed to measure the equity market performance of developed markets. One cannot invest directly in an index.
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