Wintergreen Fund 2015 Semi-Annual Letter To ShareholdersVW Staff
For the period ending June 30, 2015, the Fund’s 1-year, 5-year, and since inception (10/17/05) average annual returns for the Investor Class were -13.97%, 7.24%, and 5.64%, respectively, and the 1-year, and since inception (12/30/11) average annual return for the Institutional Class were -13.72%, and 4.57%, respectively. Performance data quoted represents past performance and is no guarantee of future results. Current performance may be lower or higher than the performance data quoted. Investment return and principal value will fluctuate so that an investor’s shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than original cost. Shares redeemed within 60 days of purchase are subject to a 2.00% redemption fee. As stated in the current prospectus, the Fund’s total annual operating expense ratio for Investor Class shares (WGRNX) is 1.89%, and Institutional Class shares (WGRIX) is 1.65%.
Wintergreen Fund Releases Semi-Annual Report to Shareholders
New York – (BUSINESS WIRE) – Wintergreen Fund, Inc. has released its 2015 Semi-Annual Report. The shareholder letter appears below and is also available at http://www.wintergreenfund.com.
Dear Fellow Wintergreen Fund Shareholder,
As we look forward to the second half of 2015, we have been very encouraged by recent news and results. While we try not to emphasize or focus on short-term news flow, it is encouraging to see that a substantial portion of the Wintergreen Fund Inc.’s (NASDAQ: WGRNX, NASDAQ: WGRIX, the “Fund” or “Wintergreen”) holdings have reported favorable trends or positive news — including core long-term Fund holdings in Swatch, Altria Group, Reynolds American and Google.
You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…
– Dr. Seuss
Wintergreen has remained disciplined when applying our investment criteria, which will be very familiar to our long time followers:
First, a business that has good or improving economics, and often generates sales and profits in multiple jurisdictions and currencies;
Second, a management team that is working for the benefit of all long-term shareholders and not just for its own short-term compensation; and
Third, the security is available at a compelling price.
If any one of these factors begins to deteriorate or otherwise changes in a company or sector, we re-evaluate the investment.
Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better.
– Sydney J. Harris
In the case of gaming in Macau, which for several years experienced a boom, the economics of the business slowly began to drain away with the advent of the so-called austerity regime under Chinese
President Xi Jinping. Without a firm or improving business environment for gaming companies, it is very difficult for casino stocks to perform well. We sold our entire position in SJM Holdings Ltd. (HKEx: 0880) during the second half of 2014, and sold our entire position of Wynn Macau Ltd. (HKEx: 1128) and the majority of our holding in Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd. (HKEx: 0027) in the first quarter of 2015. We continue to carefully monitor this sector, as we believe there is enormous potential once the governmental restrictions are relaxed. Over the last several years we have devoted much time on the ground in Macau getting to know the leading players and how they operate. When the casino sector revitalizes we will stand ready to select the best investments for you.
To be is to be the value of a variable.
– Willard Van Orman Quine
Google, which had for a time been an underperformer while seemingly the rest of the tech sector rallied, is transitioning into a new phase of fiscal responsibility with the hiring of Ruth Porat, former Chief Financial Officer of Morgan Stanley. She is the key variable that brings greater professionalization in the massive company’s financial conduct, which means a greater focus on returning cash to shareholders instead of chasing founder ideas that are outside Google’s core business. With the recent announcement of the establishment of Alphabet Inc. as a parent company, which effectively separates Google from all the other non-core businesses, it appears that a new era of financial stewardship has begun. The increased clarity that this reorganization provides is a boost to our view that Google scores well in our three-prong investment criteria.
The value of experience is not in seeing much, but in seeing wisely.
– William Osler
When we look across Europe in our search for value, we usually end up in Switzerland or the United Kingdom, not Eurozone countries. This is partly because of the strength of certain Swiss and U.K. brands around the world, but also because of the basic fact that the Eurozone is only as strong as its weakest link. For the last few years, the markets have viewed one member country as the most vulnerable, and eventually the enormous debt problem in Greece will need to be addressed. In the meantime, we are confident in our current positions in the companies that bring you such things as Omega watches (Swatch), Cartier rings (Compagnie Financiere Richemont SA), and Haagen-Dazs ice cream (Nestle SA).
The value of an idea lies in the using of it.
– Thomas A. Edison
Here at Wintergreen, we take pride in ourselves as active investment managers. Active management involves much due diligence in studying individual companies’ business models; balance sheets; end markets and competitive forces; management capabilities and orientation toward shareholders; and many other pieces of concrete or nuanced information. This is why we initiated a position for the Fund in a kindred investment manager based in London. Jupiter Fund Management PLC (LSE: JUP, “Jupiter”), with approximately $54 billion in assets under management as of June 30, 2015, is also an active manager that shuns the index investing approach. Like us, it also espouses a ‘go-anywhere’ strategy for long-term results with a focus on intrinsic valuation of individual securities. If index investing collapses under its own weight, the Fund’s position in Jupiter should shine.
A truth that disheartens because it is true is of more value than the most stimulating of falsehoods.
– Maurice Maeterlinck
It is truly disheartening for us to witness the negative impact of Big Index on the US economy. As we have discussed in our recent commentary and Big Index report (more information is available at http://www.wintergreenfund.com/news/2015/0430-indexation), we believe that the market rally of the past few years has been narrowly focused in a small percentage of securities — primarily in the technology and the biotech/pharmaceutical industries. As we have remained disciplined to our deep value philosophy, these are simply not areas that we are comfortable with investing our clients’ hard earned money. While this has impacted performance during this period, we believe that there is a tremendous danger to investing in these momentum securities — in our view this current period feels very similar to the internet bubble of 2000. As we all remember, investors in tech stocks during that period suffered staggering losses when the bubble burst. We firmly believe that the current mania of index investing will one day end badly.
Although this is a challenging period for disciplined buy-and-hold value investors, we remain confident that our investment process should deliver satisfying results over time. While many of the Fund’s holdings remain unloved or overlooked by the broader market today, we are very encouraged by the recent news and believe the Fund’s prospects are very bright. Some of the Fund’s holdings have low valuations that the crowd has ignored, choosing instead to focus on the momentum bubble. We have a long-term perspective and are enthusiastic in our belief in true value. Thank you for your continued investment in the Fund.
David J. Winters, CFA
Before investing you should carefully consider the Fund’s investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses. This and other information is in the prospectus and summary prospectus, a copy of which may be obtained by visiting the Fund’s website at www.wintergreenfund.com. Please read the prospectus and summary prospectus carefully before you invest.
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.
For the period ending June 30, 2015, the Fund’s Top Ten Equity Holdings were: Reynolds American Inc. (NYSE: RAI), 8.3%; Consolidated-Tomoka Land Co. (NYSE: CTO), 7.5%; British American Tobacco plc (LSE: BATS), 7.1%; Compagnie Financiere Richemont SA (SIX: CFR), 6.6%; Franklin Resources Inc. (NYSE: BEN), 6.4%; Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (TMX: CNQ), 5.9%; Nestlé SA, Registered (SIX: NESN), 5.3%; Altria Group Inc. (NYSE: MO), 4.8%; Swatch Group AG* (SIX: UHR, SIX: UHRN), 4.7%; Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd. (HKEx: 0016), 4.1%. *Includes Swatch Group AG Bearer and Registered shares.
The views contained in this report are those of the Fund’s portfolio manager as of June 30, 2015, and may not reflect his views on the date this report is first published or anytime thereafter. The preceding examples of specific investments are included to illustrate the Fund’s investment process and strategy. There can be no assurance that such investments will remain represented in the Fund’s portfolios. Holdings and allocations are subject to risks and to change. The views described herein do not constitute investment advice, are not a guarantee of future performance, and are not intended as an offer or solicitation with respect to the purchase or sale of any security.
Foreside Fund Services, LLC, distributor.
Wintergreen Advisers, LLC
Bryant Park Financial Communications
Richard Mahony, 917-257-6811
Bill McBride, 917-239-6726