Performance Review 2008Martin Nilsson: "2008 was a fairly unique year in terms of both depth and width of the recession, which affected most global markets and sectors. The Nordic Stock markets were impacted by this, since there is a high concentration of export-oriented companies. Therefore the fund´s performance was negatively impacted, in absolute terms, due to weak performance in especially the Industry-, IT- and energy sectors.
We have focused on companies with strong balance sheets and relatively stable cash flows. As the crisis deepened, we reduced exposure to the banking sector. Our holding in the pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk and the insurance company Topdanmark contributed positively to the performance of the fund. Our holding in the Norwegian holding company Aker showed a weak performance and the company’s holding in Aker Solutions had a tough year."
Performance Review 2009
Martin Nilsson: "After a muted start, Nordic stock markets recovered strongly during the remainder of the year. Extensive global stimuli measures have helped to cushion the economic downturn. Our fund performed strongly during the period and exceeded the benchmark return with close to 9%.
We entered the year with a reasonably cautious view with limited exposure to cyclical and weakly capitalized companies. We utilized the weakness in the early part to add to some cyclical exposure, which proved to be a successful strategy. The holdings in FLSmidth, Konecranes and Outotec developed well. A common denominator for all these is a favourable business model and strong balance sheets. Among the banks, DnB NOR has weathered the crisis much better than the market initially feared, which benefited the relative return of the fund. Also the media company Schibsted has recovered strongly post announcing a large cost-cutting program."
Performance Review 2010
Martin Nilsson: "After a cautious start to the year, the Nordic stock markets developed strong in the second half. The industrial sector led the positive trend, driven by strong global GDP growth and significant profit improvements. In Europe, the differences between countries´ development has been evident. Germany, which has great importance for the Nordic exporters, have shown strength, while countries such as Greece and Ireland had to rely on financial support to manage their weak public finances.
The fund showed good absolute returns over the year, but didn’t exceed the benchmark. This was mainly because we had a quite high proportion of cyclical companies in the spring, when the stock market was weak. The fund showed, however, a strong recovery in the second half of the year.
Investments in well-managed companies with strong balance sheets, such as Novo Nordisk, Konecranes, SKF and Yara contributed to the returns of the fund."
Performance 2011 - Year-to-Date
Martin Nilsson: "The first quarter of the year saw a lot of profit taking, especially in the stocks and in the countries that performed really well during the second part of 2010. Among these we can find a lot of Nordic names and in general Nordic countries experienced lower market performances than for Southern European ones. As a result the fund returned -0.99%* during the first quarter and underperformed its index, the MSCI Nordic – Net Return Index, by 0.64%. Among the top contributing companies to the fund’s performance during the quarter, were Swedbank (rebounding after being punished for its Baltic exposure during the crisis), Statoil (benefited from the fact that the oil price was moving higher as a result of the political turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East) and Novo Nordisk (reporting of strong Q4 2010 results and announcement of new long-term targets which were significantly above market expectations).
We remain cautiously optimistic on the outlook for Nordic equity markets for the year as a whole, since Nordic companies have a good mix of exposure to strong domestic markets and to fast growing economies in the emerging markets. The companies, on average, have strong balance sheets, enabling further M&A and/or cash distribution. We closely monitor the development in Libya and the Middle East, as well as the price development for commodities. All in all, we believe that the outlook looks balanced and that stock picking will be very important for performance going forward."
Performance Review since 2008
Investment Process and Strategy – How does the Fund Manager invest?
Martin Nilsson: "Investment staff is highly experienced in the Nordic markets and in specific sectors/industries driving these markets. Nordea Group has a strong presence in these markets, and investment staff can leverage on the related advantage in terms of information sources.
Company visits including their customers, competitors, suppliers, authorities are key information sources in determining the stock specific bets. Supported by Nordea´s broad presence and strong asset base, the management team also gets easier access to these, with the size of the management company (Nordea) adding to the relevance as a meaningful counterpart.
The management team believes that it has an open and innovative process in relation to interpret information. Frequent company meetings (incl. their customers, competitors, suppliers, authorities) are key.
The investment process is built upon six steps:
• A quantitative screening process is utilised with the purpose to identify trends in earnings revisions and to find mispriced securities.
• The model has been back-tested and builds upon a belief that securities tend to get re-valued during periods of positive earnings surprises.
• The investment universe is not restricted to only the output from the screening process, but is a way to find interesting investment opportunities.
• In this part of the process, fundamental research is used to validate or disqualify an investment candidate. A large emphasis is put on understanding the value chain and the company’s current and potential position within the industry.
• The team meets with a large number of companies each year, both in conferences and site visits (approximately 200 company meetings per year and fund manager). The aim with these meetings is to verify that the management teams are committed to: create shareholder value, have interests that are aligned with investors and further improve the company’s position within the industry.
• Companies with a management team with a strong track record are preferred.
• For all positions in the fund, the fund managers have a strong opinion on the valuation. This is derived from a proprietary in-house valuation model (abnormal earnings model) and is verified through other valuation approaches that differ depending on the characteristics of the investment candidate. In some cases, a sum-of-the-parts approach might be interesting, whereas in others, relative valuation might prove more useful.
• The fundamental view on a certain stock determines the size of the position. If the fundamental value is much higher than the current value implied by the market and the down-side is viewed to be fairly limited, the position taken is often sizeable. The team tries to identify stocks with a strong risk-reward, but prefers to invest when the valuation can be complemented by a positive earnings trend.
• The position is reduced when the risk-reward turns more negative, i.e. when the stock reaches closer to the fundamental value.
• The investment process is mainly bottom-up driven. In the selection process, however, a large emphasis is put on portfolio characteristics. Even though a potential investment might look good as a stand-alone investment, it does not necessarily pass the selection process. This is because the fund managers focus on avoiding too many cross-correlated bets which might otherwise have impacted the risk/reward of the portfolio negatively.
• Stocks are selected from a risk/reward perspective. This means that a potential investment might be disqualified even though the fundamental value looks great if there are question marks around how large the potential down-side is and/or if the managers are uncomfortable with certain risks.
• The portfolio is constructed using, mainly, a bottom-up approach. Put simply, the stocks that offer the best risk/reward at any given time are the ones that end up with larger weights in the portfolio. When constructing the portfolio, the fund managers have a holistic approach and aim to create a portfolio with strong risk-reward characteristics. The aim is to reduce unwanted risk and to increase company specific risk according to the outcome of the first parts of the investment process.
Number of holdings: 40 - 65
Cash / equivalents: Maximum 10% of the portfolio´s value
Individual securities: Maximum 10% of the portfolio´s value
Country deviation: None
Other Restrictions: None
Portfolio construction is a four step approach as follows:
• Ensure that the portfolio construction is based on allocating asset to the positions that have the best fundamental upside as well as a potential to show a strong earnings trend.
• Decide individual companies weighting based on their valuation relative to peers and their absolute return potential.
• Take into account the tracking error and volatility, as well as liquidity.
• Simulate the portfolios sensitivity to macro and style factors before the final weight is decided.
Country and sector and currency allocation are a residual of our stock selection process, and are monitored for unintentional biases as part of our risk control process. Currency risk management is an integral part of the risk control process but active hedging does not form part of our investment process.
The most important factors in our portfolio monitoring process is; valuation, individual stock weighting, macro/micro trends, liquidity and volatility. Our research and risk department support the portfolio monitoring process by delivering portfolio analysis that flags all portfolio biases. This ensures that all portfolio exposures are intentional and reflect our strongest convictions.
Our risk controls can be divided into three parts.
Risk budgets are made by the portfolio managers to ensure a balanced spread of risk in the portfolios. This ex-ante analysis is internally developed in accordance with the investment process and derived from BARRA risk prognosis.
Risk measurements that always are included in the risk analysis are:
• Volatility – Total risk portfolio/Benchmark
• Tracking Error
Risk Management controls the actual exposures in the portfolios and secures correct replicated risk budget in the portfolios. The ex-post risk analysis is based on internally developed systems connected to FAME. Mathematical and statistical tools are not alone able to deliver adequate risk management. Like in all programs there are individually weaknesses and in particular they lack the capability to capture that the portfolios often replicate expected correlation between different exposures. Thereby an intuitive understanding of portfolio dynamics is necessary to complement the outcome of the risk analysis.
Investment Control is a special function within NIM&F that is responsible for ensuring that the portfolio managers’ follows the investment restriction outlined for each mandate. Investment Control revises funds and portfolios on a daily basis to control restrictions are followed. At any transgress Investment Control contacts responsible portfolio manager and his/her manager for measures."
Martin Nilsson: "In general, we don’t have a strong top-down view on a relative basis. However, we do note that the Nordic companies are currently benefitting from very strongly growing domestic economies as well as strong demand from emerging markets. The latter is quite important since the Nordic companies are quite export oriented and have a high exposure to markets such as China. By nature, they have less exposure to the “troubled” countries in Southern Europe and if the current trends continue, we believe that the Nordic region will continue to perform well compared to the rest of Europe
We believe that the Scandinavian stocks have a quite compelling valuation. Investors that are negative to the Scandinavian markets points to the fact that the price paid for current earnings are high compared to the European market. We believe that this is true, but think it is much more relevant to look at enterprise value multiples, since these take into account the strong balance sheets in the Nordic region. On this metric valuation looks quite compelling. Nordic companies have been very proactive on taking out costs in the past couple of years. As the economies and sales of the companies recovered, we have seen a very strong margin expansion from a majority of the companies. We believe that one of the most relevant factors to take into consideration for the future is the ability of the companies to keep cost control (despite signs of inflation) and the outlook for sales growth. We therefore spend a lot of time meeting the management of the companies to make sure that they have the right focus and that the margins can be preserved or expanded."