How To Invest Like Seth Klarman
Seth Klarman has gotten a lot of buzz this week on Wall Street for his skeptical words about stock market prospects under President Donald Trump. Klarman, who manages the $30 billion hedge fund Baupost, criticized Trump for his unpredictable and nationalistic policy decisions.
Say It Again: Trump Is The Embodiment Of Volatility
“The big picture for investors is this: Trump is high volatility, and investors generally abhor volatility and shun uncertainty,” Klarman wrote in a letter to investors.
Since 1982, Klarman has been one of the most consistent investors in the market, delivering gains in 31 of the past 34 years. However, his reputation for avoiding the media spotlight has allowed him to fly under the radar compared to fund managers like Warren Buffett and Carl Icahn.
It's About Value
Klarman is known for his long-term, value-oriented investment style. Because he rarely comments publicly or grants interviews, followers must piece together his philosophy based on tidbits of insight he has provided throughout the years.
“Value investing continues to be the best (and perhaps only) reliable North Star for those who are able to remain patient, long-term oriented, and risk averse,” he wrote to shareholders back in 2015.
Think Twice On Growth Stocks
Klarman has been highly critical of the types of growth stocks that have led the market in the nearly eight-year bull market.
“I think growth investing is a stupid style,” he once said. “Bet on the two horse at Philadelphia Park and you’ll do well from time to time.”
In a 2007 speech just prior to the financial crisis, Klarman warned of the dangers of growth investing.
“Growth investors — who pay a premium for the fastest-growing companies — don’t know what to do when the expected growth fails to materialize,” he said.
Stop. Breath. Then Act.
Patience is certainly one of several consistent themes in his investor letters and trading style throughout the years.
“The mistake some investors make is to accept the market’s immediate verdict as fact and not opinion, and become disappointed, even frustrated,” he wrote to shareholders after a rare down year in 2015.
Another theme of Klarman’s investing style is to take a stoic, calculated approach to investing and reduce the damage that emotional swings can do.
“The markets are often a tease, falsely reinforcing one’s confidence as prices rise and undermining it as they fall,” he wrote.
Manage Your Risk
Another one of Klarman’s major investing themes is risk mitigation.
“A margin of safety is achieved when securities are purchased at prices sufficiently below underlying value to allow for human error, bad luck, or extreme volatility in a complex, unpredictable and rapidly changing world,” he once wrote.
Klarman takes a very calculated approach to risk and prioritizes risk over return when assessing investments. He reportedly thinks of risk in terms of expected value: How much is the potential loss and what is the probability of it occurring?
Words Of Wisdom In Practice
With the market making new all-time highs in early 2017, Klarman clearly still sees value is certain segments of the market.
According to Baupost’s most recent 13F filing, three of Klarman’s top seven holdings are in the energy sector: Antero Resources Corp (NYSE: AR), Cheniere Energy, Inc. (NYSE: LNG) and PBF Energy Inc (NYSE: PBF).
In addition, Klarman is heavily invested in a number of biotech and pharma stocks, including Allergan plc Ordinary Shares (NYSE: AGN), Theravance Biopharma Inc (NASDAQ: TBPH) and Innovia Inc (NASDAQ: INVA).
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