Last updated: 05:45 / Wednesday, 28 July 2021
Column by Gabelli Funds

Reasons to Remain Optimistic in the Convertible Space

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  • U.S. stocks gained for a fifth straight quarter, the longest run since 2007, and this year’s first-half performance was second only to 1998.
  • Mergers and acquisitions activity remained vibrant in the second quarter with $1.6 trillion in announced deals - a new record – bringing global deal volume in the first half to $2.8 trillion, also a record.
  • Convertibles remain a very attractive way for companies to raise capital quickly at agreeable terms, and we anticipate that 2021 will be another year of strong issuance. 

The U.S. equity market set new records during the second quarter with the benchmark S&P 500 index marking its 34th record close of the year on the last day of June.  U.S. stocks gained for a fifth straight quarter, the longest run since 2007, and this year’s first-half performance was second only to 1998. According to BofA, ‘stocks were the only major asset class with positive returns in 1H.’

The Fed’s aggressive monetary policy has forced short-term nominal U.S. interest rates down close to zero percent. The Fed is buying $80 billion of U.S. Treasuries and $40 billion mortgage bonds a month, swelling its balance sheet.  The mid-month June FOMC statement surprised the markets by pulling tapering expectations for the first rise in short rates forward, citing strength in the U.S economy from vaccinations progress, strong fiscal and monetary stimulus, and the ongoing recovery in sectors hardest hit by the pandemic.  With a focus on upcoming U.S. employment and economic releases, the Fed may have to shorten its taper lift-off date again as reverse repo market pressures continue to rise.

Evercore ISI’s economist Ed Hyman writes: The Pandemic Recession has been counted as a recession by the NBER, albeit totally unique with the biggest plunge ever, the shortest recession ever, and the sharpest rebound ever. Nonetheless, the most likely path forward is a typical expansion which have lasted 5 to 10 years.

Mergers and acquisitions activity remained vibrant in the second quarter with $1.6 trillion in announced deals - a new record – bringing global deal volume in the first half to $2.8 trillion, also a record. Market conditions remain conducive for continued M&A including historically low interest rates, accommodative debt markets and a desire to better compete globally. We realized gains on deals that closed including Corelogic, Extended Stay, Signature Aviation, and Cooper Tire. Newly announced deals in June include Lydal’s acquisition by Clearlake Capital for $1.3 billion, Cloudera’s acquisition by KKR and CD&R for $5 billion and CAI International’s acquisition by Mitsubishi Capital for $1 billion. We remain constructive on the M&A market and our ability to earn absolute returns.

Streaming wars and Tech, Media and Telecom deals will be heating up in Sun Valley, Idaho during a five-day conference which started July 6th.  Media moguls from major companies including Netflix, Walt Disney, Discovery, Amazon, WarnerMedia, Comcast, ViacomCBS, Lions Gate, News Corp, and Fox were in attendance, bringing potential deals and the future of media to the spotlight.

In the convertible securities space, performance improved in June as underlying equities moved higher. Issuance continued at a more normal pace than the record numbers occurring earlier in this year. Convertibles remain a very attractive way for companies to raise capital quickly at agreeable terms, and we anticipate that 2021 will be another year of strong issuance. The global market for convertibles is approaching $600 Billion USD, with the US accounting for nearly 3/4 of the total outstanding.

Globally, convertibles have become very equity sensitive this year, with 54% in what we would consider equity equivalent issues, only 34% in total return issues and 12% in fixed income equivalent. By comparison, we remain focused on total returns for our shareholders, with 22% of the fund in equity equivalent issues, 72% in total return, and 6% in fixed income equivalent. As a result our portfolio has a 2.2% yield, 25% premium, 61 delta and average price of 120. The global convertible universe yields 1.4% with a 24% premium, 64 delta, and 129 average price. By picking up yield but maintaining a similar conversion premium and delta closer to par, we believe this more balanced mix of holdings will help us participate in further equity upside while still offering the asymmetrical return profile that makes convertibles attractive investments.

For the month of June, our top contributors to fund performance included QTS Realty and Splunk. QTS Realty is a data center provider that is being acquired by Blackstone Group. The stock was up sharply on the news and the convertible preferred moved higher as well due to its equity sensitivity. Splunk provides software for data analytics and security. The stock moved higher on news of a strategic investment from Silver Lake. Top detractors from performance this month included Southwest Airlines and JetBlue. Both of these airlines had moved higher in anticipation of travel accelerating, but the stocks and convertibles moved lower despite positive headlines in the month of June

 

 

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To access our proprietary value investment methodology, and dedicated merger arbitrage portfolio we offer the following UCITS Funds in each discipline:

GAMCO MERGER ARBITRAGE

GAMCO Merger Arbitrage UCITS Fund, launched in October 2011, is an open-end fund incorporated in Luxembourg and compliant with UCITS regulation. The team, dedicated strategy, and record dates back to 1985. The objective of the GAMCO Merger Arbitrage Fund is to achieve long-term capital growth by investing primarily in announced equity merger and acquisition transactions while maintaining a diversified portfolio. The Fund utilizes a highly specialized investment approach designed principally to profit from the successful completion of proposed mergers, takeovers, tender offers, leveraged buyouts and other types of corporate reorganizations. Analyzes and continuously monitors each pending transaction for potential risk, including: regulatory, terms, financing, and shareholder approval.

Merger investments are a highly liquid, non-market correlated, proven and consistent alternative to traditional fixed income and equity securities. Merger returns are dependent on deal spreads. Deal spreads are a function of time, deal risk premium, and interest rates. Returns are thus correlated to interest rate changes over the medium term and not the broader equity market. The prospect of rising rates would imply higher returns on mergers as spreads widen to compensate arbitrageurs. As bond markets decline (interest rates rise), merger returns should improve as capital allocation decisions adjust to the changes in the costs of capital.

Broad Market volatility can lead to widening of spreads in merger positions, coupled with our well-researched merger portfolios, offer the potential for enhanced IRRs through dynamic position sizing. Daily price volatility fluctuations coupled with less proprietary capital (the Volcker rule) in the U.S. have contributed to improving merger spreads and thus, overall returns. Thus our fund is well positioned as a cash substitute or fixed income alternative.

Our objectives are to compound and preserve wealth over time, while remaining non-correlated to the broad global markets. We created our first dedicated merger fund 32 years ago. Since then, our merger performance has grown client assets at an annualized rate of  approximately 10.7% gross and 7.6% net since 1985. Today, we manage assets on behalf of institutional and high net worth clients globally in a variety of fund structures and mandates.

Class I USD - LU0687944552
Class I EUR - LU0687944396
Class A USD - LU0687943745
Class A EUR - LU0687943661
Class R USD - LU1453360825
Class R EUR - LU1453361476

GAMCO ALL CAP VALUE

The GAMCO All Cap Value UCITS Fund launched in May, 2015 utilizes Gabelli’s its proprietary PMV with a Catalyst™ investment methodology, which has been in place since 1977. The Fund seeks absolute returns through event driven value investing. Our methodology centers around fundamental, research-driven, value based investing with a focus on asset values, cash flows and identifiable catalysts to maximize returns independent of market direction. The fund draws on the experience of its global portfolio team and 35+ value research analysts.

GAMCO is an active, bottom-up, value investor, and seeks to achieve real capital appreciation (relative to inflation) over the long term regardless of market cycles. Our value-oriented stock selection process is based on the fundamental investment principles first articulated in 1934 by Graham and Dodd, the founders of modern security analysis, and further augmented by Mario Gabelli in 1977 with his introduction of the concepts of Private Market Value (PMV) with a Catalyst™ into equity analysis. PMV with a Catalyst™ is our unique research methodology that focuses on individual stock selection by identifying firms selling below intrinsic value with a reasonable probability of realizing their PMV’s which we define as the price a strategic or financial acquirer would be willing to pay for the entire enterprise.  The fundamental valuation factors utilized to evaluate securities prior to inclusion/exclusion into the portfolio, our research driven approach views fundamental analysis as a three pronged approach:  free cash flow (earnings before, interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, or EBITDA, minus the capital expenditures necessary to grow/maintain the business); earnings per share trends; and private market value (PMV), which encompasses on and off balance sheet assets and liabilities. Our team arrives at a PMV valuation by a rigorous assessment of fundamentals from publicly available information and judgement gained from meeting management, covering all size companies globally and our comprehensive, accumulated knowledge of a variety of sectors. We then identify businesses for the portfolio possessing the proper margin of safety and research variables from our deep research universe.

Class I USD - LU1216601648
Class I EUR - LU1216601564
Class A USD - LU1216600913
Class A EUR - LU1216600673
Class R USD - LU1453359900
Class R EUR - LU1453360155

GAMCO CONVERTIBLE SECURITIES

GAMCO Convertible Securities’ objective is to seek to provide current income as well as long term capital appreciation through a total return strategy by investing in a diversified portfolio of global convertible securities.

The Fund leverages the firm’s history of investing in dedicated convertible security portfolios since 1979.

The fund invests in convertible securities, as well as other instruments that have economic characteristics similar to such securities, across global markets (but the fund will not invest in contingent convertible notes). The fund may invest in securities of any market capitalization or credit quality, including up to 100% in below investment grade or unrated securities, and may from time to time invest a significant amount of its assets in securities of smaller companies. Convertible securities may include any suitable convertible instruments such as convertible bonds, convertible notes or convertible preference shares.

By actively managing the fund and investing in convertible securities, the investment manager seeks the opportunity to participate in the capital appreciation of underlying stocks, while at the same time relying on the fixed income aspect of the convertible securities to provide current income and reduced price volatility, which can limit the risk of loss in a down equity market.

Class I USD          LU2264533006

Class I EUR          LU2264532966

Class A USD        LU2264532701

Class A EUR        LU2264532610

Class R USD         LU2264533345

Class R EUR         LU2264533261

Class F USD         LU2264533691

Class F EUR         LU2264533428 

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The information and any opinions have been obtained from or are based on sources believed to be reliable but accuracy cannot be guaranteed. No responsibility can be accepted for any consequential loss arising from the use of this information. The information is expressed at its date and is issued only to and directed only at those individuals who are permitted to receive such information in accordance with the applicable statutes. In some countries the distribution of this publication may be restricted. It is your responsibility to nd out what those restrictions are and observe them.

Some of the statements in this presentation may contain or be based on forward looking statements, forecasts, estimates, projections, targets, or prognosis (“forward looking statements”), which reect the manager’s current view of future events, economic developments and nancial performance. Such forward looking statements are typically indicated by the use of words which express an estimate, expectation, belief, target or forecast. Such forward looking statements are based on an assessment of historical economic data, on the experience and current plans of the investment manager and/or certain advisors of the manager, and on the indicated sources. These forward looking statements contain no representation or warranty of whatever kind that such future events will occur or that they will occur as described herein, or that such results will be achieved by the fund or the investments of the fund, as the occurrence of these events and the results of the fund are subject to various risks and uncertainties. The actual portfolio, and thus results, of the fund may differ substantially from those assumed in the forward looking statements. The manager and its affiliates will not undertake to update or review the forward looking statements contained in this presentation, whether as result of new information or any future event or otherwise.

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