The world remains in a state of disequilibrium. While modern civilization has rarely found balance, the range of outcomes tied to central banks optimizing for future growth and political leaders navigating new domestic and international realities stands particularly wide. That makes our annual forecasting ritual more difficult. Last year’s prognostications of a resilient consumer and stubborn inflation proved correct, but a major conflict in Europe and the Federal Reserve’s war on inflation left our market optimism misplaced. Higher interest rates and the prospect of a recession spared neither stocks nor bonds and punished speculative fads along with blue chip stalwarts. For 2022, the S&P 500 was down 18%, nearly returning the index to its 2020 close.
The direction of markets in 2023 and beyond depends largely upon the answers to three questions: (a) will hot and cold conflicts in Ukraine and Taiwan, respectively, stay contained? (b) can the Fed return inflation to the low-single-digits without triggering deep economic and earnings recessions? and (c) given the altered political economic backdrop, what multiple should investors pay for stocks? Despite abysmal sentiment, market volatility remains subdued with inflation data driven rallies and sell-offs punctuating what has generally been a steady grind lower. We continue to await a market uplift (the so-called January effect) as tax loss selling abates.
Uncertainty in the board room and elevated borrowing costs curtailed deals and financial engineering. M&A normalized to pre-pandemic levels, totaling $3.6 trillion in 2022, down 32% from the record-breaking $5.1 trillion activity in 2021, excluding SPACs. Activity by both strategic and financial buyers reawakened late in the year as market dislocations presented bargains too enticing to resist. Portfolios benefited from several deals, including Philip Morris International’s recently completed acquisition of Swedish Match and the announced acquisition of Aerojet Rocketdyne (+20%) by L3 Harris Technologies, Aerojet’s second trip to the altar in as many years. A number of announced spin-offs, including Liberty Braves as an asset-backed company and a fourth separation involving Madison Square Garden could create future consolidation targets. The most active industries were Technology ($720 billion, or 20% of total dealmaking), Energy & Power (13% of deal volume), and Industrials (12% of deal volume). Private Equity accounted for a record 20% of M&A activity in 2022, with total value reaching $785 billion. The U.S. remained the top venue for M&A with deal activity totaling $1.5 trillion, or 43% of worldwide volumes, a similar proportion compared to 2021.
The contracting stock multiples, widening credit spreads and rising interest rates spared few asset classes. Convertibles were caught up in this storm, but there are some positive takeaways for our market. Specifically, convertibles outperformed their underlying equities this year, participating in only 56% of the downside.
The convertible market is now quite fixed income oriented with high yields, high premiums, and low deltas. While this is not the typical profile of our market, it presents a unique opportunity. At current levels, many convertibles should participate in very little equity downside from here. They offer yields to maturity that in many cases exceed the expected annual return of our market over the long term. Some of these issues are trading at double digit yields to maturity despite positive cash flows and growth opportunities. We have seen some companies that have addressed investor concerns by issuing more manageable converts and buying back or exchanging some percentage of their existing debt. This can be an accretive transaction for the company and usually improves the credit. One portfolio holding, Bandwidth, did a transaction like this during the quarter and it was one of our top performing convertibles as a result. As it becomes clear that a company is not on a path to bankruptcy the bonds will move higher regardless of the equity price. This is what we call a credit delta. Additionally, in the event that one of these companies is acquired, the bonds would be puttable at par. This would be a very attractive outcome for bond holders. We continue to look for value in this area of the market and have added a number of these issues to the portfolio.
After a record low year for convertible issuance in 2022, we expect the primary market to rebound this year. The issuance we saw in the fourth quarter came at attractive terms and we expect this to continue as there is a significant appetite among convertible investors for new paper. We believe many companies have delayed coming to the market and converts offer an attractive way for companies to add low cost capital to their balance sheets, particularly as interest rates move higher and other forms of financing such as High Yield become more expensive. Continued issuance allows us to stay current and we expect to selectively layer new issues into our portfolio to maintain the asymmetrical risk profile we are seeking to achieve.
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
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 ﬁnd 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 reﬂect the manager’s current view of future events, economic developments and ﬁnancial 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.