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Equity Perspectives

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Portfolio Manager Sean Aurigemma talks about how his research team uncovers attractive opportunities in equities. 

Transcript

Narrator: This is Lord Abbett's Portfolio Commentary.

Mike Weldon: This is Mike Weldon, Partner and Director of Marketing at Lord Abbett. Joining me today is Sean Aurigemma, Portfolio Manager. Sean welcome, thanks for being here today. Before we get into the portfolio, I would like to talk to the viewers a little bit about the resources that we have here to support you and Deepak Khanna who is listed as your Co-portfolio Manager. Can you talk a little bit about what's behind you and Deepak?

Sean Aurigemma: Sure, clearly we've augmented the resources over the past several years. We're fully aligned with the domestic equity research group. This is a 20 person strong team with about 20 year's average experience so these are industry experts across the market that are working as almost extensions of our team. They give us great insight and allow us to have high conviction in the calls we make on stocks. Not only that, we get the benefit of having some very talented colleagues in the small and smid-capitalization area and with that their insights and their relationships with management teams and their insights into valuation in companies helps us because we are a multi-cap value product. So it's great to have both PM's and analysts work with us as in a very team-oriented environment.

So what we try to do with this group is we meet all the time and we try to leverage the best insights and come up with actionable ideas in the portfolio.

Mike Weldon: Okay, now talk a little bit about the process and the philosophy behind the portfolio.

Sean Aurigemma: Sure, the philosophy and process is one where we clearly view ourselves as being active managers with certain strengths. What are those strengths? Well, one would be identifying growth catalysts. The second would be identifying inflection points. The third would be understanding valuation ranges for stocks.

What do I mean by growth catalysts? We think ultimately stock prices are driven by growth, whether it's value or growth--growth drives stock prices. It's the catalyst and the timing behind that and that's what we think we're good at ferreting out.

As far as looking at inflection points, whether it's in the business model or financial metrics, we're trying to identify what is changing on the margin. That's what we spend a lot of our time with analysts focusing on. What part of the business is inflecting and where are the drivers? Then we dig down to make sure we understand what those drivers are before we take positions in certain names.

Lastly, is the appropriate valuation ranges or effective turning points. We think we're very good at coming up with that. It's part of our buy and sell discipline that has been embedded in this process for a very long time. If I think about portfolio construction, and that's a big part of the philosophy and process, how do we actually construct a portfolio?

The first thing I would say is that we concentrate our weightings in our highest conviction names where we really believe that the risk/rewards is in our favor. We're looking to invest across the market cap. That gives us a higher degree of freedom than most portfolio managers have. We don't have to just pick a big stock because it's in the index. We can look for those stocks that have the best attributes of growth and return. Not only that, within this we look at the mid-cap areas, that's kind of our sweet spot, not so small that we can't take a position but still has a lot of growth in front of it that can drive the stock into the large cap space.

What we're really trying to do is ascertain where we are different. Where is the variant perception from the consensus thinking on the street? That's when we work with the analysts that are industry experts to identify where we are different and then where we can make an investment where we think we can take a big position.

Lastly, we are trying to determine what is implied by the current stock price. What are the growth expectations? What are the returns that are implied by the stock price, do we believe that and is there a high degree of difficulty in achieving those expectations? That provides some downside support in the portfolio.

If I think about business drivers in the portfolio, it's all the things you hear about but it tends to be companies that are benefitting from secular change, secular wind at their back. We don't want companies that are in secular decline as a pool to look at. Again, that's driven by what is in their underlying business, are they in a secular growth area? They have to have a history of being good capital allocators so they don't destroy value. They have to have an ability or a business model that is positioned or might be positioned to take price, so pricing power, or in our view, that will take share from competitors. So if they are not taking share they better be able to take price because there are some very competitive industries that we invest in. We want to see high or improving returns on invested capital above a company's cost of capital or how they fund their business. That shows that they are creating economic value, not just gap or accounting value and also improving or imbedded franchise value. What I mean by that is what would an acquirer, what would an outside person whether it's a financial buyer like a private equity or whether it's a strategic buyer, another company, what would they pay for these assets if they wanted to take it out or have a controlled premium? That also informs our valuation.

Lastly, as far as financial drivers, I just talked about business drivers that we care about, the financial drivers tend to be the metrics that you think about but it's inflection points, revenues that are accelerating. Why are they accelerating? Where? Is it in volumes? Is it in margins? Are they lowering costs? Is there leverage, margin expansions so can they take some costs out of the business? Is there a positive delta on the return on invested capital versus the cost of capital? As I said before, are they good at allocating capital? Are they smart enough to know that if they can't invest in organic growth and they can't find deals that are attractive that they will give the capital back to shareholders? A lot of our investment themes and a thesis we have for individual companies are about returning capital to shareholders right now, as soon as possible. We think that's playing out, as far as dividend increases, in a very low yield environment.

Mike Weldon: Okay, now before we get to some of the themes and the characteristics of the portfolio, can you just take a moment, quickly, and tell us your's and the team's view of the macro environment?

Sean Aurigemma: Sure, so we are cautiously optimistic. We think fear has been somewhat removed from the market. The old fear we talked about that was causing, kind of, irrational behavior in the market. We're more U.S. centric than we are global growth but on the margin we have been adding to global growth.

We look at some data and we look at discount rates, the rates that you discount cash flows back. For a while they had blown out in the credit crisis to levels that were close to 300 basis points. Well they've come in now where market derived discount rates are sitting almost right on top of fundamental discount rates which tells us that fear has been somewhat driven out of the market and now it's really about earnings growth and companies accelerating. Where we find the most value in the market is in those cyclical companies that have lagged and in global growth outside of the U.S. So not necessarily companies that are outside the U.S. but companies that derive the lion's share or more of their growth from being international. So, the incremental buys in the portfolio have been cyclical and global growth.

Mike Weldon: Okay, now I know this is not a portfolio where you start with a theme and then pick stocks, it's really the opposite, a bottom up process, but I know that leads to some pretty interesting themes and some pretty compelling characteristics in the portfolio. Can you talk about those?

Sean Aurigemma: Sure, so we've always felt, at least for a year or so, that the fundamental battle was in the healthcare space. There was a lot of uncertainty in the global markets and we felt that if you really wanted to be able to differentiate and not worry about the macro whipping up or down, health care was the place to be and we had a significant overweight. In there, we are very diversified but we have three key themes that we are working with in health care that has done very well for the portfolio.

The first one is companies that are controlling costs. It's almost as if you are helping the government bend the cost curve. There are several companies in the portfolio that are doing just that--helping the company cut costs. Also, companies that are helping benefit or addressing unmet needs. This is kind of like orphan drugs within the biotech space. They are very attractive for buyers so these are potential take out candidates. But really they are companies that are doing something where, the drug is generally already out there but we're betting on the penetration or we're gauging the penetration. You don't really have pricing pressure in those because these are meeting unmet needs.

Lastly, increase in volumes due to healthcare reform, companies that benefit from volumes that will come through the system. Those are the three key things, within health care, which is one of our biggest bets.

We also have a big bet in consumer discretionary. That is split up between companies that are benefiting from demographics, living well and also the increase in household formation. Then there's also cable and content that we're very focused on and that represents most of what is going on in our consumer discretionary.

The overall portfolio, I would want to point out, has certain characteristics that have remained for a long time and is part of philosophy and process of looking for quality companies. We tend to have a portfolio that has growth attributes above the market, so the growth in our portfolio, for example one year out, is about 13%, the growth in earnings. Whereas at the market it's about 7%. The return on equity for our portfolio, over the last five years, has averaged about 100 basis points better than the Russell 3000 Value Index. So higher growth, higher returns, but you're doing that at a valuation that's not stretched. Some people pay up for that, we're very cautious on valuation, that's part of our downside protection and always worrying about preserving capital.

So we're getting better growth in the market, higher returns but our average PE is about 13.3%, the Russell 3000 Value is about 12.9%. So good growth, good returns, but at about the market multiple.

Mike Weldon: Okay, thanks very much Sean. This has been Lord Abbett's Portfolio Commentary, thanks for watching.

Narrator: For more information on this topic, or to access other videos, audio files, articles or commentary, please explore Lordabbett.com.

A Note about Risk:
Although the Fund invests a significant portion in large cap company stocks, it also invests in mid cap and small cap company stocks, which tend to be more volatile and less liquid than large cap company stocks. Mid cap and small cap companies typically experience higher risk of failure than large cap companies. Investments in multinational companies generally pose greater risks than those of domestic companies, including market, liquidity, currency, and political risks. These factors can affect Fund performance.

Additional Risks to Consider:
The value of investments in equity securities will fluctuate in response to general economic conditions and to changes in the prospectus of particular companies and/or sectors in the economy. Investing in international securities generally poses greater risk than investing in domestic securities, including greater price fluctuations and higher transaction costs. Special risks are inherent to international investing, including those related to currency fluctuations and foreign, political, and economic events. While growth stocks are subject to the daily ups and downs of the stock market, their long-term potential as well as their volatility can be substantial. Value investing involves the risk that the market may not recognize that securities are undervalued, and they may not appreciate as anticipated. No investing strategy can overcome all market volatility or guarantee future results.

Dividends are not guaranteed and may be increased, decreased, or suspended altogether at the discretion of the issuing company.

The portfolio may not perform in a similar manner under similar conditions in the future.

All portfolio characteristics data mentioned in this video are as of August 30, 2013.

The portfolio is actively managed and may change significantly over time.

As of June 30, 2013 the average industry experience for the team was 20 years.

Higher returns mentioned refer to return on equity.

The reference of "the market" when compared to the portfolio is based on the Russell 3000 Value Index.

The source for discount rates levels nearing 300 basis points is Credit Suisse HOLT.

The source for the portfolio's return on equity over the last five years averaging 100 basis points better than the Russell 3000 Value Index is Russell.

The source for the portfolio's average price-earnings (PE) at 13.3% compared to 12.9% for the Russell 3000 Value Index is BNY Mellon.

Glossary of Terms

Delta is the ratio comparing the change in the price of the underlying asset to the corresponding change in the price of a derivative. It is sometimes referred to as the "hedge ratio."

Orphan Drugs refers to drugs that are targeted to cure rare diseases.

Basis Point is a financial unit of measurement that is 1/100th of 1%.

Price-Earnings Ratio is the valuation ratio of a company's current share price compared to its per-share earnings. It is sometimes referred to as "price multiple" because it shows how much investors are willing to pay per dollar of earnings.

Return on Equity is the amount of net income returned as a percentage of shareholders equity. Return on equity measures a corporation's profitability by revealing how much profit a company generates with the money shareholders have invested.

The Russell 3000® Value Index measures the performance of those Russell 3000 Index companies with lower price-to-book ratios and lower forecasted growth values. The stocks in this index are also members of either the Russell 1000 Value or the Russell 2000 Value indexes.

Market Derived Discount Rate is what the discount rate "should" be, given long-term average returns and today's level of inflation and taxes.

Fundamental Discount Rate is based on historical debt and equity returns and inflation and tax rates. The spread between the two series quantifies "other" risks beyond inflation and taxes that are currently priced into the market.

This broadcast serves as reference material for information purposes only; does not constitute an offer to acquire, solicitation for an offer to acquire, an offer to sell or solicitation for an offer to buy any securities, nor is intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research, or investment advice on any securities, and cannot be used for any of the foregoing.

The views and opinions expressed by the Lord Abbett speaker are those of the speaker as of the date of the broadcast, and do not necessarily represent the views of the firm as a whole. Any such views are subject to change at any time based upon market or other conditions and Lord Abbett disclaims any responsibility to update such views. Neither Lord Abbett nor the Lord Abbett speaker can be responsible for any direct or incidental loss incurred by applying any of the information offered.

The value of investments and any income from them is not guaranteed and may fall as well as rise, and an investor may not get back the amount originally invested. Please consult your investment professional for additional information concerning your specific situation.

This broadcast is the copyright © 2013 of Lord, Abbett & Co. LLC. All Rights Reserved. This recording may not be reproduced in whole or in part or any form without the permission of Lord Abbett. Lord Abbett mutual funds are distributed by Lord Abbett Distributor LLC.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON ANY LORD ABBETT FUNDS, CONTACT YOUR INVESTMENT PROFESSIONAL OR LORD ABBETT DISTRIBUTOR LLC AT 888-522-2388, OR VISIT US AT WWW.LORDABBETT.COM FOR A PROSPECTUS WHICH CONTAINS IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT A FUND'S INVESTMENT GOALS, SALES CHARGES, EXPENSES AND RISKS THAT AN INVESTOR SHOULD CONSIDER AND READ CAREFULLY BEFORE INVESTING.

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