U.S. Markets open in 4 hrs 33 mins

David Herro Comments on General Motors

- By Holly LaFon

Financial industry holdings, such as Lloyds, impaired portfolio return in 2018, and the consumer durables industry, including automobile manufacturers, was another that meaningfully detracted. We continue to believe that the automotive sector is attractively priced and that its business fundamentals are far outperforming share price outcomes. GM (GM) is the Fund's fifth-largest holding, which we purchased long before the company's late 2016 acquisition of Cruise Automation, its autonomous vehicle unit. In May, Softbank announced a $2.25 billion investment in Cruise to obtain an approximately 20% interest in that subsidiary. Given that GM had only paid $1 billion for this business, the implied increase in value in less than two years was nothing less than extraordinary. But Softbank was not the last to make such an investment. In October, Honda Motor also made an investment in Cruise at a price that implied an even larger valuation of the subsidiary: $14.6 billion. This value exceeds 20% of the total market value of GM, and all this for a business that has yet to produce revenues or earnings. GM now trades around the price as when it went public in 2010 ($33). Since then, the company has cumulatively earned more than $33 per share and paid out nearly $7 per share in dividends. Additionally, management has simplified the product lineup, exited poorly performing international markets and reduced the company's excess assembly capacity. Critics of the stock will point to economic cycle maturity, tariffs and the long-term threat from autonomous vehicles and ride-sharing. We think these concerns are overstated. By our estimate, nearly 75% of the company's earnings come from pickup trucks and large sport utility vehicles where GM has a dominant and protected competitive moat. We believe this segment is worth more than the current stock price even before giving credit for Cruise or the company's valuable China business. Selling at a very modest multiple of 2019 earnings and offering an attractive and well-supported dividend yield, GM remains a particularly compelling investment opportunity, in our view. We recognize that uncertainties surrounding Brexit could create a softer economic environment. To analyze this risk, we have factored in various adverse scenarios to gauge the potential effects on Lloyds' earnings and its capital, and as a result, we believe that the company will be able to navigate any short-term headwinds because of its strong earnings generation, conservative underwriting and large excess capital position. We estimate conservatively that Lloyds is trading at 5-6x reported 2020 earnings and approximately 0.8x its 2020 tangible book value. This is a highly discounted valuation for a best-in-class financial institution.

From David Herro (Trades, Portfolio)'s Oakmark Global Fund fourth-quarter 2018 shareholder letter.
This article first appeared on GuruFocus.