In April 2020, BBH Select Series – Large Cap Fund (“BBH Select” or “the Fund”) rose by 9.36%, which compared to a gain of 12.82% for the S&P 500 Index. Our top performer in the month was Alphabet Inc. and our largest detractor was A.J. Gallagher & Co. (“AJG”).
Alphabet shares rose throughout the month alongside a technology-led market rally. The company’s core advertising businesses had started the year strongly but slowed as the COVID-19 pandemic restricted commercial activity worldwide. Management noted that the company had exited March seeing a material slowdown in growth, but its businesses showed signs of stabilization in early April. Investors reacted very favorably to these indications of a potential recovery, but we continue to believe that caution is warranted by the circumstances. In our view, a return to growth in advertising will require a sustained rebound in economic activity, which in turn will depend on communities and businesses reopening in safe and responsible ways. Despite current uncertainties, Alphabet’s cash-rich balance sheet remains a source of stability, and we were pleased that management showed flexibility in accelerating planned share repurchases to take advantage of market weakness. We remain confident in Alphabet’s market position and its long-term growth opportunities.
AJG’s share price declined modestly during the month. First quarter earnings results were solid and demonstrated the resilience of the company against challenges in the current environment. In the Brokerage operation, actual organic growth remained robust but was moderated by accounting adjustments the company made in anticipation of the impact of COVID-19 on future revenues. Management anticipates challenging industry trends in coming quarters, but strong premium rate increases are expected to offset much of the anticipated drop in exposure units. Overall, organic growth in Brokerage could be flat to modestly negative for the next few quarters. However, given the efficiency measures the company is implementing, operating margins could be flat to slightly higher, blunting the impact of lower revenue on earnings. We believe that AJG has substantial competitive advantages and a proven ability to produce steady margin improvement over time. The company also has sufficient balance sheet liquidity, cash flow generation, and contingent sources of liquidity to withstand periods of sustained economic weakness, in our view.
Holdings are subject to change. Totals may not sum due to rounding.
Price/Earnings (P/E) ratio is a company’s current share price divided by earnings per-share.
Turnover ratio is the rate of trading in a portfolio; higher values imply more frequent trading.
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Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. ("BBH"), a New York limited partnership, was founded in 1818 and provides investment advice to registered mutual funds through a separately identifiable department (the "SID"). The SID is registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. BBH acts as the Fund Administrator and is located at 140 Broadway, New York, NY 10005.
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IM-07962-2020-05-13 BBH002966 Exp. Date 07/31/2020