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Why Polen Capital exited these positions in the December 2022 Quarter

Global stocks Polen Capital exited

Why Polen Capital exited these positions in the December 2022 Quarter

2022 was a challenging year in the market, particularly for growth stocks, and now we enter 2023 with the consensus expectation for a recession. Portfolio activity for the Polen Capital Global Growth Fund picked up during the fourth quarter of the year. Four long-term holdings were sold during the December 2022 quarter – Nike, Adidas, Starbucks, and Meta Platforms. Each of the exited positions were smaller weights within the portfolio, reflecting some concerns on outlook.

Meta Platforms

We liquidated our position in Meta Platforms during the quarter. We had trimmed the position a year ago after Zuckerberg announced an aggressive plan to accelerate internal investment into developing the Metaverse. The magnitude of the planned investment gave us pause, which led us to trim the weighting, but we maintained a small position because the core business remained healthy from our perspective, despite several challenges. The notable challenges during the past year were Apple platform changes, which made ad measurement and attribution more difficult, TikTok competition, very difficult growth comparisons from the prior year, and then more recently the online ad market starting to slow due to economic pressures.

While each of these are very real challenges, we felt that they were temporary headwinds that could be overcome and that Meta maintained a strong competitive position. Even in the most recently reported quarter, user growth and engagement on the platform look healthy. But the aggregate of these headwinds and now additional economic pressure continues to weigh on growth, and management has not been responsive to these realities. We would have expected that aggregate expenses and particularly long-term investments, like developing the Metaverse, would have been moderated to better match the growth of the business. However, the company is planning to grow expenses and investments at a shocking pace in 2023 in light of current realities. In short, this seems like a governance failure to us with management failing to balance stakeholders’ interests effectively.

Adidas

We liquidated our positions in Nike and Adidas as well. Adidas continues to face challenges that began before the onset of the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, Adidas had been intentionally slowing wholesale expansion to better align inventory with tier two and three cities with lower income in China. Management has admitted that, at the same time, the company didn’t invest enough in its brand heat to counter competition from both Nike and domestic Chinese brands. COVID forced Adidas to reset everything in the country, resulting in further inventory surpluses. On top of this, the company faced a serious backlash within China from the Xinjiang boycotts. This year has been an extension of these issues, which recently culminated with the announcement that CEO Kasper Rorsted is leaving sometime in 2023 once a suitable replacement can be found.

Nike

While we believe Nike remains a unique and advantaged business with solid long-term growth prospects, the company also faces a variety of challenges in the near term. In addition to ongoing challenges in China, due to zero-COVID policies, and substantial currency headwinds from the recent strengthening of the U.S. dollar, supply chain challenges have resulted in bloated inventories. The company will need to discount and liquidate some of its inventory to clear the way for new product in what may be a slowing and likely more promotional environment.

Starbucks

While the company remains a unique and resilient franchise, China is a very important growth market for the company, and zero-COVID policies have made it challenging for the company to operate in this important market. While we expect China to return to more “normal” operation at some point, any COVID flare-ups, in China or other markets, present a very real headwind to Starbucks’ profitability.

If you would like to learn more about the Polen Capital Global Growth Fund, please visit the fund’s web page to learn more: Polen Capital Global Growth Fund

Past performance is not an indicator of future performance. Returns are not guaranteed and so the value of an investment may rise or fall.

This report has been prepared for the purpose of providing general information, without taking into account your particular objectives, financial circumstances or needs. The issuer of units in the Polen Capital Global Growth Fund (ARSN: 647 518 723) is the Fund’s responsible entity Fundhost Limited (ABN 69 092 517 087) (AFSL: 233045). The Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) contains all of the details of the offer. Copies of the PDS and Target Market Definition (TMD) are available from Montgomery Investment Management, contactable on (02) 8046 5000 or at www.montinvest.com and at https:// fundhost.com.au/ An investment in the Fund must be through a valid paper or online application form accompanying the PDS. Before making any decision to make or hold any investment in the Fund you should consider the PDS and TMD in full. The information provided is general in nature and does not take into account your investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs. You should consider your own investment objectives, financial situation and particular needs before acting upon this information and consider seeking advice from a licensed financial advisor if necessary.You should not base an investment decision simply on past performance. The investment returns of the Fund are not guaranteed, and so the value of an investment may rise or fall.  

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Established in 1979, Polen Capital is a high conviction growth investment manager with offices in the US and UK. Polen has been dedicated to serving investors by providing concentrated portfolios of the highest-quality companies for more than three decades. The firm’s established team manages US$71 billion in total assets and their longest-running flagship investment strategy has delivered on average double digit annual returns for more than 30 years.

This post was contributed by a representative of Montgomery Investment Management Pty Limited (AFSL No. 354564). The principal purpose of this post is to provide factual information and not provide financial product advice. Additionally, the information provided is not intended to provide any recommendation or opinion about any financial product. Any commentary and statements of opinion however may contain general advice only that is prepared without taking into account your personal objectives, financial circumstances or needs. Because of this, before acting on any of the information provided, you should always consider its appropriateness in light of your personal objectives, financial circumstances and needs and should consider seeking independent advice from a financial advisor if necessary before making any decisions. This post specifically excludes personal advice.

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