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Author: Cole Heideman

Dividend Growth Summary

Note: LTM Dividend Growth is the median of the actual trailing 12-month dividend growth of the individual stocks held by Strategies or Index constituents as reported by Bloomberg on June 30, 2022. FTM Dividend Growth is the median of the Bristol Gate Model’s forward 12-month prediction for the individual stocks held by the Strategies and the median of consensus estimates for the constituents of the Indices as of July 15, 2022. Companies without a consensus dividend forecast were excluded.

Source: Bloomberg, FactSet, Bristol Gate Capital Partners.

Commentary – Patience Pays Dividends

“Good investing isn’t necessarily about earning the highest returns, because the highest returns tend to be one-off hits that can’t be repeated. It’s about earning pretty good returns that you can stick with and which can be repeated for the longest period of time. That’s when compounding runs wild.”

– Morgan Housel – “The Psychology of Money: Timeless Lessons on Wealth, Greed and Happiness”.

Investing involves a lot of analysis, numbers and data. The most underrated part of investing, however, is psychological. The psychological challenges are particularly difficult during times like these where global markets posted one of their worst first half year results in decades. Not only are human beings prone to numerous behavioural biases, but our challenges are compounded with us being constantly bombarded with new information and instant analysis from 24-hour cable news and online pundits. Unfortunately for investors, this often involves those so-called experts usually manufacturing a reason that all this information matters. We imagine it might not make for much “must-see tv” if the hosts repeatedly keep telling the audience to ignore most of what is going on.

The average person has never had an easier time accessing the financial markets and products, whether it be through traditional stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and ETFs or new-fangled products based on cryptocurrencies, blockchain technology, NFTs, etc. At the same time, information has become almost infinitely abundant and instantly accessible. It has never been harder to sift through the daily noise and focus on long-term goals. To guide us, our evidence-based approach means the question we ask ourselves everyday is how much of the daily tsunami of information is useful for a long-term fundamental investor.

Bristol Gate has a single approach to investing: We build concentrated portfolios of high-quality companies that we expect will grow their dividends at much faster rates than the market because we believe that will lead to attractive long-term returns. In the short-term however, we also know that quite often, as a result of that concentration, our performance will be quite differentiated from that of the broad market. We have no control over how our holdings will be perceived by the market in the short-term but attempt to benefit from the market overlooking their strong fundamentals.

Part and parcel of being a successful long-term investor is understanding the difference between poor performance and returns that are not correlated with the index. Academic research has shown that portfolios that closely resemble the index are unlikely to outperform over the long-term[1], even though their relative performance may make them easier investments to stick with. Morningstar also published two pieces of research that highlight how important it is to stick with an investment if the fundamentals remain sound, regardless of relative returns. The first[2] showed that over a 15-year period, the average number of months that accounted for a strategy’s outperformance was six months. If an investor was unable to remain invested for the full period and missed that critical, but small, window, they did not benefit from the manager’s outperformance. The second piece of research[3] showed that funds that outperformed their benchmarks over 15 years, underperformed in 60% of calendar years. In other words, the investor would have had to tolerate underperformance for nine of those 15 years.

Achieving long-term success is neither simple nor easy. The evidence is clear however that patience pays dividends. Investors who can look past the short-term noise put the odds of success in their favour. An example of this is our investment in Broadcom, which we first made in mid-2017. As the stock chart below shows, when we bought the stock the company’s stock price grew in line with their free cash flow growth, but starting in 2018 the company’s market price did not keep up with the continued growth in free cash flow per share the company was generating:

Exhibit 1. Broadcom

Source: Bloomberg. As at June 30, 2022

At the time, Broadcom’s 2018 acquisition of CA Inc. was, in our view, broadly misunderstood by the market. As we outlined in our third quarter note of that year, we had a different view that CA’s mainframe software revenue stream was very attractive, providing high margins and stability to Broadcom’s existing business. Following our process and doing the fundamental work alongside the dividend growth prediction allowed us to look through both the market’s perception of the acquisition and the short-term stagnation of the company’s share price. Although it took almost four years, eventually the market price of the company came back in line with the fundamental operating performance of the business. In the meantime, the company was able to grow its quarterly dividend from $1.75/share when it announced the CA acquisition in July 2018 to $4.10/share last quarter, a 234% increase.

As long-term investors, we are willing to be patient with the companies we own. As they continue to grow their dividends, we have the added benefit of being paid to wait for the market to reward our company’s superior fundamentals. We believe this year is another example of this in action.

The macroeconomic backdrop has challenged many asset classes, not just stocks. We are still experiencing the effects the global pandemic supply chains and what was expected to be transient inflation has proven to be much more persistent. As a result, interest rates are rising much faster than previously expected. However, focusing on the short-term price return of the companies in our portfolio rather than underlying operating performance and long-term drivers of the businesses would be a disservice to our clients. At Bristol Gate, we invest differently. We focus on the evidence; on the companies we own (or would like to own) and on finding high quality companies with high dividend growth trading at attractive valuations. We trust our process and remain confident that over the long-term our clients and our partners will be rewarded for their patience.


[1] Cremers, K. J. Martijn and Petajisto, Antti, How Active is Your Fund Manager? A New Measure That Predicts Performance (March 31, 2009).

[2] Kaplan and Kowara, “Is there a ‘Good’ time to buy or sell actively managed funds? Staying Invested is the name of the game”, Morningstar, July 11, 2019.

[3] Kaplan and Kowara, “How Long Can a Good Fund Underperform its Benchmark?”, Morningstar, March 2018

US Equity Strategy (all returns USD, gross)

During the quarter, the portfolio outperformed the S&P 500 Total Return Index, and a significant amount of progress was made in closing Q1’s performance gap. Unfortunately, both the market and our portfolio continued their year-to-date declines in an environment where interest rates are rising much faster than previously expected, fueling investor concerns over a possible central bank induced recession.

Exhibit 2. US Equity Strategy Risk and Return Metrics

Source: Bristol Gate Capital Partners Inc. Please Refer to “Important disclosures” section below

Security selection was the driver of the positive relative results, as our more defensive holdings in Consumer Discretionary and Communications Services benefited the portfolio compared to the benchmark. Dollar General, Activision Blizzard and American Tower were the largest relative contributors to returns. Activision’s share price continues to hold up well on the back of Microsoft’s $95/share all cash offer but remains at a large discount to the deal price given regulatory approval concern. Our belief in the deal closing within the June 2023 goal Microsoft outlined remains unchanged. Dollar General reported better-than-expected first quarter results that saw them maintain healthy gross margins despite inflationary cost pressures on the supply side. Dollar General is an example of our patience ultimately being rewarded. After lagging the S&P 500 for most of the time since acquiring the company in June 2020, its defensive growth characteristics that initially attracted us to the investment are paying off. Dollar General is benefiting from an environment where consumers have become more price sensitive.

Two of our three semiconductor related stocks, Applied Materials and Broadcom as well as Zoetis were the largest detractors on a relative basis. Our semiconductor stocks have experienced significant multiple compression on fears of a possible recession. In addition, Applied Materials continues to face short-term revenue and margin pressures due to lockdown-related supply chain issues. We view these issues as short-term in nature. The growing semiconductor intensity within the global economy and a slowing of Moore’s Law help us remain confident in the visibility of longer-term demand. Zoetis’ share price performance over the quarter does not reflect the operating performance of the business, which continues to demonstrate strong revenue growth and healthy margins.

Sector allocation detracted from relative returns. Our overweight in Consumer Discretionary and underweights in Consumer Staples and Energy were the largest negative contributors.

On an absolute basis, Dollar General, American Tower and UnitedHealth were the largest contributors while Broadcom, Applied Materials and Microchip were the largest detractors.

In April, we rebalanced the portfolio, reducing our allocation to UnitedHealth Group as it exceeded our weighting threshold. Proceeds were allocated to Starbucks and Allegion, our two lowest weights at the time.

Staying invested through the volatility we have experienced this year is an example of the mental tax investors must pay to earn the attractive long term returns equity markets have provided. While we recognize that there are still several significant headwinds we face from a macro perspective, including the risk of a recession, there are some reasons for optimism.

As we enter the Q2 reporting season, the intra period commentary provided by several of our holdings has generally been positive. Despite the year-to-date price return challenges and macro concerns, 11 of our 22 holdings have announced dividend increases thus far in 2022. They have averaged 21%, indicating what we believe is the confidence our holdings’ management teams have in their longer-term business fundamentals.

We are also encouraged by the historical results after a significant market decline in the first half of the year. The S&P 500 Total Return Index has declined 20% to June 30, 2022. Since 1928, there have been six instances where the index has declined more than 15% in the first half of the year, including this year. Of the five previous instances (1932, 1939, 1940, 1962, 1970) all had positive returns in the second half, with an average return of 26%, median of 18% and minimum of approximately 10%. After the tough start to the year, we think investors will once again be well-served exercising a bit of patience.

Canadian Equity Strategy (all returns CAD, Gross)

During the quarter, the portfolio outperformed the S&P/TSX Composite Index, and a significant amount of progress was made in closing Q1’s performance gap. Unfortunately, both the market and our portfolio continued their year-to-date declines.  Interest rates are rising much faster than previously expected, fueling investor concerns over a possible central bank-induced recession.

Despite the year-to-date price return challenges and macro concerns, 13 of our 23 holdings have announced dividend increases thus far in 2022. They have averaged over 10%, indicating what we believe is the confidence our holdings’ management teams have in their longer-term business fundamentals.

Exhibit 3. Canadian Equity Strategy Risk and Return Metrics

Source: Bristol Gate Capital Partners Inc. Please refer to “Important disclosures” section below

Security selection was the primary driver of the positive relative results. Sector allocation detracted from relative returns, as our lack of Energy, and to a lesser extent, Utilities and Real Estate holdings were the largest negative contributors.

Zoetis Inc., CCL Industries Inc. and Element Fleet Management Corp were the largest contributors to relative returns. Zoetis, one of our two non-domestic holdings, saw its share price performance over the quarter decline less than the broad Canadian market. The business continues to demonstrate strong revenue growth and healthy margins. CCL reported strong first quarter earnings driven by margin expansion and resilient demand. Management also announced a bolt-on acquisition that was well-received by the market. Element also reported strong first quarter results. The company continues to win new business adding to an already strong the backlog which we expect to convert to revenue over the next 12-18 months. 

InterRent Real Estate Investment Trust (IIP), Premium Brands Holdings Corp. and Brookfield Asset Management Inc. (BAM) were the largest detractors on a relative basis over the quarter. InterRent struggled as concerns over possible changes to the Federal government’s taxation of multifamily REITs weighed on sentiment. We believe the concern is overblown and does not necessarily address the government’s goal of improving housing affordability. Premium Brands’ share price has suffered due to worries over higher input prices, which we believe will be at worst a short-term margin issue for the company due to the strength of the overall business. Despite reporting strong quarterly results, Brookfield’s shares lagged in the quarter. We view the company’s plans to spin-off their investment management business as a potential catalyst in coming quarters.

On an absolute basis, Element Fleet Management Corp., CCL and Dollarama Inc. were the largest contributors while InterRent, Enghouse Systems Limited and Brookfield were the largest detractors.

During the first half of April, we followed our quarterly rebalancing process, trimming Alimentation Couche-Tard, Telus and Dollarama, while bringing up CCL Industries, Open Text, Colliers and Premium Brands to equal weights. One name change took place during the rebalancing, as we exited Quebecor and introduced Element Fleet in the portfolio.

Quebecor was an underperformer in the past year due to the uncertainty surrounding national wireless expansion aspirations. We believe the company’s dividend growth prospects have deteriorated given a limited growth opportunity within Quebec and the possibility of a costly expansion nationwide.

Element Fleet Management is the largest company in the North American fleet leasing and management industry. It is an attractive industry dominated by a few large firms due to high barriers to entry and switching costs. It has both defensive and growth characteristics, is well positioned for an inflationary environment, and is insulated from increasing interest rates. The company itself has had an impressive turnaround led by the current management and has an attractive growth opportunity ahead based on multiple levers. The COVID induced global supply chain challenges resulted in reduced OEM vehicle production and therefore lower originations, offering an attractive entry point for us. The company is sitting on a record backlog which we believe will be realized in the coming years.

Staying invested through the volatility we have experienced this year is an example of the mental tax investors must pay to earn the attractive long term returns equity markets have provided. While we recognize that there are still several significant headwinds we face from a macro perspective, including the risk of a recession, there are some reasons for optimism.

We are encouraged by the historical results after a significant market decline in the first half of the year. The S&P/TSX Composite Total Return Index has declined by just under 10% to June 30, 2022. Since 1957, there have been six instances where the index has declined more than 10% in the first half of the year. In all but one of those instances (1962, 1970, 1982, 1984, 2001) the index had positive returns in the second half, with an average return of over 12% and a median return of over 11%.  After the tough start to the year, we think investors will once again be well-served exercising a bit of patience.

Firm Update

Like all our companies, we continue to invest through this challenging period with an eye on the future opportunities we see. We welcomed two new members to the Bristol Gate team during the quarter. Patrick Hamm joined the firm in April and will lead our sales efforts in the family office, endowments, and foundations channel. Shehryar Khan joined in June as an Investment Specialist and will support business development and investment functions, creating content and analysis relevant to our investment philosophy and process.

To all our clients, thank you for your continued trust and confidence. Since our inception, we have continually invested for the long-term by owning the best prospective dividend growers for the coming year. Our strategy has served us well over time and we look forward to being rewarded in the future once again.

Sincerely,

The Bristol Gate Team



Important disclosures

Gross returns in this report refer to the Bristol Gate US Equity Strategy Composite and Canadian Equity Strategy Composite. No allowance has been made for custodial costs, taxes, operating costs, management and performance fees, which will reduce performance. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Allowance for withholding tax in the US strategy composite is partially reflected in the composite returns for periods commencing January 2017 and after. The Net returns for the Bristol Gate US Equity Strategy Composite and Canadian Equity Strategy Composite are reflective of the maximum management fee charged by Bristol Gate of 1% and 0.70%, respectively.

The Bristol Gate US Equity Strategy Composite was formerly known as the Bristol Gate US Dividend Growth Composite until April 1, 2015. The Composite inception date was May 15, 2009. The Composite consists of equities of publicly traded, dividend paying US companies and is valued in US Dollars.

The Bristol Gate Canadian Equity Strategy Composite was formerly known as the Bristol Gate Canadian Dividend Growth Composite until April 1, 2015. The Composite inception date was July 1, 2013. The Composite consists of equities of publicly traded, dividend paying Canadian and US companies and is valued in Canadian Dollars.

The S&P 500® Total Return Index measures the performance of the broad US equity market, including dividend re-investment, in US dollars. This index is provided for information only and comparisons to the index has limitations. The benchmark is an appropriate standard against which the performance of the strategy can be measured over longer time periods as it represents the primary investment universe from which Bristol Gate selects securities. However, Bristol Gate’s portfolio construction process differs materially from that of the benchmark and the securities selected for inclusion in the strategy are not influenced by the composition of the benchmark. For example, the strategy is a concentrated portfolio of approximately equally weighted dividend-paying equity securities, rebalanced quarterly whereas the benchmark is a broad stock index (including both dividend and non-dividend paying equities) that is market capitalization weighted. As such, strategy performance deviations relative to the benchmark may be significant, particularly over shorter time periods. The strategy has concentrated investments in a limited number of companies; as a result, a change in one security’s value may have a more significant effect on the strategy’s value.

SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY US) sourced from Bloomberg has been used as a proxy for the S&P 500® for the purpose of providing non-return based portfolio statistics and sector weightings.

The S&P/TSX Total Return Index measures the performance of the broad Canadian equity market, including dividend re-investment, in Canadian dollars. This index has been provided for information only and comparisons to the index has limitations. The benchmark is an appropriate standard against which the performance of the strategy can be measured over longer time periods as it represents the primary investment universe from which Bristol Gate selects securities. However, Bristol Gate’s portfolio construction process differs materially from that of the benchmark and the securities selected for inclusion in the strategy are not influenced by the composition of the benchmark. For example, the strategy is a concentrated portfolio of approximately equally weighted dividend-paying equity securities, rebalanced quarterly whereas the benchmark is a broad stock index (including both dividend and non-dividend paying equities) that is market capitalization weighted. As such, strategy performance deviations relative to the benchmark may be significant, particularly over shorter time periods. The strategy has concentrated investments in a limited number of companies; as a result, a change in one security’s value may have a more significant effect on the strategy’s value.

iShares Core S&P/TSX Capped Composite Index ETF (XIC CN) sourced from Bloomberg has been used as a proxy for the S&P/TSX Total Return Index for the purpose of providing non-return based portfolio statistics and sector weightings.

There is the opportunity to use leverage up to 30% of the net asset value. Leverage is not used as an investment tool to enhance returns, but for cash management needs of certain composite portfolios.

This Report is for information purposes and should not be construed under any circumstances as a public offering of securities in any jurisdiction in which an offer or solicitation is not authorized. Prospective investors in Bristol Gate’s pooled funds or ETF funds should rely solely on the fund’s offering documents, which outline the risk factors associated with a decision to invest. No representations or warranties of any kind are intended or should be inferred with respect to the economic return or the tax implications of any investment in a Bristol Gate fund.

Bristol Gate claims compliance with the Global Investment Performance Standards [GIPS®]. To receive a list of composite descriptions and/or a presentation that complies with the GIPS® standards, please contact us at info@bristolgate.com. Bristol Gate Capital Partners Inc. has been independently verified for the periods commencing May 2009 until December 2015 by Ashland Partners International PLLC and from January 1, 2016 – December 31, 2020 by ACA Group, Performance Services Division.

This piece is presented for illustrative and discussion purposes only. It should not be considered as personal investment advice or an offer or solicitation to buy and/or sell securities and it does not consider unique objectives, constraints, or financial needs of the individual. Under no circumstances does this piece suggest that you should time the market in any way or make investment decisions based on the content. Investors are advised that their investments are not guaranteed, their values change frequently, and past performance may not be repeated. References to specific securities are presented to illustrate the application of our investment philosophy only, do not represent all of the securities purchased, sold or recommended for the portfolio, and it should not be assumed that investments in the securities identified were or will be profitable and should not be considered recommendations by Bristol Gate Capital Partners Inc. A full list of security holdings is available upon request. For more information contact Bristol Gate Capital Partners Inc. directly. The information contained in this piece is the opinion of Bristol Gate Capital Partners Inc. and/or its employees as of the date of the piece and is subject to change without notice. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy in this piece at the time of publication; however, accuracy cannot be guaranteed. Market conditions may change and Bristol Gate Capital Partners Inc. accepts no responsibility for individual investment decisions arising from the use of or reliance on the information contained herein. We strongly recommend you consult with a financial advisor prior to making any investment decisions. Please refer to the Legal section of Bristol Gate’s website for additional information at bristolgate.com.

A Note About Forward-Looking Statements

This report may contain forward-looking statements including, but not limited to, statements about the Bristol Gate strategies, risks, expected performance and condition. Forward-looking statements include statements that are predictive in nature, that depend upon or refer to future events and conditions or include words such as “may”, “could”, “would”, “should”, “expect”, “anticipate”, “intend”, “plan”, “believe”, “estimate” and similar forward-looking expressions or negative versions thereof.

These forward-looking statements are subject to various risks, uncertainties and assumptions about the investment strategies, capital markets and economic factors, which could cause actual financial performance and expectations to differ materially from the anticipated performance or other expectations expressed. Economic factors include, but are not limited to, general economic, political and market factors in North America and internationally, interest and foreign exchange rates, global equity and capital markets, business competition, technological change, changes in government regulations, unexpected judicial or regulatory proceedings, and catastrophic events. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on forward-looking statements and consider the above-mentioned factors and other factors carefully before making any investment decisions. All opinions contained in forward-looking statements are subject to change without notice and are provided in good faith. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance, and actual results could differ materially from those expressed or implied in any forward-looking statements. Bristol Gate Capital Partners Inc. has no specific intention of updating any forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by securities legislation.

Bristol Gate Capital Partners CIO, Izet Elmazi, discusses the current inflationary environment and its impact on our portfolios.

Disclaimer:

This is presented for illustrative and discussion purposes only. It should not be considered as personal investment advice or an offer or solicitation to buy and/or sell securities and it does not consider unique objectives, constraints, or financial needs of the individual. Under no circumstances does this piece suggest that you should time the market in any way or make investment decisions based on the content. Investors are advised that their investments are not guaranteed, their values change frequently, and past performance may not be repeated. References to specific securities are presented to illustrate the application of our investment philosophy only, do not represent all of the securities purchased, sold or recommended for the portfolio, and it should not be assumed that investments in the securities identified were or will be profitable and should not be considered recommendations by Bristol Gate Capital Partners Inc. The information contained in this piece is the opinion of Bristol Gate Capital Partners Inc. and/or its employees as of the date of the piece and is subject to change without notice. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy in this piece at the time of publication; however, accuracy cannot be guaranteed. Market conditions may change and Bristol Gate Capital Partners Inc. accepts no responsibility for individual investment decisions arising from the use of or reliance on the information contained herein. We strongly recommend you consult with a financial advisor prior to making any investment decisions. Please refer to the Legal section of Bristol Gate’s website for additional information at bristolgate.com.

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Dividend Growth Summary

Both the US and Canadian Strategies trailed their respective benchmarks during the quarter, however both portfolios continue to deliver dividend growth well above market rates. Focusing on high quality, high dividend growers has served us well over time.

Source: Bloomberg, FactSet, Bristol Gate Capital Partners.

Commentary

The U.S. Army War College introduced the acronym VUCA to describe the more volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environment resulting from the end of the Cold War. The framework was used to help senior military officers navigate the turbulent times they were about to face.

Exhibit 1. The VUCA Framework

Source: Harvard Business Review, Bennett & Lemoine.

With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, broader geopolitical risks, an ongoing global pandemic, disrupted supply chains, rising commodity costs, persistently high inflation, and a hawkish Fed, we cannot think of a better term than VUCA to describe the current market environment. Shifting monetary policy and a myriad of interconnected uncertainties have clouded the outlook and resulted in higher market volatility.

Each of the four elements of VUCA represent challenges in and of themselves. The more volatile the world, the more significant and faster things change. The more uncertain, the harder to predict. Higher complexity makes analysis more difficult and increased ambiguity makes outcomes harder to interpret. Combined, the four pose significant challenges to effective decision making. The single biggest enemy of long-term returns is the emotion we feel during turbulent times like these. It is easy to get side tracked with all the macro concerns and second guess your portfolio when things are not working. In a heightened VUCA environment, we believe it is important to go back to basics and revisit why we do what we do. Often the basics can provide appropriate perspective in moving forward.

Over the long term, we believe portfolio returns are driven by the returns our companies’ operations generate +/- the price we pay to acquire those earnings. The combination of high operating returns and an ability to reinvest those earnings back in the business at the same high returns allows intrinsic value to compound and leads to attractive long-term investment results. We believe dividend growth is an effective signaling mechanism in this regard.

We believe that there is an inherent link between the income an asset produces and its value over the long term. Just as a piece of real estate rises in value as its rental stream does, so too do companies with their dividend streams. Over the last 20 years, the S&P 500’s dividend has almost quadrupled. The Index’s price has increased by the same amount.

Exhibit 2. S&P 500 Dividend & Price Growth (March 2002 to March 2022)

Source: Bloomberg, Bristol Gate Capital Partners.

This is not surprising to us and is not just the case at the broad index level. The longest tenured stocks in our US portfolio currently are UnitedHealth, Starbucks and Roper Technologies. Averaging across the three companies, you can see that their dividends and capital appreciation have both slightly more than tripled over our holding period.

Exhibit 3. UNH, SBUX and ROP Dividend & Price Growth Since Initial Acquisition

Source: Bloomberg, Bristol Gate Capital Partners.

Dividends have traditionally been less volatile than price and are more predictable. Changes in dividends are easier to understand compared to changes in prices and there is less ambiguity. A dollar in your pocket is a dollar in your pocket. Focusing on dividend growth helps us avoid the roller coaster ride of emotions VUCA and price movements take us on. It keeps us thinking about business performance and the long-term cash generation that drives that dividend growth. Ultimately, it helps us make better decisions for our long-term wealth.

US Equity Strategy (all returns USD, Gross)

During the quarter, the portfolio lagged the S&P 500 Total Return Index by 680 basis points. From a price return perspective there were few bright spots, with only Activision, Visa and UnitedHealth generating positive returns. Activision was by far the largest positive contributor following a $95/share all cash takeout offer by Microsoft, a 45% premium to the prior day’s closing price. Given the regulatory scrutiny large technology companies have received lately, particularly related to their dominance of certain markets, Activision is trading at an approximate 15% discount to the transaction price. We find this spread attractive given our assessment of the deal closing and the uncertain macro environment we find ourselves in.

Exhibit 4. US Equity Strategy Risk and Return Metrics

Source: Bristol Gate Capital Partners. Please refer to “Important disclosures” section below

Amongst the detractors, Sherwin-Williams, Intuit and Zoetis had the largest impact on a relative and an absolute basis. Sherwin’s near-term earnings outlook has deteriorated as raw material availability was a challenge and input costs continued to rise rapidly. The company has aggressively increased the price of its products to offset these challenges, albeit with a lag. We believe the current environment the company is facing is analogous to the one experienced in 2010-2011 from an input cost perspective. Exiting that period, Sherwin’s gross margins grew as raw material costs eventually abated but previous pricing actions were not rolled back. We expect a similar outcome this time around.

After rising 19% and 26% respectively in Q4/21, Intuit and Zoetis both experienced a healthy dose of multiple contraction during the first quarter. We remain positive on their long-term business fundamentals despite the recently struggling stock prices.

In Q1, market attention turned toward value, high dividend yield and smaller cap stocks. Growing companies that are very profitable and have limited variability in their operations – several of the traits our portfolio companies typically exhibit – were the worst performing factors to kick off the year.

Exhibit 5. S&P 500 Factor Performance

Source: Bloomberg.

According to S&P Global Indices, on a cumulative three-month basis, the spread in performance between Value and Growth “lies at the 94th percentile of historical data…The advantage of value over growth in the first quarter, in other words, is almost at the limit of historical experience.”

There are many signposts to suggest we are in the tail-end of this economic expansion. We are experiencing rising inflationary pressures. March’s US Consumer Price Index was 8.5%, the largest increase since January 1982. Energy and other commodity prices have risen, and the US unemployment rate is below 4%, suggesting tight labour markets. In response to all this, the Fed raised rates in March for the first time in three years and more hikes are expected throughout the year. While GDP growth is still positive, it is slowing. The Atlanta Fed Nowcast is forecasting just 1% growth in Q1/22. Corporate profit margins are near all time highs and have likely peaked given the growing cost pressures and slowing growth.

Exhibit 6. The Economic Cycle

Source: Fidelity.

In the late economic cycle, certain sectors have historically performed better than others. Energy and Materials typically do well as inflation hedges. Defensive sectors such as Consumer Staples, Healthcare, Utilities also do well on a relative basis as people begin preparing for a possible recession (particularly with the 2 year Treasury to 10 year Treasury yield curve inverting in April). This is very consistent with what happened in the first quarter.

Exhibit 7. S&P 500 Q1/22 Sector Performance

Source: Bloomberg.

Unfortunately for us, those are not sectors from which we are able to consistently source high quality, high dividend growers. They are characterized by highly cyclical cash flows or they have a combination of high dividend yield and low dividend growth. As such, we expect the latter stages of an economic cycle to be amongst the most challenging for our Strategy from a relative return perspective.

We believe our investment discipline of owning high quality companies, with good balance sheets that can grow their dividends at exceptional rates over the longer term will eventually return in favour and will provide competitive returns through the entire economic cycle. Although our investment performance has been disappointing this quarter, we have not been disappointed with the aggregate financial results of our companies. Over the last 12 months, they have generated average revenue growth of 15% and EPS growth of 34%. Despite the broad inflationary cost pressures, consensus is forecasting double digit revenue and EPS growth for the coming 12 months as well. We believe this underlying performance will support dividend growth well above the market in the coming year once again.

Three changes to the portfolio occurred in early January. Broadridge, Home Depot and Texas Instruments were replaced with Lowe’s, Microchip and MSCI. The sales were a result of lowered dividend growth projections and our hurdle rate. The additions improved the portfolio’s average projected dividend growth by 200 bps. Lowe’s was a direct substitute for Home Depot, allowing us continued exposure to the favourable home improvement market but with better forecasted dividend growth, a lower dividend payout ratio on free cash flow, and a more attractive valuation. Lowe’s was trading at a 25% discount to its larger peer.

We believe the company can close its valuation gap to Home Depot if it shows some progress on the operating margin front, where it trails its main competitor. 

Like the Lowe’s/Home Depot trade, Microchip allowed us to continue benefiting from some of the same macro themes driving growth at Texas Instruments but via a company with a lower valuation and much earlier in its capital return strategy. Microchip has embarked on a shareholder return journey that will eventually see it mimic Texas Instruments’ policy of 100% of free cash flow returned to shareholders. Microchip currently returns a quarter of its free cash flow to shareholders, and we think the new policy will drive 30%+ annual dividend growth for several years.  We believe Microchip has an opportunity to close the valuation gap to peers as it executes against the new shareholder return policy, its strategy focused on organic growth and deleveraging following a period of acquisitions to round out the product offering.

In MSCI, we have acquired a high-quality company, whose products are deeply embedded into customer workflows. Industry-leading margins, low capital intensity, limited working capital needs and solid free cash flow have allowed the company to grow its quarterly dividend at 28.5% a year since Q3/14 while reducing its diluted share count by 28.7% over the same period. The crown jewel in the company’s offering is its indices business which is the standard in active benchmarking and passive investing in international markets. Today, the company’s ESG and climate solutions are defining sustainable investing and we believe the company has a significant opportunity ahead of it, combining its various data-sets into novel solutions (for example private company + ESG) and expanding into new use cases.

Canadian Equity Strategy (all returns CAD, Gross)

During the quarter, the portfolio returned negative 3.8% compared to a positive 3.8% for the S&P/TSX Total Return Composite Index. Most of the underperformance was due to the Strategy’s sector allocation. During the first quarter of 2022, oil prices were up over 30% leading to a 29% return for the Energy sector. Other commodities also saw significant prices increases causing the Materials sector to rise over 20%. With a combined 30% weight in the Index and significantly underrepresented in our portfolio, the two sectors accounted for a significant relative performance headwind. Our sector positioning is not due to a call on the underlying commodity prices, rather an outcome of our focus on sustainable and high dividend growth.

CCL Industries and Stella-Jones were two of the largest individual detractors on a relative basis to the Index, as both companies fall under the Materials sector and trailed much of their peers in the sector exposed to mining. Zoetis was the third largest relative detractor, giving up its outperformance over 2021. Visa, Open Text and Dollarama were our holdings with largest relative contribution, while not owning Shopify also had a significant positive impact.

On an absolute basis, Zoetis, FirstService and Enghouse were the largest detractors. Dollarama, Intact Financial and Canadian Pacific Railway were the largest contributors.

Exhibit 8. Canadian Equity Strategy Risk and Return Metrics

Source: Bristol Gate Capital Partners. Please refer to “Important disclosures” section below

Although our strategy’s relative performance struggled this quarter, the businesses it owns did not. They continue to grow, generating excess free cash flows and attractive returns on invested capital. Thirteen out of twenty-three holdings announced dividend increases during the quarter, averaging at over 11% and the entire group reported an average 10.6% year-over-year revenue growth and 16.1% on earnings growth during the last quarterly reporting cycle.

One change to the portfolio occurred in late January. TC Energy was replaced by Colliers. The sale was primarily driven by lowered dividend growth projections and our hurdle rate.

Colliers is one of the largest global Commercial Real Estate service providers that participates in a growing market that favors large full-service operators. The company and its management have created tremendous value over the years via a well defined and executed capital allocation strategy both as part of

First Service and since Colliers’ spin-off in 2015. The company is early on its journey to return capital to shareholders through a growing dividend, with significant room for future growth.

Firm Update

To all our clients, thank you for your continued support and trust. We are determined to do everything we can to provide you continued income growth and strong long-term investment returns going forward.

Sincerely,

The Bristol Gate Team

Important disclosures

Gross returns in this report refer to the Bristol Gate US Equity Strategy Composite and Canadian Equity Strategy Composite. No allowance has been made for custodial costs, taxes, operating costs, management and performance fees, which will reduce performance. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Allowance for withholding tax in the US strategy composite is partially reflected in the composite returns for periods commencing January 2017 and after. The Net returns for the Bristol Gate US Equity Strategy Composite and Canadian Equity Strategy Composite are reflective of the maximum management fee charged by Bristol Gate of 1% and 0.70%, respectively.

The Bristol Gate US Equity Strategy Composite was formerly known as the Bristol Gate US Dividend Growth Composite until April 1, 2015. The Composite inception date was May 15, 2009. The Composite consists of equities of publicly traded, dividend paying US companies and is valued in US Dollars.

The Bristol Gate Canadian Equity Strategy Composite was formerly known as the Bristol Gate Canadian Dividend Growth Composite until April 1, 2015. The Composite inception date was July 1, 2013. The Composite consists of equities of publicly traded, dividend paying Canadian and US companies and is valued in Canadian Dollars.

The S&P 500® Total Return Index measures the performance of the broad US equity market, including dividend re-investment, in US dollars. This index is provided for information only and comparisons to the index has limitations. The benchmark is an appropriate standard against which the performance of the strategy can be measured over longer time periods as it represents the primary investment universe from which Bristol Gate selects securities. However, Bristol Gate’s portfolio construction process differs materially from that of the benchmark and the securities selected for inclusion in the strategy are not influenced by the composition of the benchmark. For example, the strategy is a concentrated portfolio of approximately equally weighted dividend-paying equity securities, rebalanced quarterly whereas the benchmark is a broad stock index (including both dividend and non-dividend paying equities) that is market capitalization weighted. As such, strategy performance deviations relative to the benchmark may be significant, particularly over shorter time periods. The strategy has concentrated investments in a limited number of companies; as a result, a change in one security’s value may have a more significant effect on the strategy’s value.

SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY US) sourced from Bloomberg has been used as a proxy for the S&P 500® for the purpose of providing non-return based portfolio statistics and sector weightings.

The S&P/TSX Total Return Index measures the performance of the broad Canadian equity market, including dividend re-investment, in Canadian dollars. This index has been provided for information only and comparisons to the index has limitations. The benchmark is an appropriate standard against which the performance of the strategy can be measured over longer time periods as it represents the primary investment universe from which Bristol Gate selects securities. However, Bristol Gate’s portfolio construction process differs materially from that of the benchmark and the securities selected for inclusion in the strategy are not influenced by the composition of the benchmark. For example, the strategy is a concentrated portfolio of approximately equally weighted dividend-paying equity securities, rebalanced quarterly whereas the benchmark is a broad stock index (including both dividend and non-dividend paying equities) that is market capitalization weighted. As such, strategy performance deviations relative to the benchmark may be significant, particularly over shorter time periods. The strategy has concentrated investments in a limited number of companies; as a result, a change in one security’s value may have a more significant effect on the strategy’s value.

iShares Core S&P/TSX Capped Composite Index ETF (XIC CN) sourced from Bloomberg has been used as a proxy for the S&P/TSX Total Return Index for the purpose of providing non-return based portfolio statistics and sector weightings.

There is the opportunity to use leverage up to 30% of the net asset value. Leverage is not used as an investment tool to enhance returns, but for cash management needs of certain composite portfolios.

This Report is for information purposes and should not be construed under any circumstances as a public offering of securities in any jurisdiction in which an offer or solicitation is not authorized. Prospective investors in Bristol Gate’s pooled funds or ETF funds should rely solely on the fund’s offering documents, which outline the risk factors associated with a decision to invest. No representations or warranties of any kind are intended or should be inferred with respect to the economic return or the tax implications of any investment in a Bristol Gate fund.

Bristol Gate claims compliance with the Global Investment Performance Standards [GIPS®]. To receive a list of composite descriptions and/or a presentation that complies with the GIPS® standards, please contact us at info@bristolgate.com. Bristol Gate Capital Partners Inc. has been independently verified for the periods commencing May 2009 until December 2015 by Ashland Partners International PLLC and from January 1, 2016 – December 31, 2020 by ACA Group, Performance Services Division.

This piece is presented for illustrative and discussion purposes only. It should not be considered as personal investment advice or an offer or solicitation to buy and/or sell securities and it does not consider unique objectives, constraints, or financial needs of the individual. Under no circumstances does this piece suggest that you should time the market in any way or make investment decisions based on the content. Investors are advised that their investments are not guaranteed, their values change frequently, and past performance may not be repeated. References to specific securities are presented to illustrate the application of our investment philosophy only, do not represent all of the securities purchased, sold or recommended for the portfolio, and it should not be assumed that investments in the securities identified were or will be profitable and should not be considered recommendations by Bristol Gate Capital Partners Inc. A full list of security holdings is available upon request. For more information contact Bristol Gate Capital Partners Inc. directly. The information contained in this piece is the opinion of Bristol Gate Capital Partners Inc. and/or its employees as of the date of the piece and is subject to change without notice. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy in this piece at the time of publication; however, accuracy cannot be guaranteed. Market conditions may change and Bristol Gate Capital Partners Inc. accepts no responsibility for individual investment decisions arising from the use of or reliance on the information contained herein. We strongly recommend you consult with a financial advisor prior to making any investment decisions. Please refer to the Legal section of Bristol Gate’s website for additional information at bristolgate.com.

A Note About Forward-Looking Statements

This report may contain forward-looking statements including, but not limited to, statements about the Bristol Gate strategies, risks, expected performance and condition. Forward-looking statements include statements that are predictive in nature, that depend upon or refer to future events and conditions or include words such as “may”, “could”, “would”, “should”, “expect”, “anticipate”, “intend”, “plan”, “believe”, “estimate” and similar forward-looking expressions or negative versions thereof.

These forward-looking statements are subject to various risks, uncertainties and assumptions about the investment strategies, capital markets and economic factors, which could cause actual financial performance and expectations to differ materially from the anticipated performance or other expectations expressed. Economic factors include, but are not limited to, general economic, political and market factors in North America and internationally, interest and foreign exchange rates, global equity and capital markets, business competition, technological change, changes in government regulations, unexpected judicial or regulatory proceedings, and catastrophic events.

Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on forward-looking statements and consider the above-mentioned factors and other factors carefully before making any investment decisions. All opinions contained in forward-looking statements are subject to change without notice and are provided in good faith. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance, and actual results could differ materially from those expressed or implied in any forward-looking statements. Bristol Gate Capital Partners Inc. has no specific intention of updating any forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by securities legislation.

For Immediate Release

Bristol Gate Capital Partners Inc. Announces Lead Portfolio Manager of Bristol Gate Concentrated Canadian Equity ETF

TORONTO, February 28, 2022 /CNW/ – Bristol Gate Capital Partners Inc. (“Bristol Gate” or the “firm”), announced a change to the lead portfolio manager of Bristol Gate Concentrated Canadian Equity ETF. Bristol Gate is the manager of Bristol Gate Concentrated Canadian Equity ETF (TSX: BGC) and Bristol Gate Concentrated US Equity ETF (TSX: BGU/BGU.U) (the “Bristol Gate ETFs”).

Investment decisions for each Bristol Gate ETF are made by a portfolio management team that has a lead portfolio manager and are subject to oversight by Bristol Gate’s Investment Committee. The firm announced that, effective February 28, 2022, Achilleas Taxildaris, Portfolio Manager, is the lead portfolio manager for Bristol Gate Concentrated Canadian Equity ETF. Mr. Taxildaris remains part of the portfolio management team for Bristol Gate Concentrated US Equity ETF. Izet Elmazi, Chief Investment Officer, continues as the lead portfolio manager for Bristol Gate Concentrated US Equity ETF and remains part of the portfolio management team for Bristol Gate Concentrated Canadian Equity ETF.

Important Disclosures

Commissions, management fees and expenses all may be associated with investments in exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Before investing, investors should carefully read the prospectus and ETF facts and carefully consider the investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses of the ETFs. ETFs are not guaranteed; their values change frequently, and past performance may not be repeated. For this and more complete information about the ETFs call 416-921-7076 or visit www.bristolgate.com for the prospectus and ETF facts. Copies of the prospectus and ETF facts are also available on www.sedar.com.

About Bristol Gate

Bristol Gate is an independent, employee-owned, Toronto-based investment management company serving individual and institutional clients. The firm uses predictive machine learning in combination with fundamental analysis to identify high quality companies that have the capacity and willingness to significantly increase their dividends in the year ahead. Bristol Gate currently manages approximately $2.9 billion in AUM/AUA across a US equity strategy and a Canadian equity strategy and manages an ETF following each strategy. To learn more information, please visit www.bristolgate.com.

For more information, please contact:

Michael Capombassis

President

416-921-7076 x 248

mike.capombassis@bristolgate.com

Dividend Growth Summary

Note: LTM Dividend Growth is the median of the actual trailing 12-month dividend growth of the individual stocks held by Strategies or Index constituents as reported by Bloomberg on December 31, 2021. FTM Dividend Growth is the median of the Bristol Gate Model’s forward 12-month prediction for the individual stocks held by the Strategies and the median of consensus estimates for the constituents of the Indices as of January 4, 2022. Companies without a consensus dividend forecast were excluded.

Source: Bloomberg, FactSet, Bristol Gate Capital Partners.

Commentary

Over the last several years, we have heard many reasons to be negative on US stocks. The market was expensive, and the S&P 500 Index’s P/E multiple was at levels not seen since the late 90’s dotcom bubble. The onset of a Federal Reserve tightening cycle was supposed to crush P/E multiples. Inflation caused by an easy money policy was supposed to pressure record level profit margins. The negative effects COVID had on supply chains and labour availability was supposed to further exacerbate earnings pressures.

In 2021, the boogeymen came. US government 10-year treasury yields increased from 0.9% at the start of the year to 1.5% at year end. Inflation exited 2021 at 6.8%, the fastest annual rate since 1982. COVID related supply chain issues were severe and have yet to be resolved. US job openings are at or near all time highs as labour is scarce. And the market’s P/E multiple fell from over 30x in 2020 to less and 25x at year end. Despite all of this, the S&P 500 generated a total return of 28.7%. Our US Equity Strategy faired even better. Contrary to popular belief, margins did not collapse. They went on to reach new highs as companies either benefited from or adapted to the changing environment. Valuations fell because earnings increased. Although volatility rose during Q4 (we expect it to remain elevated), we note the equity risk premium remains above the long-term median of 4%, implying equity valuations are not as rich as they otherwise might appear. We believe this is especially true when compared to other assets.

Exhibit Fig 1. Implied US Equity Risk Premium: 1960-2021

Source: Aswath Damodaran, http://people.stern.nyu.edu/adamodar/New_Home_Page/home.htm 

Large US stocks sailed through the storm, but fixed income markets took on water. The Bloomberg US Aggregate Bond Index fell 1.5%, the US Treasury Index was down 2.3% and the US Long Treasury Index declined 4.7%. We suspect their challenges will persist as economies continue rebounding from the negative effects of COVID, inventories get rebuilt, inflationary pressures are maintained and economic growth rolls on.

After a 40-year bull market in bonds, where US government 10-year bond yields fell from over 15% in 1981 to near zero in 2020, the fixed income component of the traditional 60/40 portfolio may not provide the ballast it has in the past. Among bonds with the same yield-to-maturity and term length, lower coupon bonds have higher convexity. This means prices are most sensitive to changes in rates the closer we are to zero percent yields. The absolute change in price for a given change in yield will be greater when yields initially start rising off the zero bound (compared to rising at a higher yield). In our view, bonds lose many of their characteristics as a risk mitigator near the zero bound and offer more return free risk than risk free return. It is no surprise to us that the 2021 Top1000funds.com / Casey Quirk CIO Sentiment Survey saw more of the world’s largest asset owners intending to increase equity allocation in 2021, largely at the expense of fixed income.

Exhibit Fig 2. Institutional Asset Allocation Intentions

Notes: Annual data between 1970-2020. High Dividend Growers defined as the top quintile of dividend growth in the S&P 500, equally weighted and reset annually. Returns for the S&P 500 and High Dividend Growers are price returns only. We do not believe including dividends would materially change conclusions.

Source: https://www.top1000funds.com/cio-sentiment-survey-2021/

As one respondent in a survey of global sovereign asset managers by Invesco notes, “The traditional diversifying exposures for a large institutional investor, vis-à-vis nominal duration, is questionable given nominal rates are parked at zero today. The situation with regard to real rates is, of course, even worse, with the outlook not offering much hope for improvement. To what extent are rates able to provide the defensive balance and diversification in our portfolio construction? It’s a concern.” Even traditional inflation hedges like gold did not help in 2021, with the metal declining 4%.

We believe our dividend growth philosophy has broad appeal in the current environment.

Our portfolio companies’ growing dividend income provides an attractive alternative to the exceptionally low yields in fixed income markets. Importantly, our income stream comes with inherent inflation protection that most bonds just do not have. That inflation “insurance” is driven by business models and balance sheets that support long term free cash flow and dividend growth well above most inflationary environments we have witnessed over the last 100+ years. We highlighted how a high dividend growth strategy has performed from a total return perspective in other inflationary environments in our Q3 note[1]. That growth is crucial in preserving and growing real purchasing power.

Relative to broader equities, such as the S&P 500, the Bristol Gate US Equity Strategy has provided better returns, often with less downside during periods of market stress, highlighted by its approximate 85% down capture since inception. We believe this is because risk mitigation is pervasive throughout our investment process.

Portfolio construction guided by expected dividend growth and application of correlation analysis, not by sector allocations. By only focusing on companies with growing dividend forecasts we avoid the high momentum, non yielding, high expectation stocks where we believe most of the risk of overpaying for growth resides. The commitment to a growing dividend instills a degree of capital allocation discipline amongst management teams. That discipline forces them to allocate investments to projects that generate returns above their cost of capital. We believe this inherently reduces our valuation risk, as these companies will grow their intrinsic value over time. Our use of a dividend growth hurdle encourages us to exit positions long before dividend growth slows to more mundane levels. By exiting companies long before they reach “maturity” (slowing revenue growth, increased competitive intensity, margin compression, multiple compression, etc.) we believe we avoid many of the problems that come when growth falls short of expectations. Lastly, our quarterly rebalancing effectively acts as a contrarian mechanism, trimming stocks that have done well and reallocating that capital to stocks that are lagging. This rebalancing helps reduce the valuation risk associated with rising stock prices and controls concentration risk.

In a world where real yields on many government and corporate bonds are negative and general market risks remain elevated (valuations, fed tightening, inflation, etc.), we believe our high dividend growth strategy is increasingly attractive to investors with income requirements, particularly those who can withstand some of the daily volatility of public stock prices and stay focused on compounding income over long periods of time, like pension funds and other large asset owners.

US Equity Strategy

The trailing 12-month median dividend growth of our US Equity Strategy was 12.0% at quarter end compared to the S&P 500 constituent median 6.2% and actual cash dividend growth of 2.7%. Over the next 12 months, our model is predicting median dividend growth of 15.0% for our portfolio companies. This compares to the median of the S&P 500 constituents of 4.4% as forecast by consensus. Portfolio changes we will be making early in the first quarter of 2022, and which will be discussed in our next quarterly letter, will further improve the projected dividend growth of our portfolio.  

The Bristol Gate US Equity Strategy finished the year off strong, returning 13.7% for the quarter and 30.2% for the year. These returns were ahead of the S&P 500 Total Return Index by approximately 270bps and 153bps, respectively.


[1] https://www.bristolgate.com/report-to-investors-3rd-quarter-2021/

Exhibit Fig 3. US Equity Strategy Risk and Return Metrics

Source: Bristol Gate Capital Partners.

During the quarter, Broadcom, UnitedHealth and Zoetis had the largest absolute and relative contributions to returns. Activision, Visa, and Texas Instruments were the largest detractors.

For the year, Applied Materials, Intuit and Home Depot were the largest absolute contributors. Activision and Tyson Foods (exited in Q1), were our only negatively returning holdings. On a relative basis to the Index, Applied Materials, Intuit and Broadcom led the way, while Activision Visa and Mastercard weighed on relative results.

The only trading that occurred during the quarter related to our systematic rebalancing process in early October. Intuit and Zoetis were trimmed to fund returning Activision to an equal weight position (4.54% or 1/22. Activision had fallen after a California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) lawsuit alleging an environment of harassment and inequality at the company. Unfortunately, our rebalancing timing was not optimal. Intuit and Zoetis went on to post gains over 20% each from the rebalancing date to year end. Activision fell 12% over the same period with an intra period maximum drawdown of 24%. Two factors drove the negative performance. During its third quarter earnings call in early November, the company announced delays to two of its much-anticipated games, Overwatch 2 and Diablo IV. Following that, the Wall St. Journal reported that the company’s CEO was aware of the sexual harassment and cultural issues at the company and chose to ignore them.

Activision was by far our worst performing stock of the year. We remain positive on many aspects of the company. The video game industry is large and growing at attractive rates. Activision has unrivaled, wholly owned intellectual property (IP). The move to digital distribution has changed the nature of the industry. Publishers are now capturing margin that previously went to retail distributors. Digital has also created opportunities to extend the shelf life of games and to better monetize IP (mobile versions, in game investment, expansion packs, etc.) Mobile gaming has significantly expanded the market beyond core gamers. Economies of scale matter more than ever as AAA rated game development costs continue to rise and Activision is the largest Western independent publisher. Even as the largest Western independent publisher the company only has 4% market share, providing ample opportunities to grow organically and via M&A. The management team has smartly deployed capital in the past doing several transformative deals; Blizzard in 2008, the Vivendi buyback in 2013 and King in 2015. With $6bn of net cash on the balance sheet, we believe we have optionality in another potential acquisition or the company executing against its $4bn buyback authorization. We believe the stock is pricing in near zero future growth at current levels. Lastly, even with the game delays and a forecasted flat year in 2022, we believe the company can continue growing its dividend at attractive rates, above our hurdle, given its cash generation, low payout ratio (<15%) and large net cash balance.

Having said all that, we are very cognizant of the near-term risks. Sales of the recently released Call of Duty (CoD) Vanguard and Warzone Pacific can fall short of expectations. More importantly, the significant cultural issues at the company have exacerbated employee turnover in an already dynamic game developer employment market. A video game developer’s greatest asset is its people, and the employee turnover issues have the potential to impair the long-term value of the company if they are not resolved in a timely manner. As with all our names, we weigh the opportunities and risks at Activision against our four pillared investment framework (projected dividend growth, quality business, valuation and portfolio fit) and will make changes if/when better alternatives are available.

Canadian Equity Strategy

For the year, the portfolio companies delivered median dividend growth of 9.7%, well ahead of the S&P/TSX Composite constituent median increase of 3.3% and actual cash dividend increase of 5.0%. Over the next 12 months, our model is predicting median dividend growth of 11.1% for our portfolio companies. This compares to the median 4.2% for the Index constituents as forecast by consensus. We anticipate contemplated portfolio changes in early Q1/22, which will be discussed in our next quarterly letter will further improve the projected dividend growth of our portfolio. During the fourth quarter, the Bristol Gate Canadian Strategy returned 4.7% compared to 6.5% for the S&P/TSX Composite Index. Sector allocation explained most of the underperformance, with the underweight in Financials, and specifically banks, being a significant detractor. Zoetis, Brookfield Asset Management and Dollarama were the three largest absolute contributors to returns. Enghouse Systems, TMX Group and Stella-Jones were the largest detractors in the quarter both on absolute and relative basis. On a relative basis to the Index, Zoetis Dollarama and Jamieson Wellness were the largest contributors.

Exhibit Fig 4. Canadian Equity Strategy Risk and Return Metrics

Source: Bristol Gate Capital Partners.

For the year, the Canadian strategy returned 19.3% compared to the 25.1% for the S&P/TSX Composite Index. The underperformance was split between sector allocation and security selection. In sector allocation, the underweight in Financials and Energy were significant detractors, as was our stock selection within the Technology sector. Our overweights in Industrials and Health Care were negative from an allocation standpoint, as the sectors underperformed the broader market, but our stock selection within those sectors outperformed the market. Zoetis, Thomson Reuters and Brookfield Asset Management were the largest absolute contributors. Enghouse Systems, Stella-Jones and Quebecor were the largest detractors. On a relative basis to the Index, Zoetis, Thomson Reuters and CCL Industries led the way, while Enghouse Systems, TMX Group and Quebecor weighed on relative results.

The only trading that occurred during the quarter related to our systematic rebalancing process in early October. Thomson Reuters and Brookfield Asset Management were trimmed to fund returning Stella-Jones to an equal weight position. The systematic rebalancing part of our process did not help as of year end. Thomson Reuters (+4.8%) and Brookfield Asset Management (+6.5%) both outperformed Stella-Jones (-3.6%) and the Index (+2.6%) since the rebalancing. After having benefited from the high lumber prices in 2020, Stella-Jones’ Residential Lumber segment normalized in 2021. However, our investment thesis is more focused on its Utility Poles and Railway Ties segments where the company possesses competitive advantages and continues to grow at steady rates, unaffected by the swing in the lumber commodity prices. We were encouraged to see Stella-Jones pulling its M&A lever again in November, acquiring a smaller producer and distributor of utility poles. We continue to believe the company is well positioned to be a beneficiary of large infrastructure plans in the US.

Firm Update

We never thought we would be saying this in 2022 but we continue to work from home! Although we have had a couple of live get togethers in the past year, it is safe to say the hybrid work environment has been successfully adopted by all our employees and very likely to be a permanent change at Bristol Gate. Thanks to the enthusiasm and dedication of our associates we have managed the business very effectively over the past couple of years and continue to make significant improvements to the company along the way.

In the past year alone, we have made great strides in our approach to ESG investing. We have improved trading systems and introduced a change to our quarterly rebalancing approach with a new “thresholds” modification, saving on trading cost for our clients. With the given list of projects on the drawing board and our commitment to making capital investments in our business processes, we anticipate further improvements will be developed in 2022.

We are also delighted to welcome Mo Vakil as a Data Scientist and member of the investment team. Mo has a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, a MSc in Finance, is a Level III CFA Candidate, is married and has one child.

To all our clients, thank you for your support and trust. We are determined to do everything we can to provide you continued income growth and strong investment returns going forward. As a final reprise to past letters, we hope to see you in person sometime soon.

Sincerely,

The Bristol Gate Team

Important disclosures

This piece is presented for illustrative and discussion purposes only. It should not be considered as personal investment advice or an offer or solicitation to buy and/or sell securities and it does not consider unique objectives, constraints, or financial needs of the individual. Under no circumstances does this piece suggest that you should time the market in any way or make investment decisions based on the content. Investors are advised that their investments are not guaranteed, their values change frequently, and past performance may not be repeated. References to specific securities are presented to illustrate the application of our investment philosophy only, do not represent all of the securities purchased, sold or recommended for the portfolio, and it should not be assumed that investments in the securities identified were or will be profitable and should not be considered recommendations by Bristol Gate Capital Partners Inc. A full list of security holdings is available upon request. For more information contact Bristol Gate Capital Partners Inc. directly. The information contained in this piece is the opinion of Bristol Gate Capital Partners Inc. and/or its employees as of the date of the piece and is subject to change without notice. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy in this piece at the time of publication; however, accuracy cannot be guaranteed. Market conditions may change and Bristol Gate Capital Partners Inc. accepts no responsibility for individual investment decisions arising from the use of or reliance on the information contained herein. We strongly recommend you consult with a financial advisor prior to making any investment decisions. Please refer to the Legal section of Bristol Gate’s website for additional information at bristolgate.com

Gross returns in this report refer to the Bristol Gate US Equity Strategy Composite and Canadian Equity Strategy Composite. No allowance has been made for custodial costs, taxes, operating costs, management and performance fees, which will reduce performance. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Allowance for withholding tax in the US strategy composite is partially reflected in the composite returns for periods commencing January 2017 and after. The Net returns for the Bristol Gate US Equity Strategy Composite and Canadian Equity Strategy Composite are reflective of the maximum management fee charged by Bristol Gate of 1% and 0.70%, respectively.

The Bristol Gate US Equity Strategy Composite was formerly known as the Bristol Gate US Dividend Growth Composite until April 1, 2015. The Composite inception date was May 15, 2009. The Composite consists of equities of publicly traded, dividend paying US companies and is valued in US Dollars.

The Bristol Gate Canadian Equity Strategy Composite was formerly known as the Bristol Gate Canadian Dividend Growth Composite until April 1, 2015. The Composite inception date was July 1, 2013. The Composite consists of equities of publicly traded, dividend paying Canadian and US companies and is valued in Canadian Dollars.

The S&P 500® Total Return Index measures the performance of the broad US equity market, including dividend re-investment, in US dollars. This index is provided for information only and comparisons to the index has limitations. The benchmark is an appropriate standard against which the performance of the strategy can be measured over longer time periods as it represents the primary investment universe from which Bristol Gate selects securities. However, Bristol Gate’s portfolio construction process differs materially from that of the benchmark and the securities selected for inclusion in the strategy are not influenced by the composition of the benchmark. For example, the strategy is a concentrated portfolio of approximately equally weighted dividend-paying equity securities, rebalanced quarterly whereas the benchmark is a broad stock index (including both dividend and non-dividend paying equities) that is market capitalization weighted. As such, strategy performance deviations relative to the benchmark may be significant, particularly over shorter time periods. The strategy has concentrated investments in a limited number of companies; as a result, a change in one security’s value may have a more significant effect on the strategy’s value.

SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY US) sourced from Bloomberg has been used as a proxy for the S&P 500® for the purpose of providing non-return based portfolio statistics and sector weightings.

The S&P/TSX Total Return Index measures the performance of the broad Canadian equity market, including dividend re-investment, in Canadian dollars. This index has been provided for information only and comparisons to the index has limitations. The benchmark is an appropriate standard against which the performance of the strategy can be measured over longer time periods as it represents the primary investment universe from which Bristol Gate selects securities. However, Bristol Gate’s portfolio construction process differs materially from that of the benchmark and the securities selected for inclusion in the strategy are not influenced by the composition of the benchmark. For example, the strategy is a concentrated portfolio of approximately equally weighted dividend-paying equity securities, rebalanced quarterly whereas the benchmark is a broad stock index (including both dividend and non-dividend paying equities) that is market capitalization weighted. As such, strategy performance deviations relative to the benchmark may be significant, particularly over shorter time periods. The strategy has concentrated investments in a limited number of companies; as a result, a change in one security’s value may have a more significant effect on the strategy’s value.

iShares Core S&P/TSX Capped Composite Index ETF (XIC CN) sourced from Bloomberg has been used as a proxy for the S&P/TSX Total Return Index for the purpose of providing non-return based portfolio statistics and sector weightings.

 

There is the opportunity to use leverage up to 30% of the net asset value. Leverage is not used as an investment tool to enhance returns, but for cash management needs of certain composite portfolios.

This Report is for information purposes and should not be construed under any circumstances as a public offering of securities in any jurisdiction in which an offer or solicitation is not authorized. Prospective investors in Bristol Gate’s pooled funds or ETF funds should rely solely on the fund’s offering documents, which outline the risk factors associated with a decision to invest. No representations or warranties of any kind are intended or should be inferred with respect to the economic return or the tax implications of any investment in a Bristol Gate fund.

Bristol Gate claims compliance with the Global Investment Performance Standards [GIPS®]. To receive a list of composite descriptions and/or a presentation that complies with the GIPS® standards, please contact us at info@bristolgate.com. Bristol Gate Capital Partners Inc. has been independently verified for the periods commencing May 2009 until December 2015 by Ashland Partners International PLLC and from January 1, 2016 – December 31, 2020 by ACA Group, Performance Services Division.

A Note About Forward-Looking Statements

 

This report may contain forward-looking statements including, but not limited to, statements about the Bristol Gate strategies, risks, expected performance and condition. Forward-looking statements include statements that are predictive in nature, that depend upon or refer to future events and conditions or include words such as “may”, “could”, “would”, “should”, “expect”, “anticipate”, “intend”, “plan”, “believe”, “estimate” and similar forward-looking expressions or negative versions thereof.

These forward-looking statements are subject to various risks, uncertainties and assumptions about the investment strategies, capital markets and economic factors, which could cause actual financial performance and expectations to differ materially from the anticipated performance or other expectations expressed. Economic factors include, but are not limited to, general economic, political and market factors in North America and internationally, interest and foreign exchange rates, global equity and capital markets, business competition, technological change, changes in government regulations, unexpected judicial or regulatory proceedings, and catastrophic events.

Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on forward-looking statements and consider the above-mentioned factors and other factors carefully before making any investment decisions. All opinions contained in forward-looking statements are subject to change without notice and are provided in good faith. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance, and actual results could differ materially from those expressed or implied in any forward-looking statements. Bristol Gate Capital Partners Inc. has no specific intention of updating any forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by securities legislation.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

TORONTO, January 12, 2022 /CNW/ – Bristol Gate Capital Partners Inc. (“Bristol Gate Capital Partners” or the “firm”) today announced the final annual 2021 reinvested distributions for the Bristol Gate Exchange-Traded Funds (the “Bristol Gate ETFs”).

Unitholders of record on December 31, 2021 received notional distributions representing net investment income and/or realized capital gains within the ETFs for the 2021 taxation year. A notional distribution is when the units from a reinvested distribution are immediately consolidated with the units held prior to the distribution and the number of units held after the distribution is identical to the number of units held before the distribution.

The taxable amounts of reinvested distributions for 2021, including tax characteristics of the distributions, will be reported to brokers through Clearing and Depository Services (CDS) within the first 60 days
of 2022. All values are expressed in Canadian dollars, unless otherwise indicated. This information is not intended to provide legal, accounting, tax, investment, financial or other advice and should not be relied upon for providing such advice.

Details of the per-unit reinvested distributions for the Bristol Gate ETFs are as follows:

Commissions, management fees and expenses all may be associated with investments in exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Before investing, investors should carefully read the prospectus and ETF facts and carefully consider the investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses of the ETFs. ETFs are not guaranteed; their values change frequently, and past performance may not be repeated. For this and more complete information about the ETFs call 416-921-7076 or visit www.bristolgate.com for the prospectus and ETF facts. Copies of the prospectus and ETF facts are also available on www.sedar.com.

About Bristol Gate Capital Partners Inc.

Bristol Gate Capital Partners is an independent, employee-owned, Toronto-based investment management company serving individual and institutional clients. The firm uses predictive machine learning in combination with fundamental analysis to identify high quality companies that have the capacity and willingness to significantly increase their dividends in the year ahead. Bristol Gate Capital Partners currently manages $2.9 billion in AUM/AUA across a US equity strategy and a Canadian equity strategy and manages an ETF following each strategy. To learn more information, please visit www.bristolgate.com.

 

For more information, please contact:

Michael Capombassis

President

416-921-7076 x 248

mike.capombassis@bristolgate.com

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