Wedgewood Partners’ Composite (net-of-fees) gained approximately +1.9% during the first quarter of 2014. This gain is inline with the gain in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index of +1.8% and middling to the gain of +1.1% in the Russell 1000 Growth Index.
Our largest performance detractors during the quarter were Coach, Inc. (NYSE:COH) (-11.5%), Verisk Analytics, Inc. (NASDAQ:VRSK) (-8.8%) and Gilead Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ:GILD) (-5.6%). Our biggest winners were EMC Corporation (NYSE:EMC) (+9.0%), Schlumberger Limited. (NYSE:SLB) (+8.2%) and Varian Medical Systems, Inc. (NYSE:VAR) (+8.1%).
We had quite the burst of portfolio activity over the past few months. During the quarter we trimmed back positions in Google and Visa due to extended valuation in each. We
also had the opportunity to add to existing positions in Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE:BRK.A) (NYSE:BRK.B), Express Scripts Holding Company (NASDAQ:ESRX) and Stericycle Inc (NASDAQ:SRCL). We sold American Express Company (NYSE:AXP) and Monster Beverage Corp (NASDAQ:MNST) strictly valuation reasons, but we would certainly like to own these two terrific companies again at more favorable valuations. Our new investments during the quarter were LKQ Corporation (NASDAQ:LKQ) and Mead Johnson Nutrition CO (NYSE:MJN). We discuss each further in this Letter.
Schlumberger was a top performer during the quarter, continuing its strong performance since the summer of 2012. Since late June 2012 (6/22) through mid-? April 2014, the stock (a holding since late September 2011) is up approximately 60% - nearly double the S&P 500 Index’s gain of 36%. Schlumberger continues to do what it does best – dominate their respective industry and generate industry- leading growth and cash flow generation. The Company is a leading global provider of oil services. At the risk of repeating an oil service industry cliché, “the easy oil has been found.” The technological development being brought to bear to the extremes and complexities in the exploration and development of hydrocarbon energy is relentless. The Company’s depth and breadth of their integrated products and services has been at the forefront of the unceasing progress of energy services for decades. Indeed, according to the Company, over the past decade, total E&P capital expenditures have increased by 400%, yet global oil production is up only a scant 15%. Furthermore, in just the last three years, the upstream E&P industry has spent on average $600 billion per year yielding only a net increase in global oil production coming from the shale deposits in North American. Due to the significant advancements in horizontal drilling and multistage fracking natural gas prices are generally one-third of what they are in Europe or Asia. This differential has had profound implications, for instance in the U.S. chemical industry.
Chevron Phillips just this month broke ground on a $6 billion ethane cracker plant in Texas – the first petrochemical refinery built in the U.S. in twenty-five years. Circa-2014 finds the Company at the cutting edge in the continued search for unconventional oil and gas, plus in the environmentally challenging area in offshore and deepwater. The Company continues to enhance their capabilities, scale and integration with strategic acquisitions – including of late, Rock Deformation Research (geological software), Saxon (international land drilling), Gushor (petroleum geochemistry and fluid analysis) and GeoKnowledge (exploration risk and resource software). In an inherently cyclical industry, Schlumberger is a beacon of consistent profitability – posting net margins regularly between 12½% and 14½%. Free cash flow over the past twelve months ($5.8 billion) is 90% higher than the last cyclical peak in calendar 2007.Schlumberger is the only peer-related company that has increased margins and generated double-digit growth in operating earnings and earnings per share over the past two years.
Varian Medical Systems has been a staple in our portfolio since the fall of 2005. The stock has rebounded smartly, up +31% from its April 2013 lows through the first quarter. Varian continues to be the global market share and technological leader in the radiation oncology business. Unfortunately, the incidence of cancer continues its deadly growth. In the U.S. alone, the American Cancer Society projects that some 1.7 million people will be diagnosed with cancer.