Warren Buffett might call it "The Robert Hagstrom Way."
Robert Hagstrom, Portfolio manager for the $1.1 billion
Legg Mason Growth Trust fund, also happens to be the author of the million-plus bestseller
The Warren Buffett Way
about the world's most famous value investor.
And while investors may be skeptical about a growth manager who wrote the book on Buffettology, Hagstrom, in a recent interview with TheStreet.com TV, says mixing the two ideologies gives him an edge.
"It's not inconsistent at all to use a fundamental, valuation-based approach while being partial to growth stocks," says Hagstrom, whose fund holds significant positions in Internet giants
. "Not a lot of people do it, so we consider it an advantage."
Paradox or not, it's hard to argue with the results. The fund is up 11.4% year to date, beating the
by 7.6 percentage points. Over the past five- and 10-year periods, the portfolio has average annual returns of 17.8% and 9.7%, respectively, thoroughly thumping the index by 5.5% and 2.9%.
Mind you, it has not always been a smooth ride. The low-turnover, highly concentrated fund holds less than 30 stocks and its top 10 holdings make up more than 50% of its assets. As a result, a few big misses can lead to a severely subpar year. So while the fund finished in the top 1% of all large-cap growth funds monitored by
in 2002 and 2003, for example, it ranked in the 86th and 92nd percentiles in 2005 and 2006.
Want more? Check out TheStreet.com TV video. Greg Greenberg asks portfolio manager Robert Hagstrom about Amazon.com, eBay and Yahoo!.
Last year, of course, was a very painful one for Hagstrom's Internet holdings. Amazon.com shares retreated sharply after a big burst of capital expenditures caused margins to collapse to around 3%. By 2007, however, Hagstrom's patience was rewarded as both margins and the stock price had more than doubled.
"Amazon.com is the world's largest direct distributor of retail products, growing 30% per year," says Hagstrom. "Furthermore, it generates more cash than it uses so it has an amazing return on capital."
Likewise, eBay shares plummeted for much of last year, after the company purchased Internet phone company
for $2.6 billion in the autumn of 2005. But the company has since righted itself and is up 17% year to date, thereby boosting Hagstrom's fund, which has close to 5% of its assets in it.
"eBay is a global business growing at over 20% a year," says Hagstrom. "The beef is that auctions are slowing in the U.S. and Germany, but it's still growing. And even though Skype has been somewhat disappointing,
has been a giant producer, signing up more merchants than even
Hagstrom adds that Amazon.com and eBay are smart countercyclical plays as well. Although he does not see a recession on the horizon (just a "midcycle slowdown"), Hagstrom says that "if the economy weakens, then it's smarter to shop at home because there is no gas for travel, free shipping and the lowest prices."
Unlike its fellow Internet warriors, Yahoo! has not started its fourth-quarter comeback just yet. The stock is down 7% this year and continues to be a drain on Hagstrom's fund. Yet, it's in situations like these where Hagstrom's inner Buffett comes out.
"The valuation is compelling," says Hagstrom. "It trades at the same enterprise value-to-EBITDA multiple as old media companies
. And that's just not correct."
Before joining TheStreet.com, Gregg Greenberg was a writer and segment producer for CNBC's Closing Bell. He previously worked at FleetBoston and Lehman Brothers in their Private Client Services divisions, covering high net-worth individuals and midsize hedge funds. Greenberg attended New York University's School of Business and Economic Reporting. He also has an M.B.A. from Cornell University's Johnson School of Business, and a B.A. in history from Amherst College.