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Fairfax Financial is a good contrarian investment, this investor says

Boring stocks
Rob Lauzon

As fears of a recession continue to filter through the market, investors may be wondering whether now’s the time to duck and cover. Fairfax Financial may offer some shelter, one investor says.

Timing may be important but so is the destination, and for some that should be contrarian investments like Fairfax Financial Holdings (Fairfax Financial Holdings Stock Quote, Chart, News TSX:FFH), says Middlefield Capital Corporation’s Rob Lauzon, who likes the stock as a hedge against a market downturn.

“Fairfax is a good contrarian investment. It’s really an insurance company but their portfolio of investments is well-hedged, so it actually does better when the market goes down,” said Lauzon, managing director and deputy chief investment officer at Middlefield Capital, to BNN Bloomberg on Wednesday.

“It’s a nice hedge in your portfolio versus your long positions. Fairfax yings when everything else yangs so I’d invest in it,”

“It’s a nice hedge in your portfolio versus your long positions. Fairfax yings when everything else yangs so I’d invest in it,” he said.

Led by famed investor Prem Watsa, Fairfax has positions across the spectrum of sectors as well as large cash holdings, with major investments in companies like Seaspan Corp and BlackBerry. Like his US counterpart, Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway, Watsa is known for seeking out value in companies that may appear to be on the down and out. Last year, for example, Fairfax bought the Canadian unit of Toys ‘R’ Us for $300 million with the aim of reinvigorating the business, soon after the retailer had announced plans to liquidate its US assets.

Fairfax Financial CEO Watsa on the Toys ‘R’ Us acquisition…

On buying the Canadian arm of Toys ‘R’ Us, Watsa said to BNN Bloomberg last year, “That is an example of a company in the United States having a problem –a lot of debt in the U.S.– but the Canadian company was terrific. So we were able to buy a company in Canada which is well-run, at a very good price, we thought.”

“When you’re at the bottom, or close to the bottom … the market’s pessimistic on your company, then you have to be contrary and go against the crowd. But it’s basically trying to identify intrinsic value. You’re not contrarian for the sake of being contrarian. You have to figure out what the value is first,” Watsa said.

Recession has been a looming concern of late, with US-China trade issues clouding the economic picture going forward and indicators such as the inverted yield curve adding to worries that the record ten-year stretch of growth could finally be coming to a close.

Earlier this week, the US National Association for Business Economics came out with a warning that about three-quarters of its economists are now predicting a recession in the US, with trade concerns being one of the factors at play. 74 per cent of economists surveyed believed that a recession will come by the end of 2021, while 38 per cent expected a recession to come next year.

Fairfax released its latest quarterly financials on August 1, reporting net earnings of $494.3 million or $17.18 per diluted share for its second quarter, 2019. That compared to last year’s net earnings of $63.1 million or $1.82 per diluted share. Management attributed the increase to net gains on investments.

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About The Author /

Jayson MacLean
Jayson is a writer, researcher and educator with a PhD in political philosophy from the University of Ottawa. His interests range from bioethics and innovations in the health sciences to governance, social justice and the history of ideas.

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