The Growth Factor

Needham Funds' Commentary by John Barr 

Volume 22 - February 10, 2016
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Needham Funds Team
John Barr
Portfolio Manager
Chris Retzler
Portfolio Manager
Jim Giangrasso
Berkshire Hathaway's acquisition of Precision Castparts
On January 29, 2016, Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. (BRK.A, BRK.B) closed its acquisition of Precision Castparts Corporation (PCP) for $235 per share in cash.  It was a bittersweet event for the Needham Aggressive Growth Fund.  Jim Kloppenburg, the founding Portfolio Manager of NEAGX, bought Precision Castparts for $10 per share in November 2002, resulting in a 13-year, 23-bagger and 27% return compounded annual growth rate1

The investment
Charlie Munger & Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway
was not without its difficult days, as the stock fell from a high of $154 in 2007 to a low of $47 in the depths of 2008. In the end, a sound business strategy and patient investing on behalf of the Fund produced quite a result. On behalf of all of us shareholders, a big THANK YOU to Jim.

Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway look for companies that are simple to understand, have produced solid results over a number of years and have favorable long-term prospects. They look for committed management who reinvest the cash they generate at a high rate of return and produce a high return on equity. They view investments not as shares to be traded, but as partial ownership in great companies.

Precision Castparts - Creating Wealth for Long-Term Investors
Mark Donegan, CEO of Precision      Castparts from 2002 to 2016
Precision Castparts manufactures specialized parts for the aerospace industry.  The company saw a fragmented aerospace supply base and the opportunity to bring scale to that market. It will continue to benefit from growing air travel throughout the world, particularly in emerging markets. 

Mark Donegan became EVP of Precision Castparts in 1992 and CEO in 2002. In 2002, PCP had a market capitalization of about $1 billion; at its January 2016 acquisition, the company's market cap was $37 billion. EPS grew from a split-adjusted $0.40 per share in 2002 to $10.66 in the fiscal year ending March 2015.   Return on equity for the last four years has averaged 14.7%.  Precision Castparts had paid in capital of under $200 million, net of stock repurchases, and generated $11.7 billion in retained earnings.
Investment Inspiration - Berkshire Hathaway's Leadership 
Berkshire Hathaway's acquisition of Precision Castparts led me to reread a number of books written about Warren Buffett and Berkshire's Vice Chairman, Charlie Munger.  I recommend: 

This March 11, 2008 video of "A Conversation with Charlie Munger" at Caltech is quite informative.  The Berkshire Hathaway annual reports are also great reads.  On April 30, 2016, the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting will be webcast to all for the first time ever.

Needham Aggressive Growth Fund - What We Learn from The Oracle of Omaha 
Needham Aggressive Growth Fund's success with Precision Castparts can be summarized by a Charlie Munger quote from Janet Lowe's Damn Right! Behind the Scenes with Berkshire Hathaway Billionaire Charlie Munger:

"There are huge advantages for an individual to get into a position where you make a few great investments and just sit back and wait: you're paying less to brokers.  You're listening to less nonsense.  And if it works, the governmental tax system gives you an extra 1, 2 or 3 percentage points per annum compounded."

The beginning of 2016 has been very difficult for the markets. It's tempting to despair and wait for clearer times.  In an August 6, 1979 essay for Forbes, Buffett wrote, "The future is never clear; you pay a very high price in the stock market for a cheery consensus.  Uncertainty actually is the friend of the buyer of long-term values."
We believe valuations are attractive in our small- and mid-cap, growth at a reasonable price universe; companies are on sale and it could be a great time to invest in domestic equities. We will miss Precision Castparts, but we believe we have a portfolio of companies with the potential to outperform in the future.
1 Please note that not all of The Needham Funds' investments have been profitable.  

The Needham Funds aggregate ownership as a percentage of net assets in the stated securities as of December 31, 2015:  PCP: 0.64%.

The information presented in this commentary is not intended as personalized investment advice and does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell a particular security or other investments.
This message is not an offer of the Needham Growth Fund, the Needham Aggressive Growth Fund or the Needham Small Cap Growth Fund. Shares are sold only through the currently effective prospectus. Please read the prospectus carefully and consider the investment objectives, risks, and charges and expenses of the Fund carefully before you invest. The prospectus contains this and other information about the Fund.
Investment returns and principal value will fluctuate, and when redeemed, shares may be worth more or less than their original cost. Shares held 60 days or less are subject to a short-term redemption fee of 2%. Past performance does not guarantee future results and current performance may be higher or lower than these results.  Current month-end performance and a copy of the prospectus are available at or by contacting the Fund's transfer agent, U.S. Bancorp Fund Services, LLC at 1-800-625-7071.
All three of the Needham Funds have substantial exposure to small and micro capitalized companies. Funds holding smaller capitalized companies are subject to greater price fluctuation than those of larger companies. Also, all three of the Needham Funds are permitted to engage in short sales, options, futures, and leveraged trading strategies. The Funds' use of short sales, options, futures strategies and leverage may result in significant capital loss. Total return figures include reinvestment of all dividends and capital gains. Needham & Company, LLC, member FINRA/SIPC, is the distributor of The Needham Funds, Inc.
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