Nygren: Growth & Value Not an Either/Or

Value vs. growth — when it comes to stock investing, it’s one of the biggest debates you’ll find. But top value fund manager Bill Nygren says that value and growth are actually two sides of the same coin.

“I continue to believe that positioning value versus growth sets up a false comparison,” Nygren says in an interview with Morningstar.com. “They are not opposite ends of the spectrum — value investing and momentum investing are at opposite ends.”

“A value investor needs to be able to assess the value of many business characteristics, such as balance sheet strength, cash-generating ability, franchise durability, and so on,” Nygren explains. “Growth is also one of those factors. The ability to grow organically is almost always a positive. It would be a negative only if that growth required so much investment that it had a negative present value. That almost never happens.”

Nygren says that 10 to 15 years ago, investors had to pay a lot for growth, with large-cap companies with above-average expected growth selling for 50 times earnings or more. Today, he says, valuations have “compressed”, and investors can buy growth for much cheaper. He says such movements dictate where his portfolios go. “I see value investing as applying a consistent discipline to a changing marketplace,” he says. “We are always buying what we believe is cheap and selling what we believe is expensive. As the price investors pay for growth becomes excessive, applying our price discipline moves us away from growth. As the price for growth declines, our discipline moves us toward higher-growth businesses.”

Nygren also discusses some of his funds’ holdings, including Apple and Unilever, and he talks about how he tries to avoid “value traps”.

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