This week, one of the great traders of the mutual fund industry, John Laporte of T. Rowe Price New Horizons, stepped down. An investor who put $10,000 in the fund when Mr. Laporte took the helm, three weeks before the crash of 1987, now has $78,000; the same investment in the Russell 2000 Growth index of small-company stocks has grown to just $52,000.
The key to Mr. Laporte’s trading greatness? Barely trading at all. He has urged his successor, Henry Ellenbogen, to do the same. Jack Laporte’s advice holds a lesson for all investors, large and small.
He held his typical stock for four years; the average small-company fund, according to Morningstar, flips its stocks every nine months.
New Horizons has held two-thirds of its top 20 holdings for at least five years apiece. Mr. Laporte has clung to his largest position, the medical-products distributor Henry Schein, for more than 14 years; he has owned his fourth-largest, O’Reilly Automotive, since 1999.
In seeking the great growth companies of tomorrow, Mr. Laporte looks for creative leaders, a strong corporate culture and innovative ways of doing business. He hunts in service industries and in markets not controlled by a handful of giant firms. He also insists on strong cash flows, high returns on capital and low debt.
But spotting growth companies in their infancy requires patience. ‘It often takes me years to get confident in the business strategy and the management team,’ Mr. Laporte says.
And Mr. Laporte chronically beats himself up over the extra profits his fund could have made if it hadn’t sold winners too soon. T. Rowe Price owned a small venture-capital stake in Starbucks even before the coffee chain first sold stock to the public in 1992. Two years later, after an analyst convinced him that coffee prices would go up and Starbucks’ earnings would go down, Mr. Laporte dumped the stock at a profit.
Since then, Starbucks has gone up more than tenfold. ‘We left well over $200 million on the table,’ he says ruefully. ‘It takes an iron will to hold on when the market declines or companies stumble.’
New Horizons bought Wal-Mart when the retailer went public in 1970, then sold in 1983 (before Mr. Laporte ran the fund), as Wal-Mart outgrew small-company status. Mr. Laporte periodically checks the value of the fund’s former Wal-Mart stake. Today, it would be worth roughly $14 billion, more than twice the value of the fund.
Finance professors Eugene Fama and Kenneth French have found that one in eight small growth stocks typically becomes large each year — and that these small stocks on the cusp of becoming big generate giant annual returns of as much as 62% on average.
Ironically, at the very moment when their returns are likely to be highest, these stocks get forcibly dumped by most small-company mutual funds. Mr. Laporte has deliberately sought to minimize that damage by hanging on to his winners longer, but neither he nor most other fund managers can eliminate it. To preserve their ‘style purity,’ small-stock funds rarely own more than a handful of big stocks.
An individual investor, on the other hand, is under no obligation to sell a winner just because it gets big.
As the value investor Benjamin Graham pointed out, ‘most true bargains are not available in large blocks.’ That puts small investors, who buy a few hundred shares at a time, at an advantage. Yet many individual investors try to beat the pros at their own game — a fruitless effort, since fast trading is a game even most of the pros can’t win. As Mr. Laporte’s career has shown, less is more.
上周，共同基金行业明星交易员、T. Rowe Price公司New Horizons基金的约翰•拉波特(John Laporte)退位。投资者如果在拉波特上任之时、即1987年股市崩盘之前三周在这只基金中买了10,000美元，现在就拥有78,000美元。如果是投资于覆盖小企业的罗素2000成长型指数(Russell 2000 Growth Index)，现在仅升值至52,000美元。
New Horizons基金持有量最大的20只股票中，有三分之二的股票都至少持有了五年。拉波特的最大头寸是医疗产品经销商Henry Schein，持有时间超过了14年；第四大股票O’Reilly Automotive从1999年以来就一直持有。
而拉波特常常懊悔，要是当初没有过早卖出各种优胜股，他的基金不知又挣了多少钱。咖啡店链锁企业星巴克(Starbucks)1992年上市以前，T. Rowe Price公司就已经在其中持有一小部分风投股权。两年后，分析师说，咖啡价格将会上涨，星巴克的盈利将会下降，拉波特听信了这种说法，对星巴克股份进行了获利了结。
New Horizons基金在零售企业沃尔玛(Wal-Mart)于1970年上市时购买了它的股票，然后在1983年售出（那时拉波特还没有执掌这只基金），现在沃尔玛已经从一个小企业成长壮大。拉波特会定期查看New Horizons基金曾经购买的沃尔玛股份的价值。今天，这批股份大约值140亿美元，超过New Horizons基金总价值的两倍。
财务学教授法玛(Eugene Fama)和法兰奇(Kenneth French)曾经发现，八分之一的小型、成长型股票一般每年都会上涨，而这些小股在变大前夕，平均产生多达62%的巨额年度回报。