Third Point Invests in BlackRock (BLK)

In their Q2 2017 letter, Third Point outlines their reasons for investing in BlackRock (BLK). BlackRock is a long time holding in our dividend growth portfolio.

BlackRock is the world’s largest asset manager, with $5.7 trillion in AUM. In a classic scale industry, BlackRock is an asset-gathering machine, with organic net inflows of over 7% annualized2. Coupled with a tailwind from rising markets, AUM grew 17% year-over-year in the second quarter, which remains a key input for earnings power. Yet we see BlackRock as far more than an asset manager dependent on market movements. It is increasingly becoming a network or index-like business, with earnings power driven by ETFs (via iShares) and data & analytic services (via Aladdin). These are oligopoly businesses with faster growth and much higher incremental margins than traditional asset management – and thus deserve much higher P/E multiples over time. With shares at less than 15x our 2019 EPS forecast, and an outlook for consistent mid-teens EPS growth, we think BlackRock is a misunderstood franchise that is just beginning to inflect.

BlackRock’s iShares business has over 38% global market share in ETFs, and rising. It took in a record $74 billion of net flows in 2Q – a 21% organic growth rate – and had nearly as many inflows in the first half of 2017 ($138 billion) as all of last year. In the US, iShares had more inflows in 1H17 than the next 10 competitors combined. We think this acceleration in ETFs is just getting started, as regulatory change globally pushes lower-cost, transparent investment products, and institutional investors use ETFs as investment solutions, particularly in fixed income – an area where BlackRock has an even higher global market share for ETF products (~50%). We see iShares delivering mid-teens topline growth over the next 3 years and producing over half of BlackRock’s earnings by 2019. More importantly, this is a business with significant operating leverage as it scales, with far less variable costs from compensation and benefits, which limit the margins of traditional asset managers.

BlackRock’s Aladdin business is a data, analytics, and risk management platform originally built for internal use that now services over 25,000 external users. Historically, Aladdin was focused on institutional investors and corporates but we see a huge opportunity to bring it directly to retail financial advisor networks. This new product, called Aladdin Risk for Wealth Management, will link the world’s biggest asset manager and ETF provider directly to the desktops of thousands of financial advisors and their customers. As with other data and analytics providers in which we have made investments, these services become sticky, must-have products for users, with upside from ancillary fees. We see Technology and Risk Management revenue, which became a new line-item on BlackRock’s P&L in 1Q17, continuing to grow at 12-15%, and delivering 20% of incremental operating income growth in 2019.

BlackRock is valued like a traditional asset manager but it has much greater potential for structural revenue growth and operating margin expansion. Previous headwinds like USD strength have now become tailwinds, helping recent performance, but we are much more excited that higher-margin, higher-multiple businesses like iShares and Aladdin will become almost 2/3 of BlackRock’s earnings power within 3 years. This evolution in business mix should deliver 20x+ forward P/E multiples for the stock as well as faster, more consistent mid-teens EPS growth – a combination which drives ~40% total return potential for shares over the next 2 years.

The full Q2 2017 letter from Third Point