Guy Spier Portfolio Revealed: What’s Hot and What’s Not in His Fund

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Jacob Wolinsky
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Guy Spier, a Zurich-based investor became widely known after a charity event with Warren Buffett in 2008. He closely follows Buffett’s principles of value investing and asset allocation, but he is also implementing unique elements to his model based on his understanding and investment experience. Guy Spier’s portfolio holdings are currently valued at $234 million.

His biggest investment is into Buffett’s fund Class A and Class B stocks. Besides those, he is heavily invested in financial sector giants like Mastercard, American Express, and Bank of America. 

Stay with us while we dive deeper into his investment philosophy and strategy. We will take into account his current portfolio, and discuss his stock selection process. From there we can come a bit closer to understanding what is his way of achieving constant success since his fund inception in 1997.

Guy Spier Top Holdings

  • Berkshire Hathaway Inc Class B (NYSE:BRK.B) with 22.7% of the portfolio

Spier acquired 141 thousand shares back in Q4 2016 and hasn’t traded them since. When he bought them, they were valued at $153.96, and today’s value is $385.40. When we look at the value of the whole holding, Spier invested in it $21.6 million, and its current value is $54.2 million. This results in a gain of 150% for the investor.

  • American Express Co. (NYSE:AXP) with 17.75% of the portfolio

Another long-term holding that has been a part of Spier’s portfolio since Q4 2016. Then he bought 272 thousand shares at $69.23 per share. On two occasions he sold 62.4 thousand shares at an average of $110 and he still owns 210 thousand shares. The Spiers invested in this holding $14.5 million, while its current value is $42.3 million, resulting in a 191% gain.

  • Mastercard (NYSE:MA) with 12.1% of the portfolio

He invested in Mastercard in Q4 2014 and since then Spier hasn’t changed positions in this holding. Then he bought 65.8 thousand shares valued at $81.70, meaning his total investment was $5.37 million. Today these stocks are valued at $28.8 million, meaning Spier’s gain is a massive 437%.

  • Ferrari (NYSE:RACE) with 11.4% of the portfolio

Spier bought 2016 200 thousand Ferrari shares at $39.13. Four years later he offloaded 120 thousand shares at $161.16. The rest of this holding is valued at $27.2 million. Since the initial investment was at $3.13 million, Ferrari delivered a 769% gain so far.

  • Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC) with 10.77% of the portfolio

Since Spier first bought Bank of America stocks in 2014 he sold them in one and bought them on two more occasions. He currently owns 768 thousand shares and Spier invested in them $16.4 million. Today’s value of this holding is $25.7 million, resulting in a gain of 57%.

  • Micron Technology Inc (NASDAQ:MU) with 7.39% of the portfolio

Spier bought Micron stocks on two occasions and spent $10.2 million. Since Q4 2020 he owns 200 thousand shares, and their current value is $17.6 million. This results in 72% profits for Spier from this holding.

  • Berkshire Hathaway Class A (NYSE:BRK.A) with 7.3% of the portfolio

Investment into 30 Class A Berkshire Hathaway stocks in 2016 cost Spier $6.92 million. He hasn’t changed this position since then, and its current value has risen to $17.5 million. Spier netted a 152% gain from this holding.

  • Moody’s Corp (NYSE:MCO) with 4.41% of the portfolio

Another long-term holding from 2016. Spier purchased a total of 27 thousand shares in two trades and invested $2.75 million. The price of shares skyrocketed and now the value of the holding is at $10.5 million. This is translated into 272% gains.

Sector Allocation

Spier’s investments are allocated into 5 sectors, with finance taking the biggest chunk of the portfolio. Current sector allocation goes as follows:

  1. Finance with 63% of the portfolio valued at $150 million
  2. Technology with 22% of the portfolio valued at $52.4 million
  3. Consumer Discretionary with 11.4% of the portfolio valued at $27.2 million
  4. Real Estate with 2% of the portfolio valued at $4.68 million
  5. Telecommunications with 1.6% of the portfolio valued at $3.86 million.

Guy Spier Investment Philosophy

Value Investing Principles

As a prime example of a value investor, Guy Spier avoids pondering macroeconomic predictions. He points out that analyzing a business is a challenge in a different category, but trying to predict market shifts is nearly impossible.

Spier always resisted proposals from different sides focusing on patchy areas between investing and speculation. He likes to keep his business open. He invests in companies that he analyzes and that check all the boxes he is looking for in the company.

One of the key boxes a company needs to tick off is that it can generate a lot of cash when compared to the price value of the stocks. Companies that can generate more money than they need can sustain tougher market cycles than others.

But, at the same time, Spier aims to buy these companies at a discount price. This can happen in periods when the value is hidden and the market is not efficient enough. Companies that are in specific periods disliked or mismanaged can still generate major returns.

Take A Look At The Education of A Value Investor (by Guy Spier): 

Long-Term Perspective

Guy Spier avoids investing in companies that by his standards do not have a potential for long-term success. When he chooses a company to invest in, he is not looking to sell the holding for at least 5 years.

To accomplish this he focuses on investing in a business he understands, and which is managed by people he trusts. He is not one of those investors who would sell his share at the first sign of bad times. Spier discards short-term market fluctuations, and sticks to his value investing principles.

Guy Spier Investment Strategy

Stock Selection Process

He often looked up to Charlie Munger and Warren Buffett and adopted their approach to investing in companies that he understood. He prefers companies that have financial reports in English, and with accounting systems that are recognized on the international level.

That narrows down to sectors that are too complex or those in which “creative destruction” is often too fast, so the investor cannot act on time. His knowledge and understanding are focused on consumer brands, education, and credit rating businesses. These sectors are still fairly big so there is enough space to find and identify potential investment targets.

One of the cornerstones of his stock selection is to know what you do not understand, so you can avoid as many investing land mines as possible.

When conducting company research Spier’s tactic is to find out as much information as possible without the need to communicate with top management. His thought is that if the CEO has to explain why he should buy stocks, and that he couldn’t find reasons through the research, there could be a problem.

When choosing a company to invest in he first focuses on the fundamentals. If after a deep analysis, he still likes what he sees, he asks himself if he would want to hold onto these stocks for at least two years. Then he adds into the equation a potential loss of 50% of share value after the purchase. If he still thinks that it is a good investment, then he moves the company up in the pecking order.

Risk Management

The first risk management principle Guy Spier upholds is a hedge offered by a margin of safety. His philosophy is that if he invests in a company with a discounted price he cannot be wrong about a whole host of other issues.

But he is well aware of the difference between price and value. If he notices that stock price is fluctuating that doesn’t necessarily mean that something bad is happening with the underlying business.

Spier tends to diversify his portfolio, and he prefers to keep his holdings in a range between 5%-10% of the portfolio. He often stated that he would like to sell some smaller holdings and increase others to reach higher returns. But, also he is not willing to tolerate high risk and prefers his portfolio diversified.

Even in cases when he founded companies that are well-managed, and cheap, he is not willing to concentrate on his position. He points out that his natural conservatism is keeping him from going all-in which can result in major losses. Spier often criticized himself for that, but also he noticed that due to that strategy, he avoided major losses in his career.

Fundsmith LLP Comparison

Aquamarine Capital and Fundsmith LLP despite the difference in size have certain similarities between them. Both Aquamarine Capital and Fundsmith follow value investing principles.

Aquamarine Capital has an AUM of $238 million. Spier likes to make all important investment decisions himself. The portfolio of the fund is diversified into 5%-10% holdings.

Fundsmith LLP managed by Terry Smith has a similar approach to diversification. They have one larger holding standing at 15% of the portfolio, a bulk of the portfolio with 5%-10% holdings, and a couple of smaller holdings.

Terry Smith prefers investing in the technology sector, while Spier’s biggest sector preference is finance.

Aquamarine Capital’s 3-year cumulative returns stand at 88.78%, while Fundsmith in the same time frame generated 7.82% cumulative returns.

Guy Spier’s Portfolio Performance Analysis

Historical Returns

Aquamarine was founded in 1997 and since then it has delivered total returns of 364% for its investors. In the same period, the S&P 500 managed to generate 200% returns.

One of the strongest years was 2006 when Aquamarine returns were in the range of 37%, while during the economic crisis of 2008, the fund underperformed. But, even during those tough times, Spier avoided selling holdings due to their current lowered value.

Benchmark Comparison

When we take historical returns, we can see that Aquamarine Capital managed to generate 9% annual returns when compared to S&P 500 annual returns with a margin of 8.2%. In the same time frame, the MSCI World Index generated 6.9% returns, while the FTSE 100 achieved 3.6%.

During 2022 Aquamarine returned -21% while S&P 500 finished the year with -18.1%. The MSCI World Index returned -17.7%.

Notable Investments

  • Tesco (LON:TSCO). After a difficult period for the company, Spier recognized a potential with new management. After he decided to invest, the company went through a change of leadership resulting in a major turnaround.
  • Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) (BRK.B). These stocks play a major part in Guy Spier’s portfolio and are a part of his long-term strategy. These positions brought significant returns since Spier invested in them back in 2016.


Who Are the Top Holdings of The Aquamarine Fund?

The top holdings of Aquamarine are:

  • Berkshire Hathaway Inc Class B (NYSE:BRK.B) with 22.7% of the portfolio
  • American Express Co. (NYSE:AXP) with 17.75% of the portfolio
  • Mastercard (NYSE:MA) with 12.1% of the portfolio
  • Ferrari (NYSE:RACE) with 11.4% of the portfolio
  • Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC) with 10.77% of the portfolio.

What Is the Return of The Aquamarine Fund?

Aquamarine was founded in 1997 and since then it has delivered total returns of 364% for its investors. 2022 was a particularly bad year with a return of -21%.

Final Thoughts

Guy Spier in his book, “The Education Of a Value Investor” shows how much one’s life can change after a charity lunch with Warren Buffett. Before he characterized himself as a greedy, self-centered investor, but after he decided to look closely at Buffett’s concept of value investing, everything changed.

His current portfolio is composed of 12 holdings among which the majority are long-term investments. He doesn’t like to mix things up, and he often notes that he likes his boring approach to investing. Spier’s recommendation to all investors is to carefully think before investing. For him, analysis is the cornerstone of a good investment, and from Spier’s fund performance, we can see that it is working for him.

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Jacob Wolinsky is the founder of HedgeFundAlpha (formerly ValueWalk Premium), a popular value investing and hedge fund focused intelligence service. Prior to founding the company, Jacob worked as an equity analyst focused on small caps. Jacob lives with his wife and five kids in Passaic NJ. - Email: jacob(at) FD: I do not purchase any equities to avoid conflict of interest and any insider information. I only purchase broad-based ETFs and mutual funds.