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Dan Culloton: Technology is an area that you also mentioned as an area of interest for all of the stock portfolios. It's also an area that you wouldn't necessarily equate with a value investor like Dodge & Cox. What is it that's attracting you to technology, and what are the sorts of companies that you're finding in your portfolios right now?
Diana Strandberg: Will it shock you if I start by saying, valuation is very attractive in technology today? We think, again, valuation, when we think about technology--growth drivers are typically innovation led, typically very disruptive types of innovation.
What we look for are companies that we can own that have very strong R&D efforts, focused R&D efforts, good balance sheets so they can withstand unforeseen circumstances, managements that are very focused on retaining profitability and helping the organization unleash its invention power, if you will.
The low valuations, we think, spot us by reflecting, perhaps, investors' skepticism that the company will actually be able to increase earnings and cash flow, in the future. We spend quite a bit of time when we look at individual technology companies, looking at their markets, their competitors, their cost structures, their customers, and then weighing that, again, against valuation.
There are a lot of areas that we think investment has been fairly restrained recently, in areas of mobile communications and data, for example. You can see that not as an explicit theme but as something that could be a very powerful driver of future earnings and cash flow, at a number of our holdings. Charles, maybe you want to add something.
Charles Pohl: Well, I do want to clear up one possible misconception, which is that we've been overweight in technology at a variety of times in our past. In the early 1990s, we were overweight in technology. Then during the Internet bubble, the valuations got too high, and we almost completely exited technology, which set us up for some very strong returns in the seven years through 2006.
As those valuations came down, they became more attractive to us, because it's really a trade-off between the current valuation and our process, and what we see as the long-term potential for earnings growth, and the strength of the business franchise. A lot of the technology names have great potential for growth because of the innovation that takes place there.
Some have strong business franchises, some are more commoditized, and so we have to make that differentiation, and then, very important to us is, at what price are we buying in. We want to make sure that that price is low enough to afford us a good return over time.
Dan Culloton: So this is not new for Dodge & Cox? Dodge & Cox is not new to technology investing?
Charles Pohl: No. We've been looking at this actively at least for the 26 years that I've been at the firm, and probably for longer than that.