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The Morningstar® Wide Moat Focus IndexSM (the “Moat Index” or “Index”) underperformed the S&P 500® Index in August (1.43% vs. 3.04%, respectively). The final month of summer marked the third consecutive month the Index lagged the S&P 500 Index, but it remained ahead by 2.5% year to date through August (24.47% vs. 21.95%, respectively).
As is typically the case, the Moat Index’s relative performance was influenced predominantly by stock selection and its selection within the health care and information technology sectors was the most influential for the period.
Aspen Technology (AZPN) provides automation solutions to customers in complex industrial environments, lending to Aspens’ high customer switching costs that support its wide moat rating from Morningstar. Aspen reported a decline in quarterly revenue in mid-August and its shares sold off rapidly thereafter.
While some customer segments, such as refining and chemicals saw signs of life, others remain in a subdued demand environment, and management projected a back-end loaded 2022, according to Morningstar.
Despite near-term hurdles, Morningstar increased Aspen’s fair value estimate in August from $145 per share to $151 and remains confident in the underlying value and applicability of Aspen’s solutions, as is reflected in Aspen’s full pipeline and continuing and increasing customer engagement. Shares of Aspen finished August at a 14% discount to its fair value estimate, according to Morningstar.
Zimmer Biomet (ZBH) is a medical device company specializing in the implants used in large joint reconstruction. Because the extensive instrumentation, or tool sets, used to prepare bones and install implants are specific to each company, there are significant switching costs applicable to an orthopedic surgeon when choosing a new device manufacturer. Not only can the process be costly and time consuming for the surgeon, there is reputational risk at stake when learning a new process or procedure related to surgery. This switching cost is the primary driver Morningstar attributes to Zimmer Biomet’s wide economic moat.
The firm reported somewhat disappointing second quarter results at the beginning of August. Management attributed this to the unevenness of large joint replacement patients returning for treatment following a prolonged period of postponed elective medical procedures in the U.S. Morningstar was uncertain about this line from Zimmer Biomet’s management, as rival wide moat firm, Stryker Corp., was apparently not impacted by such trends.
Nonetheless, Morningstar did not see anything to suggest Zimmer Biomet’s wide moat was impaired in any way and left its fair value estimate in place pointing to a 20% discount to fair value for shares at the end of August.
Ironically, the leading contributors to Moat Index returns in August were also from the health care and information technology sectors. These companies, which included ServiceNow, Salesforce.com, Alphabet Inc., Pfizer and Facebook, among others, were not enough to overcome other detractors for the month when compared to the S&P 500 Index.
Source: Morningstar. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Individual company and index performance is not illustrative of fund performance. For fund performance current to the most recent month-end, visit vaneck.com.
VanEck Morningstar US Wide Moat UCITS ETF (MOAT) seeks to replicate as closely as possible, before fees and expenses the price and yield performance of the Morningstar Wide Moat Focus Index.
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