Equity markets ‘too volatile’ for bargain hunting, says Lego fund manager

Soren Thorup Sorensen manages $18bn portfolio as Kirkbi chief executive

The fund manager overseeing the fortune of the Lego billionaires says equity markets remain too volatile to justify any bargain hunting.

"This is not the time to be brave," Soren Thorup Sorensen, the chief executive of Kirkbi Group said in an interview on Tuesday. He spoke shortly after unveiling a set of results that showed he almost doubled the Lego family's investment profits in 2019.

“Volatility is at historic highs,” said Sorensen, who manages an $18 billion portfolio as the Kirkbi CEO. As a long-term investor, the best response is to “sit still and weather the storm”, he said.

Global stocks, measured by the MSCI World Index, have slumped by more than 20 per cent since mid-February, leaving many companies undervalued. Larry Fink, the CEO of BlackRock, said in his annual letter to shareholders that the sell-off has created an "attractive opportunity" for some clients to "rebalance into equities".


“At some point, it could be in two months, it could be in four months, we will see opportunities and we will then be ready,” Mr Sorensen said.

“Right now, it’s important to acknowledge that the uncertainty over the depth and the duration of the current situation is too large,” he said.

Instead of looking for new investments, Mr Sorensen said Kirkbi is spending its time making sure the companies it already owns are sound. Aside from toymaker Lego, Kirkbi has stakes in ISS A/S, Nilfisk A/S and Landis+Gyr AG. It also owns 50 per cent of Merlin Entertainments, the operator of the Legoland parks, after increasing its stake last year.

Kirkbi recently joined the board of ISS, as it seeks greater influence over the companies it owns.

“We want to be an active owner in the companies where we have significant ownership,” Mr Sorensen said. “We want to vote at the shareholder meetings, we want to be a driving factor to convince management about CSR and sustainability,” and “this can be through a board membership or a close dialogue with management,” he said.

Kirkbi is chaired by Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, the grandson of Lego's founder and one of Denmark's richest men with a fortune of $4.1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. In recent years, he has handed more control of Kirkbi to his three children, Agnete Kirk Thinggaard, Sofie Kirk Kristiansen and Thomas Kirk Kristiansen, who have a personal fortune of about $4 billion each.

The fund, which has investments in solar and wind power, has outlined a new strategy which includes spending more on renewable energy, Mr Sorensen said. Its next investment could be in new areas like battery technology or energy efficiency, he said.

“The world’s demand for sustainable energy and more energy efficiency will only rise,” the CEO said. – Bloomberg