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Baron Funds



Baron Growth Fund These businesses are often young and making significant investments to grow that are not accorded value by most investors. As these businesses build competitive advantages and address growth opportunities, the lowerthan-normalized profitability of many such companies often depresses their share prices in the short term. It is also what gives Baron Growth Fund a chance to make investments in those businesses at prices that we believe do not reflect their long-term profit prospects. 57% of these investments have outperformed the market during their holding periods. As these businesses mature, if they are successful and we remain shareholders, they often become “all weather” investments, offering predictable growth while enhancing returns through increased dividends and share repurchases. Baron Growth Fund owns stock in 32 businesses in which the Fund has been a shareholder for more than five years. These investments represent 73.3% of the Fund’s assets and have earned a compound rate of return of 16.7% since their purchase, compared to 10.8% for the Russell 2000 Growth. All but five of these investments have earned higher rates of return than the benchmark over the same time periods. Most investments in the Fund that have been held for more than five years have realized approximately threeto five-fold appreciation so far. Six have achieved returns in excess of eight times since their initial purchase. Table VII. Top performing stocks owned more than five years Year of First Purchase Cumulative Total Return Since First Date of Purchase Choice Hotels International, Inc. 1996 1,452.7% Arch Capital Group Ltd. 2002 906.1 Alexander’s, Inc. 1999 899.0 Vail Resorts, Inc. 1997 800.5 Under Armour, Inc. 2005 789.1 IDEXX Laboratories, Inc. 2005 714.8 As a result of owning stocks that have generated outsized returns over a longer holding period, the market caps of approximately 63% of the Fund are above Morningstar’s breakpoint classification of small-cap stocks. Over the last five years, Baron Growth Fund’s weighted average market cap has moved slightly above the Morningstar Small Cap Breakpoint of $2.0 to $4.0 billion and far below the highest market capitalization limit for mid-cap stocks of $19 billion. Recent Purchases Table VIII. Top net purchases for the quarter ended December 31, 2016 Year Acquired Market Cap When Acquired (billions) Quarter End Market Cap (billions) Amount Purchased (millions) Glaukos Corporation 2016 $1.1 $1.2 $9.0 Kinsale Capital Group, Inc. 2016 0.6 0.7 4.0 Ltd. 2016 2.0 1.9 3.5 Penn National Gaming, Inc. 2008 0.8 1.2 1.4 Red Rock Resorts, Inc. 2016 2.3 2.7 1.3 Glaukos Corporation is a medical device company commercializing a stent implant, branded the iStent, as a treatment to relieve eye pressure in glaucoma patients. Revenue has grown from $71 million in 2015 to almost $110 million in 2016 (55% growth) based on volume increases of its iStent business. Glaukos has successfully obtained favorable reimbursement increases for 2017 and will potentially benefit from a favorable competitive environment that we believe will help revenue grow beyond organic volume growth. We therefore expect greater than 40% year-over-year growth in 2017. Longer term, we expect revenues to catapult with the expansion of the iStent opportunity into the larger glaucoma market of 3.5 million U.S. patients versus the current population of treated patients of roughly 150,000 to 200,000. Our confidence comes from early data that shows that with ophthalmologist training and the addition of a second iStent, efficacy for the devices can match and/or surpass what is achieved with eye drops, the current standard of care. (Josh Riegelhaupt) Kinsale Capital Group, Inc. is a specialty insurance company that focuses exclusively on the excess and surplus lines (E&S) market, a lesscommoditized segment for risks that are unique or hard to place in the standard market. We believe that Kinsale is a well-run insurer that should grow book value per share much faster than peers. The E&S market is attractive because it has historically grown faster and provided better underwriting margins than the standard market. Kinsale’s senior management has an average of 20 years of experience in the E&S market and previously ran a successful insurer that was eventually sold at a premium valuation. Kinsale operates a proprietary technology platform that enables faster turnaround times and provides a 20% to 40% cost advantage. The company also focuses on small- and mid-sized commercial customers, a market segment where competition is lower, retention is higher, and pricing is better. Because of its small size, low costs, and advantaged distribution, Kinsale has the rare ability to achieve double-digit premium growth while delivering best-in-class underwriting margins. We believe that Kinsale has a long runway for profitable growth in the large insurance market. (Josh Saltman) We initiated a new position in Ltd. during the fourth quarter. provides an operating system for micro businesses, enabling them to build and maintain their websites as well as operate their businesses more efficiently. Wix has approximately 95 million registered users and 2.2 million premium users. It is the leader in its market, which is large and underpenetrated as most micro businesses still pay thousands of dollars to professionals to build and maintain their websites. Wix’s strong brand is synonymous with website design, and it also has strong competitive advantages around its layered technological architecture enabling ease of use and design flexibility. Moreover, Wix’s technological edge (1,000 research & development personnel) results in faster iteration with first-tomarket features, such as the recently introduced artificial intelligence powered design engine that is capable of automatically designing websites within minutes. Wix’s offering and the freemium model result in great cohort economics with triple-digit returns on customer acquisition costs. (Guy Tartofsky) Portfolio Holdings As of December 31, 2016, Baron Growth Fund held 61 investments. The top 10 holdings represented 40.7% of the Fund’s net assets. All these top 10 investments have grown dramatically and were purchased when they were smaller businesses. We believe they all offer significant further appreciation potential although we cannot guarantee that will be the case. The median market capitalization for Baron Growth Fund’s entire portfolio is approximately $3.0 billion. We believe the Fund’s diversified portfolio offers investors potentially better-than-market returns with less risk than the market. 26

December 31, 2016 Baron Growth Fund Table IX. Top 10 holdings as of December 31, 2016 Year Acquired Market Cap When Acquired (billions) Quarter End Market Cap (billions) Amount (millions) Percent of Net Assets Vail Resorts, Inc. 1997 $0.2 $ 6.4 $354.4 6.3% Arch Capital Group Ltd. 2002 0.4 10.6 336.5 6.0 Gartner, Inc. 2007 2.3 8.3 272.9 4.9 FactSet Research Systems, Inc. 2006 2.5 6.5 245.1 4.4 IDEXX Laboratories, Inc. 2005 1.9 10.5 190.0 3.4 CoStar Group, Inc. 2004 0.7 6.1 188.4 3.4 Under Armour, Inc. 2005 1.0 11.8 186.3 3.3 Choice Hotels International, Inc. 1996 0.4 3.1 168.6 3.0 Gaming and Leisure Properties, Inc. 2013 4.2 6.3 167.8 3.0 ANSYS, Inc. 2009 2.3 8.0 167.4 3.0 Share prices for many businesses in which Baron Growth Fund has invested have changed little during the past three years despite substantial growth of their businesses. Brief sketches of several businesses that are investing and penalizing their current income to become much larger businesses are below: CoStar Group, Inc., the leading provider of commercial real estate information and multifamily marketing solutions, is generating robust lowteens revenue growth and margin expansion while significantly investing in its business. The company is preparing to migrate users of its low-end LoopNet Premium Searcher product to its flagship CoStar product in 2017. It is expanding its sales, research, and product development capabilities ahead of this transition. We believe that the returns have the potential to be dramatic, as CoStar will be able to migrate LoopNet customers to the superior CoStar product, creating an incremental $200 million of annual recurring revenue while also improving customer efficiencies. We believe that CoStar has the potential to exceed $1 billion of annual revenue and 40% EBITDA margins within the next two years, and can double its revenue and enhance its margins further over the next five years. Guidewire Software, Inc., the leading provider of technology solutions to the P&C insurance industry, is benefiting from a replacement cycle of 30- year-old core systems. Guidewire has emerged as the gold standard in the industry, with dominant win rates, near perfect retention results, and accelerating demand. Through innovation and targeted acquisitions, Guidewire has more than tripled its addressable market since coming public just five years ago. We believe the company is on a path to increase its EBITDA by 10-fold over our investment horizon. Despite this progress and opportunity, the market punished Guidewire shares this year for signing several new large contracts where it will incur certain costs up front but can’t recognize the corresponding revenue under GAAP accounting conventions for 8 to 12 months. This is despite collecting cash up front for services to be provided later! The market was also disappointed in an acquisition because of a year one accounting decision that penalized current results. TreeHouse Foods, Inc. shares declined as management’s focus on integrating its large Ralcorp private label food business penalized its current results. TreeHouse purchased Ralcorp at a “bargain price” of $2.7 billion, about half of Conagra’s cost only three years prior, because Ralcorp did not fit with Conagra’s branded business and was losing customers due to poor execution and out-of-stock issues. We believe Ralcorp’s execution issues are actively being remedied. Management has reorganized the sales force into five divisions, effective January 1, 2017, to leverage synergies between Ralcorp and legacy TreeHouse better. We are extremely excited about secular growth in private label, TreeHouse’s unique positioning in the fastest growing categories, early signs of cross sales into new grocery accounts, and a dramatic margin expansion opportunity. Under Armour, Inc. shares declined on Under Armour’s reduced margin expectations from enhanced efforts in international, which is in startup mode, and footwear, which carries lower gross margins than the company’s core domestic sports apparel. Under Armour’s revenue growth was also negatively impacted in 2016 by the bankruptcy of an important customer, The Sports Authority. We believe Under Armour has created a compelling brand with outstanding products and a growing cadre of stellar young athletes as brand ambassadors. At $5 billion revenue, Under Armour is less than 10% the size of Nike and Adidas. We think Under Armour could double in size within the next five years! When we initially invested in Under Armour 11 years ago, its revenues were $500 million. We believe Under Armour is under-distributed and has substantial opportunities in footwear, women’s, children’s, international and its new UAS line, and view its wearables and connectivity investments as offering significant optionality. Although Under Armour is growing more than twice as fast as Nike and Adidas, the stock is now valued similarly to its peers on a sales basis. Manchester United plc penalized its earnings by investing heavily in a new manager and players during the summer transfer window. Manchester United has a globally recognized brand and vast worldwide following, with almost 660 million fans. The franchise is benefiting from the growing global importance of live sports and secular growth in U.S. soccer. We think the company has significant brand monetization opportunities, including global and regional sponsorships and merchandizing contracts. Its opportunities to increase TV broadcasting revenue and benefit from mobile digital media are also significant. We expect Manchester United’s investments to boost its revenues more than 50%, approaching $1 billion and to double its EBITDA during the next five or six years. The Fund’s diversified portfolio of businesses have, in our view, high barriers to entry, positive secular trends, large addressable markets, and exceptional management teams. We believe stock prices of the high quality growth businesses in which we have invested will ultimately command premium valuations. Respectfully, Ronald Baron CEO and Portfolio Manager 27

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