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Life sciences is one of Mercia’s areas of focus and investment expertise. Seven of Mercia’s top 20 holdings at 31 March 2020 were in life sciences, valued at £29m in aggregate or 33% of total portfolio value (all of which had originated through Mercia’s third-party managed funds), with another c 40 earlier-stage life sciences investments across its third-party managed funds. COVID-19 has accelerated the opportunity for a new generation of novel and recombinant vaccines. This explosion of potential new treatments will require new diagnostics and bio-manufacturing support to scale supply once they are approved. These are areas where Mercia is already invested.
Companies: Mercia Asset Management PLC
City of London has announced a trading statement covering its first quarter FUM and financial performance. With the Karpus merger taking place on 1 October, all figures refer to the pre-transaction entity. Markets were very supportive over the quarter, with a smaller offset from net outflows. At the quarter-end, FUM were $5.94bn, an increase of 8% on the $5.50bn at the financial year-end. Fund performance was good in the main strategies, with Frontier being the exception. It was also the source of the majority of the outflows, as the largest client reallocated away from the sector.
Companies: City of London Investment Group PLC
Cenkos Securities plc has terminated coverage of Record Plc. Our previous recommendation (BUY) and forecasts can no longer be relied upon.
Please contact Cenkos for further information.
Companies: Record plc
What’s new: Today’s trading update reveals 17% rise in assets under management (AuM), double digit revenue growth, and an increasing operating margin as the business scales. The outlook is positive. Highlights are:
12.6% rise in 1H Group Revenues to £11.0m (1H last year: £9.7m);
21.9% rise in 1H adj operating profit to £5.0m (1H last year: £4.1m);
17.4% rise over 6 months in AUM to £7.8bn on 30 September 2020,
n.b. From 31 March 2020 the WMA balanced index rose 11.6% to 4510;
- Market movements added 12.5% to AUM (i.e. Tatton outperformed WMA);
- 1H net inflows of £328.1bn were 4.9% of opening AUM (i.e. c 10% annualised net inflows);
3.0% rise in Paradigm Mortgage Services member firms to 1,591
2.5% rise in Paradigm Consulting member firms
Interims will be announced on Wednesday, 18 November 2020
Companies: Tatton Asset Management Plc
Following on quickly from its impressive full year results, these interim results confirm that our confidence for growth in the Program Management business was not misplaced.Contracted Premium increased 95% YoY (and 12% ahead of December 2019) to $925m –a stone's throw away from the $1bn 2020 guidance set in 2018. At the same time, Gross Written Premium (GWP) grew 42.6% to £247.2m, resulting in Economic EBITDA turning positive, at £0.8m compared to a loss of £0.3m in 1H19
Companies: Randall & Quilter Investment Holdings Ltd.
The Vaccine Group (TVG) has agreed a collaboration with the world-leading Pirbright Institute to develop a vaccine to combat type-1 PRRSV disease, as part of an 18-month development project funded by ECO Animal Health (EAH-LON). PRRSV is a viral disease causing reproductive failure and often fatal respiratory disease in pigs. PRRSV is one of the most economically significant disease affecting swine production, costing pig producers over >$600m in the US and >€1.5bn in Europe each year. Investing (particularly in vaccines) and seeking to in-license new products are a key part of ECO Animal Health’s growth strategy; as such, positive results from this project could facilitate additional research projects and/or potentially licensing agreements with ECO Animal Health. This early industry endorsement for TVG’s herpesvirus vector vaccine technology is encouraging, and data from the project also has relevance to the ongoing development of a SARS-CoV-2 animal vaccine and other vaccines at TVG. Other TVG projects in African Swine Fever and Bovine Tuberculosis are ready to enter animal trials once testing facilities become available (pandemic dependent). Frontier IP currently has an 17% equity stake in TVG. We are encouraged by TVG’s progress in line with Frontier IP’s development strategy, but anticipate the news today to have no material impact on Frontier IP at this juncture. The next anticipated catalyst for Frontier IP will be FY’20 results expected in the coming weeks.
Companies: Frontier IP Group Plc
There was an eclectic mix of property companies to feature in the top price movers for September. Top of the tree was private rented sector and residential development specialist Sigma Capital Group, with a 34.2% rise. The group launched a £1bn joint venture with EQT Real Estate, the real estate platform of global investment firm EQT, to deliver 3,000 private rental homes in Greater London. Micro-cap investor Panther Securities also hit double-digit gains, while Macau Property Opportunities saw an uplift in its share price after announcing debt refinancing and a disposal. CLS Holdings, the investor in offices in Germany, France and the UK, continued to see a recovery in its share price – which has risen 15.1% in the last three months. Off the back of solid results, Berlin residential landlord Phoenix Spree Deutschland saw its share price gain 7.2%. Schroder REIT’s share price rose 6.6% in the month as it embarked on a share buyback programme, while Irish commercial property investor Yew Grove REIT also saw positive shareholder reaction to amending its investment strategy to increase its target loan to value ratio to 40%.
Companies: SUPR DIGS CRC PSDL ASEI TPON RLE UKCM BREI BCPT RGL SIR SLI TOWN CAL
Altus Strategies* (ALS LN) – BUY, Target 115p – 5,000m trenching programme launched at the Laboum Gold Project, Cameroon | Arc Minerals* (ARCM LN) – Annual report describes transformational year for Arc as it focusses on Zambian copper prospects | BlueRock Diamonds (BRD LN) – Third quarter figures highlight substantial improvement in volume and grade | Keras Resources* (KRS LN) – Progress in Togo and Utah | Power Metal Resources* (POW LN) – Launch of website galley | Shanta Gold (SHG LN) – West Kenya Scoping Study confirms attractive project economics | Yamana Gold (AUY LN) – Admission to London’s Official List
Companies: ALS ARCM BRD KRS POW SHG
Fidelity Special Values (FSV) employs a value-based, contrarian investment style aiming to achieve long-term capital growth primarily through investment in UK companies, which the managers believe are undervalued or where potential has not been recognised by the market. FSV has endured a challenging period of underperformance. However, lead manager Alex Wright and co-manager Jonathan Winton believe the Q120 market sell-off created many investment opportunities, which they have sought to exploit. In their view, UK value stocks, and FSV in particular, now offer great value, which is further amplified by the trust’s current discount making for a good valuation starting point for investment. The managers see significant scope for the trust to outperform not only growth strategies and UK equities in general, but also other asset classes.
Companies: Fidelity Special Values
The handover of Witan Pacific (WPC) to Baillie Gifford (BG) on 16 September 2020, following the board’s decision and favourable shareholders’ vote, marks the trust’s transition to the new asset manager. BG won the mandate with its proposal to transform the Asia Pacific growth and income trust into a pure China equity growth strategy. The manager considers that ‘still misunderstood and underinvested’ China (a c 2.5% allocation in 2019 global portfolios) is the key global growth market of the 21st century, and that global investors who miss out on the present China opportunity run the major risk of being left behind.
Companies: Witan Pacific Investment Trust
To achieve YoY revenue growth over H1/20A despite the challenges of Covid-19 and its impact on the travel sector is testament to Equals' resilience and increasing focus on B2B and International payments services. While weaker gross profit and EBITDA margins have impacted profitability in H1/20, we see potential for an earnings recovery in H2/20 given cost reduction measures currently being undertaken. This should lead Equals to cash breakeven in Q4/20 and FCF positive by early FY21.
Companies: Equals Group Plc
FY20A results largely reflect a period prior to the Covid-19 lockdown, yet show Duke entering a more challenging FY21E with momentum. Yesterday's trading update demonstrated another notable rise in quarterly cash receipts for Q2/21, as royalty partner trading continues to improve. As some partners' forbearance measures will expire this month, Q3/21 receipts should continue this upwardly momentum. This opens the door to a return to cash dividends at some future point. Today, Duke also confirms it is now seeking new royalty partners, alongside follow-ons.
Companies: Duke Royalty
2020 has so far proven to be the latest episode in a long period of technology outperformance, as we observed in this article. Over the past decade, technology-related companies have tended to perform like consumer staples or defensives on the downside, and like high-growth discretionary stocks on the upside: an ideal combination from the investor’s point of view. As a result the indices (and fund managers’ portfolios) are increasingly correlated to ‘big tech’. How do investors who want a diversified portfolio deal with this, and how can they introduce more diversification into their portfolios, without reducing the potential for growth? The first step, of course, is to use specialist funds to diversify one’s holdings of individual technology stocks. Allianz Technology Trust (ATT) and Polar Capital Technology Trust (PCT), for instance, are both run by tech specialist managers. But ATT differs from PCT in that the portfolio is significantly more concentrated and, at times, has greater exposure to mid-caps. This combination of features means that ATT can be more volatile and deviate from the benchmark to a greater extent, from time to time. Nonetheless over the last five years, these two aspects of ATT have paid off for its shareholders – having outperformed PCT by a total of 15% in NAV terms. While both trusts have delivered strong returns relative to their Dow Jones World Technology benchmark, both of their fortunes are also inextricably linked to big tech. If the biggest technology companies catch a cold, then the wider technology sector will likely catch it in the short term. At the same time, as we conclude in this article, there are good reasons why the quality characteristics which technology stocks display give them the potential to outperform for years to come. But nothing lasts forever and, while we wouldn’t bet against technology performing strongly in absolute terms over the medium term, it might be that sector leadership could pass elsewhere.
Companies: ATT PCT SMT BBH UKW IBT MHN IEM BERI MWY
MJ Hudson's FY20A Adj EBITDA of £4.2m is slightly ahead of our pre-Covid forecasts (£4.1m), despite the period including four months' trading during the pandemic. Since a March nadir, the business has seen evidence of recovery, with group LfL revenue by mid-Sept ahead of prior year levels. Today, MJH also announces the acquisition of an Irish funds service provider (Bridge Consulting) for €2m upfront, and up to €9.8m earn-out. Our forecasts and recommendation remain Under Review.
Companies: MJ Hudson Group Plc
Montanaro European Smaller Companies (MTE) has generated impressive returns for investors over the past year and has outperformed its benchmark in four of the past five 12-month periods. The trust is ahead of both its benchmark and its peer group average by more than 80 percentage points over the five years ended 30 September 2020
Companies: Montanaro European Smaller Co.S Trust