A number of REITs have the ability to thrive in current market conditions and thereafter. Not only do they hold assets that will remain in strong demand, but they have focus and transparency. The leases and underlying rents are structured in a manner to provide long visibility, growth and security. Hardman & Co defined an investment universe of REITs that we considered provided security and “safer harbours”. We introduced this universe with our report published in March 2019: “Secure income” REITs – Safe Harbour Available. Here, we take forward the investment case and story. We point to six REITs, in particular, where we believe the risk/reward is the most attractive.
Companies: AGY ARBB ARIX BUR CMH CLIG DNL HAYD NSF PCA PIN PXC PHP RE/ RECI SCE SHED VTA
City of London has announced a merger with Karpus Management Inc, a US SECregistered investment adviser. Based in upstate New York, it is focused on wealth management for HNW individuals and, as of end-March, it had FUM of $3.22bn. Like City of London, it primarily invests through funds. Its primary focus is closedend funds (CEFs) but it also uses mutual funds, ETFs and other vehicles. With a range of balanced mandates, on an underlying basis, 39% of assets are equities, predominantly in the US, and 61% fixed income. City of London will be significantly diversifying its exposure by asset class and client type.
Companies: City Of London Investment Group
Recent news: On 21 April CLIG’s 3Q trading update to 31 March 2020, revealed:
27% fall in Funds Under Management (“FUM”) from US$6.0bn to US$4.4bn
- with weaker Sterling, FUM in £ fell 20% from £4.5bn to £3.6bn.
In 3Q, while Diversification CEF strategies (Opportunistic Value and Developed funds) had net inflows of US$25m, the Group’s Emerging Market Funds had net outflows US$68m
The Group has an active pipeline across all its major CEF offerings with increased interest in the Diversification CEF strategies
Post COVID-19, income to FuM remains unchanged at c. 75 bps of FuM
City of London has announced a trading update for 3Q’20. Market conditions have been challenging for fund managers. With a largely institutional investor base, there has been a mixture of subscriptions and withdrawals, with net withdrawals in the quarter of $35m. Falling markets weighed more heavily on FUM and, at the end of March, total FUM were $4.40bn, down from $6.01bn three months earlier. We do note that markets have recovered somewhat so far in April, suggesting current FUM will have clawed some of that back. No decision has been taken on the dividend, but near-term increases look unlikely.
What’s new: CLIG’s 3Q trading update to 31 March 2020, reveals:
CLIG’s Funds Under Management (“FUM”) fell 27% from US$6.0 to US$4.4bn and with weaker Sterling, FUM in £ fell 20% from £4.5bn to £3.6bn.
In 3Q, while Diversification CEF strategies (Opportunistic Value and Developed funds) enjoyed net inflows of US$25m, the Group’s Emerging Market Funds had net outflows US$68m
The widening of the closed-end fund discount was the main reason for CLIG funds’ 3Q underperformance relative to benchmarks
The Group continues to maintain an active pipeline across all of its major CEF offerings with an increased interest in the diversification CEF strategies
Post COVID-19, income to FuM remains unchanged at c. 75 bps of FuM
Companies: AVO AGY ARBB ARIX BUR CMH CLIG DNL GDR HAYD PCA PIN PHP RE/ RECI RMDL STX SHED VTA
Much of the UK’s privatisation programme took place between the early 1980s and the mid-1990s: subsequent sales have been few. Undoubtedly, privatisation attracted many private investors to the market, many for the first time.
Companies: AVO AGY ARBB ARIX BUR CLIG DNL FLTA GDR NSF PCA PIN PXC PHP RE/ RECI RMDL STX SCE SIXH TRX SHED VTA
City of London has announced its interim results for 1H’20. Several of the key figures were announced in the January trading statement, so the main interest is in the underlying figures. With FUM growth supported by positive markets and net inflows, revenue growth was good at 11% compared with the same period last year. Despite the helpful conditions, City of London maintained its excellent cost control and the net result was a 23% increase in profit after tax to $5.06m. Cash conversion, as always, was excellent, with operating cashflow at 107% of earnings.
We recently published a paper, Share ownership: For the many, not the few, based on a statistical survey of share ownership, produced jointly with Argus Vickers, the share analysis service. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has now issued its equivalent survey. This paper compares its results with ours. Although there are, inevitably, differences in the detail, the two surveys reach the same conclusions.
Companies: AVO AGY ARBB CLIG DNL FLTA GDR MCL NSF PCA PIN PXC PHP RECI RMDL STX SCE TON VTA
City of London has announced a trading update for 2Q’20. At the end of December, FUM had grown to $6.01bn, a 13% increase over the September 2019 figure of $5.34bn. This was driven by healthy market growth and more inflows into the Developed World strategy. A rebound in the exchange rate means a smaller increase in FUM of 5% in sterling terms. The highlight for many investors will be in the increase in the interim dividend of 1p to 10p. While nothing has been said about the full-year dividend, increasing that at the same rate would still leave the five-year rolling dividend cover, on our estimates, above the 1.2x target.
CLIG’s Funds Under Management (“FUM”) rose 11.6% to US$6,014m; Sterling strengthened 3.9% against the US dollar to £1 = US$1.32 and Emerging Market Index (MXEF) rose 5.7% to 1,115. CLIG’s Emerging Market, International Developed and Opportunistic Value strategies outperformed with good NAV performance and narrowing discounts.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is due to publish its most up-to-date survey on share ownership in mid-January, which identifies the beneficial owners and decision- makers of the stock market. Hardman & Co has worked together with the share analysis service, Argus Vickers, to jointly produce its own survey, which anticipates the conclusions of the ONS survey but goes into much greater detail. Our work does not use a sample of 200 quoted companies as the ONS historically has, but rather includes everyUK quoted company. The ONS samples share registers every two years; our study uses six-monthly data points. Our survey also extends to shareholders on NEX; the ONS does not.
Companies: AVO AGY ARBB BUR CMH CLIG DNL FLTA GDR MCL NSF PCA PIN PHP RECI RMDL SCE SIXH SHED VTA
It used to be said that in central London you were never more than six feet from a rat. Nowadays, the saying has been updated: you are never more than six feet from a Pret-aManger. Before Pret came McDonald’s, serving the same burgers in the same buns from London to Tokyo. Such was the ubiquitous nature of the fast food giant that in 1986 The Economist launched the ‘Big Mac Index’. Presently, this famous index of relative currency strength suggests sterling is seriously undervalued  . Sterling has certainly been weak since the 2016 Brexit referendum, and remains c.12% below its level on the day before the Brexit vote. Yet it has climbed c.8% from its lowest point in August (as of 26 November) as a no-deal Brexit appears to be off the table. We believe a more sustained rebound in the currency could be on the horizon – at least, assuming the Conservatives win the general election. This could be good news for those owning UK assets but, for UK companies with overseas earnings, it might make meeting and growing dividends more challenging. For UK large-caps in particular, a further rise in sterling could lead to dividend growth being weak, given the large proportion of those companies’ earnings are derived from overseas. Open-ended equity income funds will have no protection against this, but it is exactly the sort of environment where the closed-ended structure can shine. By being able to build up revenue reserves, investment trusts have the ability to build up a safety net against this sort of eventuality, as we discuss below.
Companies: SCF JCH BRIG CLIG ASEI
The trade-off in the risk/reward for gold and gold mining equities is improving, as central banks push the current iteration of the post-World War II Bretton Woods financial order towards its limits.
Companies: AVO AJB AGY ARBB BUR CLIG DNL DPP FLTA GTLY GDR MCL MUR NSF PCA PIN SRE PHP RE/ RECI RMDL STX SCE TON SHED VTA W7L
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Equals' FY19A results confirm another year of strong, double-digit revenue and adj EBITDA growth. The move to a B2B focused offering continues to progress and looks well timed in view of Covid-19's impact on overseas travel. While the pandemic impacted Q2/20E trading early on, we note June KPI's indicate a positive rebound. Given the continued uncertainty as to Covid's full impact upon FY20E trading, we refrain from reissuing forecasts and thus leave our recommendation under review.
Companies: Equals Group
Accelerating activity in to FY21
Companies: Manolete Partners
Blackbird plc* (BIRD.L, 19.25p/£64.7m) | Mirada plc* (MIRA.L, 92.5p/£8.2m) | Tern plc* (TERN.L, 10.75p/£29.0m) | Checkit plc (CKT.L, 39.5p/£24.5m)
Companies: BIRD MIRA MIRA TERN CKT
Record delivered full year results matching expectations with assets under management equivalent (AUME) slightly ahead as positive inflows more than offset the impact of market moves and fee margins were broadly stable. The group also demonstrated its operational resilience and expertise to clients during the onset of COVID-19 and accompanying volatility. Looking ahead, the group has a fresh focus on growth and to support this is investing in a measured way in IT and its staff.
S4 Capital has announced the merger of Lens10, a leading Australian digital strategy & analytics consultancy, with MightyHive, its data & programmatic media practice. Founded in 2010, Lens10 provides a range of data services including digital strategy, digital analytics, optimisation and tag management. It is a certified Google Partner in Google Analytics, Google Cloud & Google Marketing Platform and is an Adobe Analytics partner. It has 25 data specialists in Melbourne and Sydney, and has a blue-chip client list including CottonOn, National Rugby League, Australian Ballet and ME Bank. Data analytics continues to grow in importance as marketers accelerate their digital transformation and S4 Capital indicates it has seen explosive demand for these services. No financial information has been disclosed, though we note the group reiterates its commitment not to compromise its balance sheet, which remains net cash. Separately, the group has announced that Miles Young, previously Chairman & CEO of Ogilvy, is joining the board. He has particular expertise in creative work and talent, new technologies and Asia Pacific developed over 35yrs at Ogilvy
Companies: S4 Capital
REACT Group plc (REACT) is exploiting a gap in the market for specialist deep cleaning services for customers in the public and private sectors, with revenues split 50/50 between reactive work and regular maintenance. The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a significant upturn in activity in certain sectors (such as healthcare and transport) but temporarily weaker demand from others (such as hospitality). While its Covid-related work is by no means its biggest revenue generator, the legacy of the pandemic is likely to have a profound impact on future levels of activity as all businesses and organisations become more aware of the importance of maintaining high standards of cleanliness and hygiene. With a new management team and strengthened balance sheet, we believe the outlook is positive, a view that has been supported by the Group’s interim results which have generated maiden profits.
Companies: React Group
The covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on the share price of property companies, with 31% wiped off the value of their total market capitalisation during the first quarter of 2020.
Companies: AEWU CREI CSH BOOT INL HLCL THRL SUPR RESI RGL DIGS GR1T SOHO PHP BOXE ASLI UTG AGR UAI BLND UANC CAL SHED CWD WHR EPIC WKP GRI YEW HMSO PCA INTU NRR
Wirecard UK’s suspension by the FCA has been lifted, allowing U Account business through Shelby Holdings and Morses Club to resume as normal, permitting customers full access to cash, which was previously frozen, albeit ring-fenced in a safe Barclays UK account. Morses Club has offered its U Account customers free use of the previously affected U Account accounts in July as compensation for the issue, helping to mitigate any negative impact and ensuring the relationship with customers remains strong.
Companies: Morses Club
Hipgnosis Songs Fund (SONG LN) has today announced a trading update for the full year ending 31 March 2020. The unaudited NAV has risen 13% YoY to 116.7p, up 14.3% since the last published NAV of 102.2p as at 10 January 2020. This represents a like for like valuation uplift of 11.4%. All equity has been fully deployed and shareholder approval has been sought to increase net debt from 20% to 30%. Revenue is strong with £64.7m generating an EPS of 10.7p (more than 2x the annual 5p dividend target). NAV growth has been driven by revenue statements which were up 2%, and an increase in streaming growth rate assumptions by the independent valuers. The portfolio comprises 54 catalogues, with 13,291 individual songs, now valued at £757m which was acquired at purchase price of £697m on an acquisition multiple of 13.9x – now valued on 15.0x historical earnings.
Companies: Hipgnosis Songs Fund Ld
FY20 Interim results
Companies: Litigation Capital Management
Companies: AGR CSH ESP DIGS IHR LXI PHP RESI SIR SUPR THRL SOHO BBOX SHED WHR
Gore Street has moved a meaningful proportion of its 900MW pipeline into exclusivity with agreements covering a 81MW operating site and a 50MW project in development, both in the GB market. These add to the recent announcements of projects in Scotland and near London. Power storage continues to offer the opportunity to acquire projects that will deliver the fund’s target 10% IRR and we think there is plenty more to go for.
Companies: Gore Street Energy Storage Fund
Martin Currie Global Portfolio Trust’s (MNP’s) performance has improved considerably following the appointment of manager Zehrid Osmani on 1 October 2018, since when he has refined the trust’s investment process. MNP has now outperformed its benchmark over the last one, three, five and 10 years. The manager focuses on high-conviction positions and his long-term horizon helps navigate short-term market volatility. MNP has performed well despite a lack of exposure to the high-profile, large-cap US technology stocks that have led the market. Osmani has generated alpha by investing in some mid-cap stocks that are not particularly well followed, such as US company Masimo (non-invasive patient monitoring technologies), which is now the largest position in the portfolio.
Companies: Martin Currie Global Portfolio Trust
The group’s final results were broadly in line with our forecasts, with an 11% increase in revenue, marginally lower than expected profitability, and an 11% increase in the proposed dividend.
Ground Rents Income Fund (GRIO) has today released its interim results for the period ending 31 March 2020. The fully diluted NAV is 110.1p down marginally from previous NAV of 111.3p as at 30 September 2019 year-end. This valuation included a material valuation uncertainty clause as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has subsequently been removed since the period end for long dated ground rent valuations given the defensive nature of the income streams and continued market/transactional activity. The latest valuation represented a decrease on a like for like basis of £0.36 million or -0.3%. Two Interim dividends were paid during the six-month period ending 31 March totalling 1.98p, and a further dividend of 0.99p has been declared today (ex 16 July / payable 10 August). Dividend cover excluding the non-recurring litigation costs on Beetham Tower was 90%. Assuming a full year dividend of c4p this puts the shares on a flat yield of 4.9% and a discount of 26%.
Companies: Ground Rents Income Fund