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
Burford has announced its results for 2019. As previously indicated, these were lower than in the previous year. Revenue fell 17% from $430m in 2018 to $357m. Profit after tax, on Burford’s basis, declined 31% from $329m to $226m. As announced earlier, there will be no final dividend so only the interim dividend of ¢4.17 was paid for FY19. Unusually, Burford has also released a trading update for early 2020 alongside its main figures. Court results and arbitral awards have been obtained that would generate some healthy profits. Most notable is $200m in income ($300m in cash receipts) regarding which further legal review is unlikely.
Companies: Burford Capital Ltd.
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
Burford recently released its first-ever trading statement, covering cash activity in 2019. Group-wide commitments set a new record of $1.57bn, a 24% increase. Overall deployments were almost flat compared with 2018, at £1.07bn. In both, the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) and fund arrangements increased their share. It was, however, a quiet second half for realisations on-balance sheet in the core litigation finance business. 2019 profits will be lower than in 2018, with Burford indicating that net realised gains will be ca.$20m-$30m lower than in 2018 and net unrealised gains ca.$50m-$70m lower.
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
Positive corporate governance developments
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
Following continued delays of a Brexit agreement, few sectors within the UK market have remained attractive to investors despite low valuations. One sector which has continued to outperform despite the political drama has been the UK video gaming sector (henceforth UK gaming), which we are fans of. We believe a combination of sector-leading growth, strong cash conversion and timely cyclical positioning support our positive view on the UK video gaming sector.
Companies: ABBY AMS ANX ARS ATYM AVON BLVN PIER BUR CGS CAML CDM CSRT TIDE CYAN JET2 DEMG ELM EMR FPO FDEV GTLY GENL GHH GRI GEEC GKP HMI HAYD HEAD HILS HTG HUR IBPO IOG INDI JHD JOG KAPE KEYS KWS KCT KGH LAM LIT LOK MACF MANO MOD OXIG PCA PANR APP SRE PHC PMO RBW RMM RBGP REDD RSW RNO ROR SUS SCPA SEN SHG SOLG SOM SUMO TM17 INCE TWD TRAK TRI VNET VTC ZOO ZTF
In the aftermath of a dramatic period, Burford has provided additional disclosure that greatly improves understanding of its fair value process and its conservatism. The timing of when fair value adjustments are made has been well explained previously, with clear objective criteria. How the amount of each valuation change is determined has also had some clarification, with an objective core overlaid by adjustments that involve some judgement. Detailed data have also been provided on the 20 concluded cases that have had adjustments of $1m or more. All this adds considerably to the belief that Burford’s fair value is prudent.
Burford has announced its interim results for 1H’19 and has produced another excellent set of figures. After stripping out third-party interests, revenue was up 40% to $287m and earnings grew 36% to $225m. Litigation investment was again the star, with income also increasing 36% to $265m. While this saw some benefit from the recent Petersen transaction, there were strong results beyond that with the rest of the portfolio producing a first-half RoIC of 78%. These brought total recoveries to $1.16bn from 99 investments, with a cumulative RoIC of 98% (from 85% to 31 December 2018) and IRR of 32% (from 30%).
Burford has produced yet another period of record investment income and profits, providing strong support that the scaled level of deployment made over the last two years has started to bear fruit. We continue to believe this global leader can grow at a double-digit rate in this fast growth market. Buy.
In January, we provided a list of 11 stocks for 2019 that we believed would perform strongly with attractive catalysts that could lead to material outperformance. In this Quarterly Research Outlook, we revisit these views, analysing what has happened and how the remaining six months of the year could play out.
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Burford has made a double announcement about the Petersen case. Argentina had appealed to the US Supreme Court over the decision about where the case will be heard. The Court has declined to hear the appeal, so proceedings will take place in the US. Burford has also sold another 10% of its entitlement in the case for $100m; implying a market price of $1bn, ca.25% above the value implied by the smaller July 2018 transaction. Additional disclosure is that the sale took place to 11 institutional investors, with 40 having participated in the market now. This adds credibility to the valuation generated by the transactions to date.
The Group has announced the dismissal of an annulment application against the Teinver case by the World Bank arbitration panel, meaning the put option on this case has now expired and it can recognise the full income for the 2018 sale. Not only does this remove the risk of reversal of previous income, further details in the announcement shows the conservatism in the FV marking of this case. We re-iterate our Buy rating.
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Litigation Capital Management has announced FY20 results with gross profit up 7% to A$21.7m and PBT of A$9.2m, slightly behind expectations albeit the Group had already flagged that delays to 3 cases during the year would result in resolutions in FY21, thereby impacting FY20 results. That said, excellent strategic progress through the year and good news flow as well as increasing scale suggests more value to come. Reiterate buy
Companies: Litigation Capital Management Ltd.
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
Interim results demonstrate YoY growth and a resilient outcome that has exceeded management's expectations from the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. This is testament to the degree of recurring revenue generated across the business. FY21 trading looks to be more challenging, as notably lower new insurance sales post-lockdown will translate into lower premium income. A number of organic opportunities are being worked on to fill the shortfall. Rising UK redundancies and their impact on policyholder retentions creates great uncertainty, hence our forecasts remain withdrawn and recommendation remains Under Review.
Companies: Personal Group Holdings Plc
Sigma Capital (“Sigma”) has partnered with global alternatives manager EQT to deliver and manage a £1bn GDV private-rented sector (“PRS”) housing fund focused on Greater London. EQT will invest £300m equity, complemented by debt (including a Homes England facility), to build 3,000 homes in 5 years. Sigma will generate fee income as development manager, a recurring fee income stream from managing completed assets, as well as participation in returns via a minority co-investment (£16m) and a profit share. We estimate that the fee income alone is worth £45m to Sigma in the first five years: 50% of the current market cap. Crucially, this is a step up in AuM bringing a high quality long-term recurring earnings stream. We will reforecast following interim results (expected tomorrow) to provide full context.
Companies: Sigma Capital Group Plc
In June, faced with the task of replacing its longstanding portfolio manager, Alistair Mundy, Temple Bar Investment Trust’s (TMPL’s) board reiterated its commitment to a value style of investing. The board has now opted to hand the management contract to Nick Purves and Ian Lance of RWC Partners, two managers with considerable experience of managing income portfolios using a value-style approach. Value investing, where managers buy stocks that are valued more cheaply than market averages – based on measures such as price/earnings, price/book and yield – is deeply out of favour. The RWC team says that value stocks have never looked more unloved in the 30- odd years that they have been managing money. In their view, this makes it imperative that TMPL investors keep faith with the strategy and it also means this is an attractive entry point for new investors. One important change, however, is a cut to TMPL’s dividend to a level that the RWC team believes will be more sustainable.
Companies: Temple Bar Investment Trust
In line interim results to 30 June 2020 show the strength of this business amid a difficult environment. This is the first step in what should be an exciting growth trajectory toward a larger, scaled up business with high recurring revenues and ownership of the full supply chain in the personal injury and clinical negligence market for clients requiring long-term, risk-adjusted returns. We reiterate our TP of 50p, noting further upside potential as acquisitions are completed.
Companies: Frenkel Topping Group Plc
HSBC’s future should be clarified as soon as the US and China come back to the negotiation table. This will not happen before the US elections are over. In the meantime, HSBC will continue to be instrumentalised and its share price will remain under pressure.
Companies: HSBC Holdings Plc
Today's news & views, plus announcements from VOD, POLY, SMDS, BLND, BYG, WEIR, DC, SNR, SHI, INTU, IHR, CNC, ARE, INCE
Companies: INTU SHI INCE
The impressive full year 2019 results included some eye-catching numbers, including a record PBT of £40.1m (nearly 3x FY18 @ £14.3m), £620m of reserves acquired over 16 legacy deals, and $842m of (estimated) Contracted Premium in the Program business – on track to breach $1bn in FY20 as previously guided and $1.5bn-$2bn in 2022-2023.
Companies: Randall & Quilter Investment Holdings Ltd.
As anticipated, Record has confirmed a material uplift in AUME following the rebound in financial markets from April. We upgrade FY21E forecast EPS by +18%, with higher staff costs offsetting some of the benefit. We expect AUME growth to be more modest from herein. While no performance fees have been recognised over Q1/21 and will be harder to achieve due to Covid-19, any future recognition would have a materially positive impact on earnings. Covid has temporarily paused new client wins, but we expect further additions to come as conditions improve.
Companies: Record Plc
Mercia’s FY20 results reflect continued progress, delivering on management’s three-year strategy. AUM climbed 58% to £0.8bn, while FUM rose 73% to £658m. Following the acquisition of the NVM VCT fund management business, the company is operationally profitable on a monthly basis, with annual revenues exceeding operating costs for the first time in FY20. Net assets rose 12% to £141.5m, with the direct investment portfolio stalled at £87.5m reflecting the impact of COVID-19 fair value adjustments and a £15.7m net investment. The group remains well-placed for a downturn with £30m of unrestricted balance sheet cash and £320m of group cash. Post period end the group exited The Native Antigen Company, with £5.2m in cash (8.4x return, 65% IRR) expected. Despite the group’s progress, Mercia’s shares continue to trade at a material discount to NAV (0.60x), even before considering the embedded value of the third-party fund management business (> 4.5p at 3% of AUM).
Companies: Mercia Asset Management Plc
COVID-19 and a further cut to power price assumptions saw NAV per share fall to 309p in H120 (FY19: 337p). However, PPP performed well, bidding momentum has picked up recently and John Laing Group (JLG) expects ‘modest’ NAV growth in H2. New CEO Ben Loomes highlighted digital connectivity and energy transitions as potential future investment themes, and will set out further details in November. We cut our FY20 NAV per share forecast by 14% to 308p. The share price stands at an 8% discount to FY20e NAV per share.
Companies: John Laing Group Plc
Trident Royalties Plc (AIM: TRR) has, this morning, announced the acquisition of a 1.5% Net Smelter Royalty (NSR) over the resourcestage Lake Rebecca Gold Project located in the highly prospective Eastern Goldfields province in Western Australia. The royalty package is being acquired from a private seller for a total consideration of A$8.0 million (c. US$5.63 million), comprising of A$7.0 million in cash and A$1.0 million in new ordinary shares in Trident. The acquisition is Trident’s fifth overall and its third gold deal. As per strategic guidance the company is moving fast assembling a diversified portfolio with a paying cashflow stream from iron ore and copper production and several strategic gold royalties with the potential for near term revenues. The market is paying attention with TRR shares up 49.8% since its IPO on AIM in June this year. There is clearly more to come with c. US$7.5 million of uncommitted cash as well as the potential for debt funding and the ability to use equity as acquisition consideration. The Lake Rebecca Gold Project operated and wholly owned by Apollo Consolidated (ASX: AOP), is located 150km ENE of Kalgoorlie in the Eastern Goldfields Province of the Yilgarn Craton. The Project, envisaged as a simple open pit operation, is close to existing gold infrastructure namely Saracen Mineral Holdings Limited’s (ASX: SAR) Carosue Dam Operation whose processing plant is in the process of being upgraded to increase throughput to 3.2 Mtpa.
Companies: Trident Royalties Plc
It was a remarkable second quarter with global markets staging the sort of comeback few would have thought plausible, at the end of March. With some countries still battling the first wave of infection and others seemingly headed to a second, not to mention what happens when governments start to remove direct stimulus measures, uncertainty still abounds.
Companies: NCYF EGL NAIT NAIT THRG GCP IGC HHI JLEN PCT VNH ASLI IBT HRI CSH SIGT