Aberdeen Asian Income Fund (AAIF) is managed by Aberdeen Standard Investments Asia (ASI Asia), aiming to provide reliable quarterly income and long-term capital growth. Its investment process identifies high-quality and attractively valued stocks that can be held for the long term. Manager Yoojeong Oh says that Asia offers attractive growth opportunities and dividend prospects, and ‘the number of dividend-paying stocks is on the rise’. She highlights the deep resources of the ASI Asia investment team, suggesting its presence on the ground and an extensive number of company meetings provides a strong foundation for successful bottom-up stock selection. While AAIF does not have a formal benchmark, its NAV has outperformed the MSCI AC Asia Pacific ex-Japan index and the MSCI AC Asia Pacific ex-Japan High Dividend Yield index over the long term.
Companies: Aberdeen Asian Income Fund
Aberdeen Asian Income Fund (AAIF) aims to generate an above-average level of income and long-term capital growth, even in challenging times, from a diversified portfolio of Asia Pacific equities. Data from the fund’s manager Aberdeen Standard Investments (ASI) Asia highlight the importance of income in the region; since 2000, c 50% of share price total returns have been from reinvested dividends and corporates are supportive of dividend growth. AAIF has generated double-digit NAV and share price total returns over the last decade and currently offers a 4.4% dividend yield. The dividend is well covered and the fund has c 0.9x the FY18 annual distribution in revenue reserves.
Today, we introduce our investment trust ratings. According to the quantitative screens we have selected in an attempt to highlight the best performers in the closed-ended universe, the trusts discussed here have been the best in their classes over the last five years. We have selected trusts using two different sets of criteria, aiming to identify the top performers for capital growth and for achieving a high and growing income. There are many rating systems for open-ended funds, but no quantitative-based system for investment trusts that is available to the average investor. While we cannot identify trusts which will perform well in the future – past outperformance is no guide to future out-performance – we hope these ratings will highlight the outstanding performers in the closed-ended universe and those managers who have best used the advantages of investment trusts to generate alpha. We are trying to reward consistent and long-term outperformance, and so we have decided to look over a five-year period. All data is as of the end of December 2018, sourced from Morningstar and JPMorgan Cazenove. We have looked at NAV total return performance and discount value has not been considered: the aim is to identify those trusts which have performed the best rather than highlight bargains.
Companies: IPU FAS ATR JEO FEV FGT THRG SEC PAC BRSC IAT HNE MIGO TRY JMG DIVI SLS BGS SDP JETI SOI BCI MRC TIGT EDIN JAI BEE SDV BRIG AAIF HFEL SCF SIGT BRFI IVPG CTY HINT JCH NAIT
Aberdeen Asian Income Fund (AAIF) aims to provide its investors with an attractive income, plus the potential for capital growth, by investing across the Asia Pacific region. The fund’s target c 4.5% yield is fully funded from portfolio income. AAIF’s investment process is bottom-up, with a strong focus on finding quality companies at attractive valuations. The managers meet all the companies they hold at least twice a year, and place great emphasis on understanding each company’s balance sheet and growth drivers to ensure everything in the c 40–70 stock portfolio is worthy of its place. AAIF’s quality and income focus means it has a natural bias to some more defensive areas, which could stand it in good stead in the current bout of market volatility. Its managers note that valuations in Asia are low in relation to Europe, North America and their own historical averages, and some individual stocks are very inexpensive versus history.
It is incredibly difficult to recognise entry points for markets or stocks: there is always a good reason for something to seem cheap but at the same time, a plausible cause for it to get cheaper. With threats of a trade war echoing in our ears and investors smarting from an unexpectedly tough first quarter, media attention has focused on the potential ‘buying opportunity’ in Asian equities, and against that backdrop we consider the outlook. As we show in the graph below, global stocks with the highest exposure to China have significantly underperformed since the start of March. Last month Trump announced tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminium and followed it up with wider tariffs in response to claimed Chinese intellectual property theft. After China announced its own tariffs in response, senior members of the Trump administration suggested the US might walk back their threats: commerce secretary Wilbur Ross said he expected the spat to end in negotiations, and newly-appointed director of the national economic council Larry Kudlow said that agreement may come before the tariffs are due to come into force in May. A weakening of the US position and an invitation to the negotiating table would be entirely in keeping with the past behaviour of the Trump administration. In January Trump was threatening to nuke North Korea on Twitter, yet now he is preparing to sit down and talk to its leader. It is a strategy he has followed in numerous areas: throw around threats, talk tough, and then negotiate back to a more reasonable mid-ground. However, there’s no guarantee that this time he won’t stick to his guns, and until a clear outcome emerges – volatility is likely to remain extreme.
Companies: SOI SDP AAIF IAT FCSS SST
Aberdeen Asian Income Fund (AAIF) is an income producing trust that offers a yield of 4.3% via a portfolio of high quality, cash generative Asian companies, managed by a highly experienced team led by regional superstar Hugh Young. The trust has delivered solid dividend growth since launch and generally positive returns over most periods, tending to perform on a relative basis better during weaker phases of the market. Thanks to this relative underperformance versus the growth fund dominated AIC Asian ex Japan sector, the trust has seen its shares move out to a double-digit discount in recent years. The trust is backed up by solid revenue reserves and pays a covered dividend. The trust offers an alternative option to ‘traditional’ equity income being exposed to Asian companies,where earnings have been on the rise and have a number of different risks and opportunities compared to developed market equities. The trust has traded on a relatively wide discount since 2015, and currently stands at 9.5%. The board’s active programme of share buybacks – which has seen more than 9m shares bought back since the start of 2016 – has prevented the discount slipping out further than its current level.
We have for some time argued that traditional equity income funds are too heavily dependent on a narrow range of stocks, and that the stocks themselves are perhaps looking overstretched in terms of the dividends they pay compared to their underlying earnings. In November last year we published research showing that 25.1% of the capital in the AIC UK Equity Income sector is invested in just ten stocks, and across those companies the average dividend cover is 1.17x. We found that open-ended funds are even more heavily concentrated, with just under 30% of assets invested in ten stocks, among which the average dividend cover is just 1.04%. The mood amongst investors seems to be changing as awareness of this concentration grows, not least because of articles like this one in the Times warning of a ‘squeeze’ ahead for investors and, where once UK Equity Income was regularly the top selling Investment Association sector, outflows have been building steadily for some months. In fact the IA UK Equity Income sector saw bigger retail outflows in January this year than any other bar the Specialist sector. Even after recent outflows, however, the sector remains one of the largest overall with assets of more than £62bn under management – accounting for roughly ten percent of all assets invested in open-ended funds. Among investment trusts, assets amounting to £10bn are held in UK Equity Income trusts. Income still commands a strong pull, then, and within the Investment Trust sector, the practise of boosting income by paying out a proportion of capital profits has become increasingly common as a means to attract new investors. The appeal of this practice from a fund manager’s point of view is obvious. Many investors clamour for income, so introducing a yield can encourage greater demand for shares. International Biotechnology Trust (IBT), which we cover in detail here, announced plans in September 2016 to convert some of the capital it generates into income, aiming for a yield of 4%. As the chart below shows, the discount has come in sharply since it did so, moving to a premium earlier this year having previously rarely traded inside a double figure discount for a large proportion of its lifetime. Invesco Perpetual UK Smaller Companies (IPU) saw a similar re-rating when the board announced plans to pay a significantly enhanced dividend partly funded by the capital account in September 2016. Like IBT, the trust, which yields 3.5%, has seen its discount tighten up sharply, moving in from a consistently wide double-digit discount to trade in single figures since the enhanced dividend was introduced. Looking at these share price movements, we thought it might be interesting to examine the broader investment trust sector and see whether a correlation exists between discount and yield.
Companies: IVPU IBT MVI MUT DIG EDIN PLI BEE BRWM IVI SCF AAIF PLI
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AFH interim results have shown resilience in a tough period. Revenues grew by 5% yoy and Adj. EPS is up 8% yoy. We reduce our FY20 EPS forecast by 8% to reflect the wider market falls and slower new business due to the lockdown. This reduction in earnings is significantly less than peers, highlighting the defensive nature of the business and the prudent temporary cost measures being introduced in FY20. The improved FCF of the business should lead to a re-rating, particularly as AFH now trades on 9.3x CY20 P/E, a significant discount to peers. Our reduced target price of 524p implies 81% upside. Re-iterate BUY.
Companies: AFH Financial Group
Much has been written about the effects of the virus on the world and on the stock market. Here is one analyst’s take on some of the likely impacts on the way we should look at companies. This article was originally produced as a blog, “10 Changes Post Virus”, which was published a few weeks ago.
Companies: AGY ARBB ARIX DNL GDR NSF PCA PIN PHNX PHP RE/ RECI STX SCE SIXH TRX 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
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
Aside from its FY 19 earnings presentation, British Land has adopted a more cautious anticipation about Offices in the City of London. We share this pessimism and have been surprised by the recent share’s bump. The latter is the opportunity to turn negative, again, and update our divestment case.
Companies: British Land Company
TCS has confirmed it will pay the previously announced interim dividend of 3.25p. A number of mitigating actions to preserve cash ensures that this is affordable. We estimate the £1.7m payment is less than 10% of cash and available facilities, which should be little changed from the April update. Rent collection levels of 75%, or 86% including deferrals, is resilient under the circumstances. There are also optimistic signs from Europe that people will be shopping in material numbers from 15 June. TCS will have all locations safely open from that date. We lower our NAV forecasts c.2%, mostly for the dividend payment, but also for a tougher outlook for CitiPark. Official guidance understandably remains withdrawn. The shares currently price in a c. 30% decline in underlying property values, which we think is excessive. On this basis, we see upside to the share price, setting it at 235p, still a c. 25% discount to NAV while short-term visibility is low. BUY
Companies: Town Centre Securities
Ramsdens has reported a strong set of trading results in the last twelve months to March 2020. COVID lockdown has led to store closures, which will lead to weaker trading over the following months. However, Ramsdens has a very solid balance sheet, is diversified and is well positioned to re-open stores and continue its growth. We use an 8x multiple on last 12 months to March 2020 earnings as a reflection of a normalised earnings base which reduces our target price to 162p from 180p. At this target price Ramsdens would trade on a CY20 P/B of 1.5x. This target price offers 15% upside and we re-iterate BUY.
Today’s FY update reports that the decisive action taken at the outset of the COVID crisis has protected returns. Revenues held up through to the May year end. Aided by cost savings, adj. EBITDA is expected to be 20% ahead. We expect a more modest final dividend to protect the capital surplus. Additional savings have been outlined, which we overlay on a conservative “flat market/fewer new clients” scenario for FY21e – where we hope outperformance is possible. Updating EPS forecasts: FY20e +25%, FY21e -10% and FY22e -7%; also incorporating the Hurley Partners acquisition (+8%). We consider MW a high quality core holding with long term potential.
Companies: Mattioli Woods
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
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: AGR CSH ESP DIGS IHR LXI PHP RESI SIR SUPR THRL SOHO BBOX SHED WHR
Tetragon Financial Group (TFG, Tetragon) achieved a 13.6% NAV/share total return and a 13.4% ROE in FY19, in line with its long-term target of 10–15%. The main driver of Tetragon’s performance was its asset management business (TFG Asset Management), which comprises managers with a total AUM attributable to Tetragon of US$27.4bn and generated an EBITDA of US$59.5m in FY19 (up 51% y-o-y). The late-2019 investment activity left Tetragon with a relatively low net cash position (4.1% of NAV at end-April). The shares trade at a three-year average discount to NAV of 44% (currently at 62.7%), which is relatively wide compared to peers given the company’s track record of delivering a 16% NAV TR pa over the last 10 years. The recent market sell-off has so far resulted in a 5.1% decrease in NAV (ytd to end-April 2020).
Companies: Tetragon Financial Group
Today's update confirms Equals delivered another quarter of significant revenue growth YoY, delivered by organic and acquisitive means. Performance across the product range has varied unsurprisingly and we expect these trends to continue over Q2/20E. Given the great uncertainty over the duration and severity of COVID-19's impact on the group, we withdraw FY20-21E forecasts and place our recommendation Under review, awaiting further clarity. Equals is supported by a strong, debt-free, balance sheet and is undertaking measures to further conserve cash.
Companies: Equals Group
MJ Hudson has confirmed that it expects to achieve profits in line with expectations for FY20E. This is a good result linked to new client wins during the COVID-19 disruption and timely cost management. Whilst much of the group's activities are proving resilient, uncertainty remains and in line with most of the peer group, MJ Hudson is withdrawing guidance for FY21E. We similarly withdraw our FY21E forecasts until visibility improves, moving our rating to Under Review. Meanwhile, the shares are now down 30% since their pre-COVID-19 highs, which is beyond that seen at outsourcing peers (Sanne, JTC). Whilst COVID-19 is presenting challenges for many businesses, we believe that: 1) the structural growth drivers in alternatives that underpin MJ Hudson's growth will continue to remain highly relevant, and 2) its strong balance sheet gives it a relative advantage.
Companies: MJ Hudson Group
Picton Property Income has completed a new £50m revolving credit facility (RCF) to replace two existing facilities that were due to expire in June 2021. Although initially undrawn, the facility maintains operational and financial flexibility, for a longer duration, at a slightly reduced cost. We expect FY20 results to be released later in June, although no date has been confirmed, including an update on the impact of COVID-19. The company entered this period of acute economic and sector uncertainty with a strong and liquid balance sheet and material internal asset management opportunities to support income and capital values.
Companies: Picton Property Income
In the past month the group has made significant progress in pivoting its business away from its traditional face-to-face model. Although lending levels remain appropriately subdued, it has achieved an impressive collections performance, with its largest business running at about 90% of pre-lockdown levels. This, combined with the group’s high risk-adjusted margins has enabled it to generate £3m of FCF in the first three weeks of April, taking its net cash position to £38.7m as of 21 April. This strong financial position, combined with the group’s innovative approach to product development puts it in an extremely strong position to serve its clients and win share when the current government restrictions are eventually lifted. Reflecting this positive outlook we reiterate our BUY rating.
Companies: Non-Standard Finance