Aberdeen New India Investment Trust (ANII) owns a portfolio of Indian companies chosen for their strong balance sheets, sustainable earnings and good governance, factors hoped to make them resilient to weak economic conditions as well as making them able to grow faster than the market over the long term. ANII has a strong long-term track record of outperformance which has been boosted by good performance in weak markets, although relative performance has been weaker in the past five years. In 2020 the portfolio outperformed in the initial coronavirus crash despite being geared going in, although it has lagged in the recovery, meaning ANII is behind the index year to date – as we discuss in the Performance section. The portfolio is managed by Kristy Fong and James Thom. They draw on the detailed stock-specific analysis of the Aberdeen Standard Asian equities team. The team view strong corporate governance as an important characteristic of a quality company (see the ESG section), and it is a key issue determining whether they invest or not. Kristy and James believe that giving up these principles for short-term gain could lead to worse losses in the future. Kristy and James have taken advantage of the volatility in the current crisis to invest in companies at more attractive valuations. They have focussed on building more resilience into the portfolio, believing that the short-term economic outlook is cloudy. Among the new stocks they have bought is Info Edge, a group of e-businesses benefitting from the structural shift online. Discounts on the India specialist trusts have widened during the pandemic, and ANII’s shares are currently trading 16.6% below NAV.
Companies: Aberdeen New India Investment Trust
The coronavirus outbreak in China has developed from a humanitarian catastrophe to a stock market panic. While the short-term economic impact of the virus could well be severe, there are still fundamental reasons to be invested in developing Asia for long-term investors. Historically one reason investors have been encouraged to invest in emerging Asian markets is to benefit from the region’s greater GDP growth. The OECD forecasts that UK real GDP, that is adjusted for inflation, will grow by 2.2% a year between 2020 and 2060, and the USA by 1.9%, whereas China is projected to grow by 2.4% and India by as much as 4.5%.1 Thanks to the power of compounding, this increase amounts to growing 1.1 and 1.3 times larger in the case of the US and UK, 1.5 times in the case of China and 4.5 times in the case of India. Economic theory posits that the long-run return from a stock market should be equal to the long-run growth in corporate earnings, which is determined by long-run GDP growth. On that basis China and India should see much greater stock market gains. This theory has a poor record in practice, and it is now common knowledge that GDP growth and stock market returns are generally not correlated. Indeed, it is possible that the correlation is weakening over time, given the propensity for companies to list in countries outside of their main areas of business. This doesn’t mean that GDP growth potential in emerging markets is irrelevant, however. We would argue that the underlying drivers of GDP growth are very relevant to the earnings potential in individual companies, which means that GDP growth can be valuable information for a stock-picking manager. In fact, we would argue that understanding the reasons behind GDP growth gives a better comprehension of how to invest in developing countries – such as those in Asia – and the advantages they really have. We consider why you might add to your Asia exposure in your ISA this year, despite the short-term issues, and look at some stock-picking trusts set up to generate alpha from the region’s advantages.
Companies: SST AIE ANII DGN
Aberdeen New India Investment Trust (ANII) aims to identify Indian companies with high and sustainable earnings, strong balance sheets and good corporate governance and buy them when they are on attractive valuations. The process leans on the bottom-up research of the Aberdeen Standard Asian equities team, particularly Kristy Fong and James Thom, who have managerial responsibilities for ANII. Their successful stock-picking has led the trust to outperform considerably over the last five years. As we discuss in the Performance section, the trust is the top-performing Indian closed-ended fund over that period, with the lowest volatility and the best performance in down markets. The team view strong corporate governance as an important characteristic of a quality company, and it is a key issue determining whether they invest or not. Kristy and James believe that giving up these principles for short-term gain could lead to worse losses in the future. India’s stock market has been weak over the past six months as the economy has absorbed a mini-financial crisis and the impact of government reforms. The quality tilt of ANII has been advantageous, and the managers have been taking the opportunity to top up their highest-conviction picks on cheaper valuations. With these India-specific reasons and the ongoing coronavirus scare, discounts in the region have drifted out and ANII’s shares trade on a 13.1% discount to NAV.
It is something of a truism to say that emerging markets are not a homogenous blob, but a range of highly differentiated economies and stock markets. Yet as investors, we often categorise them as one and the same, especially from an asset allocation and risk management perspective.
Companies: FCSS BRFI ANII BEE BRLA
Quality as an investing style has outperformed significantly in recent years, and over the past 12 months especially so. After this kind of outperformance, it is natural to ask whether a trend is over-done and profits should be taken – and that is what we have done. When analysing the typical quality benchmarks, it quickly becomes apparent that these indices have significant industry and sector exposures, which could affect how they perform in the future and put them at risk of a down period. But the picture is also complicated by the fact “quality” is a hard factor to define, making it crucial to understand the investment process of a manager thoroughly. In our view, there are good reasons to think that quality, properly defined, could continue to do well. In particular, we think that the strong performance of quality in down markets could appeal given the weakening sentiment towards equity markets this summer. However, the issues of index composition and the shifting definition of “quality” means that an active approach is preferable to a passive we argue. In this article, we take an in-depth look at the outlook for quality, and consider a selection of trusts taking varied approaches to achieving a strong quality tilt.
Companies: FGT FEET JUSC SST ANII DGN
Aberdeen New India owns a concentrated portfolio of stocks in India which are selected for the high quality of their financials and corporate governance. The trust draws on the research of a team of Asia-based managers led by Kristy Fong and James Thom with deep knowledge of the market and a differentiated approach developed over many decades of Aberdeen’s presence in the region. Their analysis aims to uncover those companies which can sustainably grow their earnings and which should beat the market over the course of an investment cycle, with the focus on quality and repeatable earnings rather than cyclical winners having led to particularly strong performance in down years. The trust offers exposure to the huge domestic market in India which is growing thanks to favourable demographics, with significant exposures to consumer staples companies and financial services companies which are rolling out services to the growing middle class. The trust has outperformed the market handsomely over the past five years, with NAV total returns of 94.5% compared to the MSCI India’s returns of 70.3%. The vast majority of this is due to stock selection rather than industry allocation; a validation of the bottom-up approach the team takes. In mid-2018 the managers took out a gearing facility which allowed them to take advantage of the cheap valuations in India in the second-half sell-off. They remain modestly geared at 4%, but in line with their cautious approach are unlikely to gear up further unless significant value emerges, such as another market sell-off. The discount is at 12.3%, having come in substantially since Modi won re-election in May. However, it still remains wider than the average emerging markets trust, which trades on a discount of 8.4%. The trust hasn’t paid a dividend since 2005, and is unlikely to do so this year, with the managers focused entirely on capital growth.
Aberdeen New India invests in high quality growth stocks in the Indian stock market with the aim of generating long-term capital returns. The trust has outperformed the market handsomely over the past five years thanks to good stock selection, although the past few months have been more difficult. As the market has sold off, the managers have extended use of the trust’s gearing facility to take advantage of cheaper valuations on offer in stocks that have fallen. The trust offers exposure to the huge domestic market in India, which is growing thanks to favourable demographics, with significant allocations to consumer staples companies and financial services companies that are rolling out services to the growing middle class. The discount is at 15%, near to the cheapest end of its five-year range, having widened from the under 10% it reached during 2017’s bull market. The trust hasn’t paid a dividend since 2005, and is unlikely to do so this year, with the managers focused entirely on capital growth.
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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
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