The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, but with March coming to a close we have perhaps seen the end of the first act. Most of the developed world is in various degrees of ‘lockdown’; anxiously watching poorly reported – and often poorly understood – numbers for indications that their government’s strategy is working. Meanwhile equity markets saw one of their worst ever quarters in Q1 2020, as whole swathes of the economy were shut down by government diktat. The speed with which the situation developed was remarkable; and it is fair to say that all managers would have been surprised, even if they had other reasons for being bearish. We take a look at how and why certain investment trusts have done well in absolute and relative terms amidst the carnage, and ask if the causes of the crisis can provide any indication how the situation might end, and which trusts might outperform.
Companies: BHGU BHMG RICA PSHD BGUK MWY USA BGEU SMT MNL ATT FGT TIGT
Recent years have seen companies opt to remain private for longer; due to their ability to access capital from alternative areas and to remain free of the increasingly burdensome requirements of being listed. The implosion of the Woodford Equity Income Fund as a result of liquidity problems has shone a negative light on open-ended funds holding stakes in private companies. However, the capacity to hold illiquid assets is one of the key characteristics of the investment trust structure. In this article we assess the advantages and disadvantages of holding minority stakes in private companies, and the impact that being re-valued periodically can have in a market characterised by wild swings in sentiment; which is perhaps of most relevance in the current market.
Companies: MERI USA SMT FCSS RCP EWI AUGM
The most terrifying words in the English language are, or were at least according to the late president of the United States Ronald Regan: "I'm from the government and I'm here to help." and for investors in global smaller companies, this could be prescient. Most investors into smaller caps are attracted by the prospect of exponential business growth. Young companies with innovative products are supposed to offer a disruptive threat to established companies, with huge potential markets to grow into. However, developments in society and politics could be calling into question the ability of smaller companies to generate the same excess returns in the coming decades. The chief issue is regulation: while regulation is often mooted as in the interest of society at large, there is evidence that in recent years the chief beneficiaries of regulation have been the large players in existing industries, who are better able to adapt to the increasing costs. In this study we consider how the regulatory burden is affecting markets around the world and what it means for investors in the various regions.
Companies: JUS USA JEO MINI AJOT
2018 saw the first negative calendar year for the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones since 2008 and, despite a subsequent rally, sentiment remains divided between those who believe the US market has more room to run, and those who think the longest bull market in history will soon come screeching to a halt. Instinctively, it feels like a correction must be due and, indeed, a recent survey of Kepler Trust Intelligence readers showed the majority feel that there are choppy waters ahead. Among those who felt that the outlook was negative, the concern raised most often was the impact of any escalation in the ‘trade-war’ talk between China and the United States, while the national ‘black dog’ that is Britain’s constant companion – Brexit – continues to weigh on investor spirits closer to home. However, there are many other indicators which suggest the bull market could continue, making this a difficult time for investors wondering which way to jump. Against this confusing backdrop we look at three different scenarios for the US over the next year, and identify a number of trusts which are positioned well for each.
Companies: USA ATT GVP JUSC BRNA IBT JAM TPOU
Baillie Gifford US Growth (USA) launched in March of 2018, aiming to produce long-term capital growth through investing in US equities. Gary Robinson and Helen Xiong are at the helm of the portfolio, searching for exceptional growth companies, where their innovations are likely to offer significant contributions to society. The managers undertake rigorous bottom-up analysis to uncover information others might be missing, in particular looking for companies that exhibit high barriers to entry, a large market opportunity and a culture that is aligned with their end goals. In order to fully expose investors to the highest growth opportunities, the managers also have latitude to invest in unlisted companies. In their view, the most compelling growth companies are choosing to stay private for longer, which they believe gives the trust a unique edge over its peers. On sectoral basis, the trust is dominated by the consumer discretionary (26%), information technology (19.6%) and health care (17%) sectors. Since the launch of the trust, performance has seen its fair share of ups and downs. The first six months of the trust’s life saw NAV returns of over 30%, close to 10% greater than the S&P 500 and the AIC peer group, and close to 15% ahead of the IA peer group. However, the final four months of 2018 saw the trust lost close to 19%, considerably more than peers (-12.9%) and the benchmark (-11.4%). Since then, the trust has once more rebounded and over 2019 the trust has delivered 20.8% NAV returns, to the 6 May. This volatility is likely to continue, and with a down capture ratio of 128 (sector average of 85) and standard deviation of 30.6 (relative to the sector average of 19.9) the trust might not be for the faint hearted. Currently, the trust is trading on a premium of 2.7%. This premium has been reasonably consistent throughout the 14-month life of the trust, reaching highs of over 10%, and only dipping to a discount a handful of times for very short periods. The company has been issuing shares over recent months to help grow the trust and make sure the premium does not expand too far.
Companies: Baillie Gifford US Growth Trust
Two years after the shock election of Donald Trump and with the US mid-term elections approaching on 6 November, we thought it a good time to strip out all the noise and bluster and assess what the Trump administration has really meant for US markets and the trusts that invest in them. We can identify two key policy moves Trump has achieved as President: tax reforms and trade tariffs. Each has significant ramifications for certain sectors and trusts, some good and some bad. The long-term effects are still in the balance, with the midterms a crucial fork in the road. Since Trump was inaugurated as president, the landscape of the US market has arguably transformed, with greater optimism around the near-term prospects for equities and greater pessimism around international relations. We take a look at how trusts have positioned themselves vis-à-vis these trends. “I promised the American people a big, beautiful tax cut for Christmas. With final passage of this legislation, that is exactly what they are getting.” Arguably the most significant piece of Trumpian legislation for the economy and the stock market was his wide-ranging tax reform introduced at the end of December 2017. This included cutting n the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% and a dramatic change to the current model of taxation, in particular the taxation of US corporations’ foreign subsidiaries.
Companies: IBT USA BRNA ATT JAM JUS GVP GVP
Investors have become increasingly aware in recent years of the rich pickings which can be found among companies which are yet to see an IPO. Indeed, statistics show that the range of companies which have already listed on a stock exchange are less and less representative of all of the growth opportunities which exist in an economy. Investment trusts have been quick to respond to this trend, and an increasing number have come to market in recent years looking to invest into unquoted, private companies. Certainly, there are success stories – witness Scottish Mortgage’s investment in Alibaba way before it IPO’d. Naturally, examples like this can lead to investors worrying about missing out and, without addressing the private company investment universe, clearly investors are limiting themselves to only a sub-set of the complete opportunity set. For many investors the worry is that the companies they are ignoring, arguably, have the best long-term wealth creating characteristics. However, there are risks involved in unquoted stocks, and before getting carried away with the new trusts targeting them, it is worth bearing in mind that listed private equity sector, within which many trusts have demonstrated strong returns over various cycles, has for some time been focused exclusively on this area.
Companies: SMT PHI USA AUGM ICGT SLPE NMCN
2017 was by all measures a very good year for investors. With an equity market in full cry, we saw the FTSE 100 reach all-time highs on the final trading day of the year, and the S&P 500 achieve its first ever ‘perfect’ calendar year with positive returns every month. Meanwhile, volatility was low, particularly in the US, and the VIX Index ‘fear gauge’ continued to reflect a singular calmness among investors.
Companies: AUGM SGEM USA MATE
The strategy employed for Baillie Gifford US Growth (ticker: USA) which launched at the end of March 2018, revolves around the notion that long-term wealth is best created through finding exceptional growth companies, and where those companies’ innovation is likely to offer significant contributions to society. The portfolio will be comprised of both listed and unlisted companies. This, the managers believe, gives the trust a unique edge over its peers, giving investors exposure to the most compelling growth companies, which are now choosing to stay private for longer. USA has not at the time of writing made any announcements revealing what the portfolio constitutes so far, or how far the managers have got in terms of investing the capital raised. The managers have stated that they expect that companies held within the portfolio will exhibit three common characteristics: they address a large market opportunity; they are able to create and maintain a deep competitive moat; and the company’s culture is aligned with what they are trying to achieve. USA is the only trust in the AIC North America sector to be trading on a premium (currently +3%). The board has not adopted any formal discount or premium targets; however, it has stated that it does recognise the importance of purchasing or issuing further shares when it might need to mitigate the effects of an imbalance. The trust has an annual management charge of 0.7% on assets up to £100m and 0.55% thereafter. This is the second cheapest management fee in the North American sector, behind only JPMorgan American.
Research Tree provides access to ongoing research coverage, media content and regulatory news on Baillie Gifford US Growth Trust.
We currently have 25 research reports from 2
Litigation Capital Management (LCM) is an alternative asset manager specialising in disputes financing, with its main operations in Australia and the UK. The company provides funding for litigation in exchange for a share of any settlement and has built a strong track record of supporting winning c
Companies: Litigation Capital Management Ltd
Mondelez International has announced that it has appointed MediaMonks to manage global technology infrastructure, global websites and content production for North America, Latin America and AMEA. We believe this account win by S4 Capital further vindicates the unitary structure and integrated offer of the group as Mondelez initially worked with MightyHive before broadening the scope of this relationship to encompass MediaMonks. S4 Capital describes the account as a Whopper, indicating that it will generate revenues of over $20m when the account is fully transitioned. We will update our forecasts for the account win at the next financial newsflow from the group. We currently forecast LFL Gross Profit growth of +26% for FY21 and believe the Mondelez win will further accelerate this. We raise our target price to 500p (was 475p) and retain our Buy recommendation.
Companies: S4 Capital plc
Liontrust has delivered in line interims, however AuM growth since the HY point drives higher earnings estimates. In H1, net inflows remained strong despite the backdrop and, alongside performance, contributed to 28% AuM growth. Post-period, performance momentum has boosted AuM by a further 5% to £28.1bn, plus the completion of Architas. Together, this results in a step up in the run rate. We update our forecasts for higher than expected AuM driving a +5% upgrade to FY21e EPS and +10-13% in outer years. We do not forecast scaling in Architas or Global which could prompt further upgrades, reducing the 15x FY22e PER.
Companies: Liontrust Asset Management PLC
Today's news & views, plus announcements from Capita, JD Wetherspoon, HarbourVest Global Private Equity, Walker Crips Group, Randall & Quilter*, Michelmersh Brick, LoopUp, Schroders British Opportunities Trust and Baillie Gifford UK Growth Trust.
Companies: Randall & Quilter Investment Holdings Ltd.
An in-line trading update for the year to 31 December 2020 states EBITDA will be at least £3.6m and £2.0 at the PBT level. However, conservative budgeting affects 2021E and 2022E with the company rebasing expectations following year-end re-forecasting exercise, taking into account the prolonged challenging macroeconomic environment. The acquisitive opportunity remains in place.
Companies: STM Group PLC
Today's news & views, plus announcements from LLOY, POG, FRAS, PETS, SPR, WHI, FKE, RLE
Companies: Lloyds Banking Group plc (LLOY:LON)Real Estate Investors plc (RLE:LON)
H1 has seen a clearer outlook for portfolio valuations which has allowed Mercia to recoup some of the reduction at the Finals. Cash earnings are better than expected as costs have remained lower for longer. A well-funded portfolio and £25m cash has prompted declaration of a maiden 0.1p interim dividend – a strong signal of confidence. Lower costs and increased asset values have prompted 30-45% upgrades to adj. EBITDA across the horizon. The shares are trading at a 32% discount to NAV, of which 17% is cash. This disregards all value for the asset management platform. A 10x EBITDA multiple ascribed to 3rd party asset management earnings plus NAV points to a c.40p/share intrinsic value, before further value creation.
Companies: Mercia Asset Management PLC
Record has set itself the goal of generating greater growth and H121 showed some encouraging steps in this direction. The substantial new dynamic hedging mandate in the period was traditional business for the group, but there was also news of a new currency impact fund, which provides diversification, higher fee margins and the potential for significant development. The implementation of new IT systems is underway, and measures to develop and retain staff have been taken.
Companies: Record plc
President Trump likes to project himself as a highly successful businessman, but surprisingly little is known about his true financial position. Various articles, including a 2016 in-depth analysis by The Wall Street Journal, have speculated about his income and asset base. All sorts of claims and counter-claims have been made about his wealth – by Trump himself, pitching his fortune at some $9bn, and by journalist Timothy O'Brien, suggesting that it is as “low” as $150m-$250m. It is doubtful whether we shall ever know the truth, but we can use Trump’s UK corporate filings to gain an insight into his businesses in Scotland.
Companies: AVO ARBB ARIX CLIG DNL FLTA ICGT PCA PIN PHP RECI STX SCE TRX SHED VTA YEW
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
Palace Capital’s (PCA) H121 performance was robust and ahead of our central expectations. We have slightly increased FY21 earnings forecasts and introduced FY22–23 estimates, with growth driven by Hudson Quarter completion, on track for March 2021. Significant additional reversionary potential and development/refurbishment represent significant value creation potential.
Companies: Palace Capital plc
Today's trading update demonstrates Equals producing robust FY20E revenues, as it rebounds steadily from a COVID-19 affected Q2/20. Material progress has been made on rightsizing costs, the benefits of which should be felt in FY21E. While our newly reissued forecasts expect a weaker profit delivery in H2/20E, we expect strong YoY EBITDA growth thereafter, as the group returns to double-digit revenue growth with a rationalised cost base and geared profit growth. Should these forecasts be met, we expect the current c2x EV/Sales multiple to move back towards Jan 20's pre-covid 4x multiple, hence we move back to “Buy”.
1H’21 results cover the depths of the initial market impact of COVID-19. We note the 4.7% fall in EPRA NTA and the effect of the dividend rebasing announced some months prior. There are no negative surprises. The focus on regional offices is a positive. There are other positives that we consider to be important, namely the ongoing contractual performance of the leisure asset tenants and lengthening of leases there, and the continuing encouraging residential sales (and small letting) at the mixed-use development of PCA’s newly created Hudson Quarter, York. Here, we see just one of PCA’s initiatives to unlock value and deliver attractive returns.
Today's news & views, plus announcements from KGF, MRO, UU, BAB, BRW, FUTR, GNS, HICL, LIO, AEXG, FUL, KWS
Companies: AEX GNS HICL
Alliance Trust (ATST) underwent a major overhaul three and a half years ago, refocusing on its global equity portfolio. Non-core parts of the company have been sold and overheads slashed. Today, the trust’s assets are managed by nine of the world’s best stock pickers. Investing sustainably is a strong theme within the fund, but the manager, Willis Towers Watson, seeks to blend managers with different styles so that the trust is not beholden to any particular fashion in markets.
Companies: Alliance Trust