BlackRock Greater Europe Investment Trust (BRGE) is co-managed by Stefan Gries (developed markets) and Sam Vecht (emerging markets). Gries explains that one of their jobs as active investors is to identify parts of the market that will be problematic and therefore will not create value on a multi-year basis. This informs their focus on high-quality growth businesses that can be held for the long term and on avoiding ‘value traps’. Gries believes that ultimately, the coronavirus-led market sell-off will provide a real opportunity for investors to return to Europe, a market that already had a low allocation from global investors. It will benefit from any improvement in the global economy as c 60% of its revenues are generated outside of the region, ‘which makes me quite excited’, he adds.
Companies: Blackrock Greater Euro Inv Tst
BlackRock Greater Europe (BRGE) offers investors an opportunity to access some of the highest quality companies across developed and emerging Europe. The past five years have seen the trust perform exceptionally strongly. In particular, it has come into its own in 2019, outperforming both benchmark and peers by close to 10%. Much of this outperformance can be put down to the new partnership, formed in 2017, between managers Stefan Gries and Sam Vecht. Together they have changed the shape of the trust, building a more concentrated portfolio which has helped the trust to generate higher levels of alpha. Despite the punchier approach, the trust has not sacrificed volatility for gains, and continues to offer one of the lowest standard deviations in the sector. Currently the trust trades at a discount of 3.5%, the narrowest in the sector.
BlackRock Greater Europe Investment Trust (BRGE) is co-managed by Stefan Gries (since June 2017) and Sam Vecht (since launch in 2004). Gries believes that investors do not have to be positive on the prospects for Europe to consider this trust, as it seeks to invest in companies with potential to create shareholder wealth over the medium to long term. He says that investor sentiment towards the region is very negative, which may provide an incremental opportunity when opinions change. Gries remains optimistic about the prospects for BRGE’s portfolio of high-quality companies, based on his assessment that there will be no major economic slowdown or recession in the coming year.
BlackRock Greater Europe Investment Trust (BRGE) has been co-managed by Stefan Gries since June 2017. Since then, there has been a marked improvement in the trust’s investment performance. Gries is constructive on the prospects for the trust, suggesting it provides access to winning franchises in niche, attractively valued companies that ‘just happen to be based in Europe’. In aggregate, BRGE’s portfolio companies have a meaningfully higher return on capital and greater forecast earnings growth compared with the reference index (FTSE World Europe ex-UK), which the trust has outperformed over one, three, five and 10 years. It also offers exposure to the potentially higher-returning emerging markets in Europe.
BlackRock Greater Europe (BRGE) aims to generate capital growth from large, mid and small-cap companies listed in Europe. The managers have flexibility to invest all over the continent (ex UK) – including up to 25% in countries listed in developing Europe. This flexibility clearly differentiates it from its peers. Despite having been managed by the same team since 2008, responsibility for BRGE was handed to Stefan Gries in June 2017, which has seen a marked change in the way portfolio is assembled. Stefan now clearly defines the investment philosophy, has a higher conviction portfolio, and lastly tries to deliver the best ideas of the European team more effectively, having changed the way that ideas get into the portfolio. Stefan has also committed to use gearing more fully in the future, when his optimism warrants it. The portfolio of stocks has been reduced to 42 holdings, and the changes have resulted in strong relative performance - although not yet a meaningful narrowing of the discount. Stefan’s philosophy is clearly rooted in a desire to be an “investor” rather than a “trader”, and aims to own a company for a minimum of three to five years. He aims to find “giants in their niches”, have a good proportion of recurring business, high cash-flow conversion and have good growth optionality. Compared to other funds and trusts, BRGE has a relatively high exposure to Morningstar’s “growth style”, and definite bias to mid and small-cap stocks. Stefan tries to balance risks by holding a proportion of the portfolio in more defensive stocks. Exposure to emerging Europe is decided purely on a bottom-up basis, and currently constitutes around 7% of the portfolio. Since Stefan was given responsibility for the trust in June 2017, the trust has outperformed the benchmark and investment trust peer group by over 6%. Despite having a more concentrated portfolio than average, over the past three years BRGE has achieved its strong returns with amongst the lowest volatility compared to peers (source: Morningstar). Over the longer term, BRGE has outperformed the index in seven out of the ten full calendar years since the team took over management of the trust. Gearing is used tactically by the managers up to a maximum of 15% of NAV. Stefan sees gearing as a natural extension of the number of opportunities that he is finding, and whilst gearing was approaching 10% during early summer Iast year, as valuations started to feel fuller, he started to bring gearing down again. This proved prescient, given the sharp falls stock markets experienced in Q4 2018. Currently, BRGE has negligible gearing employed. The board has been successful at managing the trust’s discount volatility, and the shares have traded within a relatively narrow band. While it didn't choose to enact the May 2019 tender offer, it has been buying shares back in the market, most recently at a discount (we estimate) of around 4.3%. As such, BRGE currently stands on a discount of 3.8% - narrower than the peer group average.
BlackRock Greater Europe Investment Trust (BRGE) has two co-managers: Stefan Gries focuses on developed markets in Europe (the large majority of the portfolio), while Sam Vecht focuses on emerging markets. Gries believes that the investment backdrop remains relatively robust, but stresses the importance of remaining selective. He seeks quality companies that can be held for the long term, where their earnings and cash flow potential is not reflected in their current share prices. Since Gries became co-manager in June 2017, BRGE has outperformed the FTSE World Europe ex-UK index by c 12pp. He continues to find attractive investment opportunities, and comments that the broad-based sell-off in emerging markets means there is potential for a higher emerging Europe allocation in the trust’s portfolio in coming months.
Fresh news from the Quirinal Palace on Saturday – with the Italian president effectively vetoing the government put forward by the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and the far-right League – has put Italy, and the future cohesion of the Eurozone, in the spotlight once again. Stocks and bonds were already under pressure before the announcement that the coalition’s preferred candidate for finance minister – Paulo Savona – had been rejected by the president, who put forward instead Carlo Cottarelli, a former IMF official, who some argue plays into populists’ hands as another example of the Italian establishment’s thrall to Brussels. The League and the Five Star Movement have previously called for Italy’s withdrawal from the Euro and both support policies which would ride roughshod over eurozone rules on budget deficits. The danger is that, by appearing to pander to Brussels, the president’s action on Saturday may backfire – fomenting even greater populist feeling among a population already deeply resentful of EU ‘meddling’. While this may seem like a return to form for the troubled Union after an uncharacteristically smooth patch, we think a sanguine approach makes sense. Italian politics works on compromise and backtracking, and the coalition documents suggest an exit from the euro is not on the cards. In fact, with the economic environment in Europe generally positive, any volatility in Europe generated by the headlines surrounding Italy could throw up some interesting opportunities. Viewed with a cooler head, little has changed in Europe since the weekend and the environment of low inflation and cheap money looks set to remain dominant. Unprecedentedly loose monetary policy from the ECB remains firmly in place, and the debate continues over whether the eurozone economy will be strong enough to allow policymakers to end the QE programme in September. President of the ECB, Mario Draghi, has recently announced that the interest rates on refinancing and on lending would remain unchanged at 0 per cent and 0.25 per cent respectively for the foreseeable future, providing technical support for European stock markets.
Companies: HNE JESC BRGE BEE JEO
BlackRock Greater Europe Investment Trust (BRGE) is co-managed by Stefan Gries (appointed on 20 June 2017), who focuses on developed European markets, and Sam Vecht, who focuses on emerging Europe. They aim to generate long-term capital growth from a relatively concentrated portfolio of 35-40 European equities, mostly from developed markets. BRGE’s investment performance has improved following Gries’ appointment, since when the trust has outperformed the FTSE World Europe ex-UK reference index by c 5pp. As well as positive contributions from portfolio companies, both in developed and emerging Europe, BRGE has benefited from not holding some of the larger European companies that have underperformed the broader market.
BlackRock Greater Europe Investment Trust (BRGE) aims to generate capital growth from a relatively concentrated portfolio invested across the greater European region. In June 2017, it was announced that Stefan Gries would replace Vincent Devlin as co-manager. He will continue to adopt BRGE’s flexible bottom-up stock selection approach, drawing on the wider resources of BlackRock’s European and emerging markets equity teams, but is reducing the number of holdings and intends opportunistically to make fuller use of the emerging European allocation. The trust is referenced against the FTSE World Europe ex-UK index and its NAV total return has outperformed over three and 10 years and is broadly in line over five years, while lagging over the last 12 months. Although the primary aim is capital growth, BRGE has a progressive dividend policy. Its current dividend yield is 1.7%, which is in line with its peer group average.
BlackRock Greater Europe Investment Trust (BRGE) invests primarily in developed European equites across the capitalisation spectrum, with the primary aim of achieving long-term capital growth. Up to 25% of the trust may be invested in developing European markets (currently c 5%). The portfolio is concentrated, typically holding between 45 and 65 securities. Vincent Devlin (developed Europe) and Sam Vecht (emerging Europe) have managed BRGE since July 2008 and fund inception respectively. It has outperformed the benchmark FTSE World Europe ex-UK index over one, three, five and 10 years and the dividend has been increased each year since the trust’s inception in 2004; the current dividend yield is 2.0%.
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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.
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
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
ULR’s finals were in line with on EPRA NAV and earnings a little better than expected. Valuations remain stable and full rent collection has been achieved for the current quarter. We see fundamental quality and resilience in the (now expanded) portfolio – ULR has already invested nearly £100m in the first two months of the new year following the £136m equity raise. We make no material changes to forecasts. Current valuation points to an 7%+ annualised return, with upside remaining from deployment of funding headroom, active management and potential for valuations to improve.
Companies: Urban Logistics REIT
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
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
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
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
The Merchants Trust (MRCH) is managed by Simon Gergel at Allianz Global Investors (AllianzGI). Aiming to continue to provide a high and growing level of income, he is adjusting the trust's portfolio in the wake of dividend cuts sparked by the negative economic effects of COVID-19. If there is an income shortfall in this financial year, MRCH is well positioned to maintain its dividend, with revenue reserves of more than 1x the last annual payment. It has not been an easy period for value managers over the last decade as growth stocks have led the charge; however, Gergel has outperformed the UK market over this period in both NAV and share price terms. The board reduced MRCH's gearing in late January 2020, which was opportune timing ahead of the recent significant stock market weakness.
Companies: Merchants Trust
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
The positive market movements (£19.5bn) offset the net outflows of £1.3bn. The adjusted operating profit before tax reached £1,149m, down 21.9% yoy. The insurer benefited less from longevity assumption changes (£126m vs. £441m in 2018) in the Heritage business and the lower Asset Management fees margin (38bp vs. 40 bp in 2018) in the Savings and Asset Management one. The current context has led to a decrease in the Solvency II ratio by 10%, but the capital position remains resilient at 166%.
Mattioli Woods has issued a trading update around the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We are reassured to hear that trading for the first 9m of FY20e (to Feb-20) was in line with expectations. There is likely to be a revenue impact, from falling asset prices and limits to normal business activity, however, it is not possible to quantify this just yet. A number of proactive measures are being taken to adjust the cost base to mitigate the short term impact, including reduced senior management team/variable compensation. We would highlight that c.55% of MW’s revenue is not linked to the value of client assets, providing a degree of insulation to asset prices. We make no forecast changes at this stage, but will monitor events and make any adjustments when there is greater certainty
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
The COVID-19-related crisis further increases the top-line pressure. However, the quarter showed ongoing efficiency gains and, above all, management’s cost of risk guidance stood significantly below our stress test based projections.
Companies: Lloyds Banking Group