One of the world’s oldest investment trusts, F&C Investment Trust (FCIT) is a behemoth of the AIC Global sector, with almost £4bn in AUM. The company, over 150 years old, utilises a fund of funds approach, employing BMO’s specialist teams and third-party managers to invest in global equities. According to JPM Cazenove, the company has over 500 holdings across a wide range of geographies and sectors. On top of this, the managers hold both listed and unlisted securities, helping offer investors access to companies and sectors they might otherwise struggle to have such access to. The company is on course for its 49th consecutive year of dividend increases, having paid a dividend every year since launch. Income is not the main focus for the manager, however, and the fund is positioned to deliver long-term growth in capital via an internationally-diversified portfolio. This has been shown since Paul Niven took the helm in 2014, delivering decent NAV total returns. Over the period the company has outperformed both the Global AIC and IA peer groups, although has underperformed the FTSE All-World benchmark. The discount widened out to double digits after the referendum; since then it has narrowed significantly. It currently stands at 5.3%.
Companies: F&C Investment Trust
F&C Investment Trust (FCIT) aims to offer a ‘one-stop shop’ for investors looking for diversified equity exposure to both listed and unlisted markets. Over the last 10 years, the trust has delivered annual NAV and share price total returns of 13.6% and 14.4% respectively from a range of both internally and third-party managed strategies. While there has been a prolonged equity bull market for more than a decade since the end of the global financial crisis, FCIT’s manager Paul Niven believes the current environment of easy monetary policy and economic growth is supportive of further share price upside. The trust’s annual dividend has increased for the last 48 consecutive years (current yield of 1.6%).
F&C Investment Trust (FCIT) recently changed its name from Foreign & Colonial Investment Trust (FRCL). However, there is no change to the objective of generating long-term growth in capital and income, or the strategy of investing in listed and private companies across the globe, using both internal and external managers. While 2018 proved to be a tricky, more volatile period for investors than 2017, with a sharp correction in world markets in the last quarter of the year, FCIT modestly outperformed its FTSE All-World benchmark in both NAV and share price terms, helped by its private equity exposure. Manager Paul Niven acknowledges that the investment cycle is mature, but believes there is potential for further share price appreciation, as the US has adopted a more dovish stance towards monetary policy and equity valuations are now looking more attractive following the Q418 market sell-off.
F&C Investment Trust (FCIT) is the world’s oldest investment trust. The 150-year-old behemoth is on course for its 48th consecutive year of dividend increases having paid a dividend every year since launch. Income is not the main focus for the manager, however, and it is positioned to deliver long-term growth in capital via an internationally-diversified portfolio. The portfolio is constructed with inputs from both BMO’s specialist teams and third-party managers and this includes investments in both listed and unlisted securities. The manager, Paul Niven, believes this combination of public and private companies is a key feature of the trust, which help reduce risk and limit the volatility of investment returns. The trust is well diversified across geographies and sectors and the board has not placed any specific geographic or industry sector exposure limits for the publicly listed equities. The largest geographical weighting is to North America (53.3%), followed by Europe ex UK (17.1%) and emerging markets (11%). In terms of listed equity sector exposure, financials make up close to a quarter of the exposure and consumer services (18.2%) and technology (18.1%) also make up considerable portions of the portfolio. Since taking over the trust in 2014, Paul has delivered decent NAV returns, outperforming the benchmark FTSE All World (69.4%) by c.6% and the IA Global sector (55.1%). That said, the trust has underperformed the Morningstar Global closed end peer group by 3%. Over the past two years the trust has seen the discount narrow considerably, to a point where the trust is currently trading on a slight premium (0.2%). Since the start of the year the discount/ premium has ranged between -5.7% and 1.4% and the oneyear average has been -1.6%, marginally narrower than the sector average of -2.5%.
F&C Investment Trust (FCIT) is the world’s oldest investment trust and has a distinguished dividend history. The fund is on course for its 48th consecutive year of dividend increases and an annual distribution has been paid in each of the 150 years since FCIT was launched in 1868. Paul Niven has managed the trust since 2014 and has continued to build on FCIT’s long-term record of outperformance versus its benchmark. Helped by another period of good relative performance in H118, the trust’s share price total return has now outperformed the FTSE All-World index total return over the last one, three, five and 10 years. Although equities have performed well in recent years, the manager believes there is potential for further upside, supported by corporate earnings growth.
Foreign & Colonial Investment Trust (FRCL) is the world’s oldest investment fund, heading towards its 150th birthday. Since 2014, it has been managed by Paul Niven, aiming to generate long-term growth in capital and income from a very broad portfolio of primarily listed global equities, although c 7.5% is invested in private equity. The manager is benchmark aware, but takes active positions versus the index allocations. FRCL has a progressive dividend policy; the board has proposed another annual dividend increase for FY17, which will be the 47th consecutive year. The trust’s NAV has outperformed its benchmark over one, three and 10 years, while performing broadly in line over five years.
Foreign & Colonial Investment Trust (FRCL) is the oldest collective investment fund in the world, dating back to 1868. Manager Paul Niven aims to generate long-term growth in capital and income by investing in a range of focused strategies run both by BMO Global Asset Management and external managers. The portfolio is diversified by geography, sector and style; the trust is overweight Europe ex-UK and emerging markets, and underweight North America. FRCL also invests in private equity. Gearing of up to 20% of net assets is permitted. FRCL has a progressive dividend policy; the annual dividend has increased in each of the last 45 consecutive years and, following the repayment of a longstanding debenture at the end of 2014, interest costs have declined meaningfully.
Foreign & Colonial Investment Trust (FRCL) is a large, globally diversified fund investing directly and through funds in listed and private equity; external managers are used for some strategies. Performance in 2015 was strong and to the end of February 2016, NAV total returns were ahead of the benchmark over one, three, five and 10 years. A narrowing of the discount in 2015 added to share price total returns. The announced 2015 dividend of 9.6p represents the 45th consecutive annual increase.
Foreign & Colonial Investment Trust (FRCL) is a large, globally diversified fund investing directly and through funds in listed and private equity using specialist sub-managers, aiming to achieve long-term growth in capital and income. Performance has improved over the last year while manager Paul Niven has completed the portfolio rebalancing started in 2013. NAV total returns are ahead of the benchmark and the global sector average over one, three, five and 10 years with a narrowing discount lifting total shareholder returns. The board has indicated a 45th consecutive annual dividend increase in 2015 to 9.6p giving a 2.2% prospective yield.
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Marlowe has raised £30m in new equity to help finance the acquisition of Ellis Whittam (for £59m, all upfront). We update our forecasts to reflect this transaction, along with recent bolt-ons (FY22E EPS upgraded by 8% to 29.0p), and reaffirm our Buy recommendation.
Companies: Marlowe Plc
The current crisis is definitely unprecedented. Like most of its peers, not only did the group not make any extra provisions related to the pandemic but it released some provisions following an update to its macroeconomic scenario. The group also managed to mitigate the rate cut impact and generate 60bp of capital ahead of next year’s headwinds.
Companies: Lloyds Banking Group plc
In another upbeat update, GHT has confirmed that the business is tracking in line, in turn being driven by strong traction with key customer, ANZ. Here, new sales have driven a 20% increase in contracted customer revenue to >£11m in FY21. As a strategic partner (deeply involved with GHT in bringing new Clareti banking services to market) this extra investment is very encouraging, as it’s indicative of these services‘ strong future potential. Also announced today – GHT state that its transition to a recurring subscription model (commenced just two years ago) is now complete and that ARR now stands at £11.9m, ~+16% annualised organic growth since FY20 y/e. In a tough new business environment, we view this as a highly credible performance. It’s also worth noting that management reference remaining pipeline opportunities, these would further benefit strong forwards visibility – already £22.4m for FY21. Given this – and also as sign of confidence – today we reinstate FY21 forecasts. We look for a reacceleration in top-line growth: +16% y/y to £28.7m at a Group level, in turn driven by c.+24% organic growth in Clareti, to £20m. For valuation – with Clareti still in its relative infancy – we continue to view a sales multiple as most appropriate. Here, we note that peers typically trade in a 5-7x range vs. GHT at 4x our FY21 estimate. This suggests 25-75% upside to fair value for this disruptive company, with a multi-year growth opportunity still ahead.
Companies: Gresham House
Augmentum Fintech has confirmed the successful completion of the equity fundraise launched earlier this week. £28m (gross) has been raised through an oversubscribed placing at the fixed 120p price. This will allow the manager to target a plentiful £120m pipeline of opportunities; both new and in the existing portfolio. AF is carefully curating a diversified portfolio of investments which are innovating the future of financial services.
Companies: Augmentum Fintech
There was an eclectic mix of property companies to feature in the top price movers for September. Top of the tree was private rented sector and residential development specialist Sigma Capital Group, with a 34.2% rise. The group launched a £1bn joint venture with EQT Real Estate, the real estate platform of global investment firm EQT, to deliver 3,000 private rental homes in Greater London. Micro-cap investor Panther Securities also hit double-digit gains, while Macau Property Opportunities saw an uplift in its share price after announcing debt refinancing and a disposal. CLS Holdings, the investor in offices in Germany, France and the UK, continued to see a recovery in its share price – which has risen 15.1% in the last three months. Off the back of solid results, Berlin residential landlord Phoenix Spree Deutschland saw its share price gain 7.2%. Schroder REIT’s share price rose 6.6% in the month as it embarked on a share buyback programme, while Irish commercial property investor Yew Grove REIT also saw positive shareholder reaction to amending its investment strategy to increase its target loan to value ratio to 40%.
Companies: SUPR DIGS CRC PSDL ASEI TPON RLE UKCM BREI BCPT RGL SIR SLI TOWN CAL
Avation is a lessor of 46 commercial aircraft to a diversified airline client base. This morning, the group has released results for the 12-months to 30 June 2020, which illustrate the challenges faced by its customer base as a result of Covid-19, as well as the corrective actions taken by the Board that have resulted in profitability being maintained in the year as a whole. Loan repayment deferrals of c.$24.4m were obtained in the period, in comparison to $13.1m short-term rent deferrals being granted to airline customers and thus emphasising management's focus on liquidity during an unprecedented period for global airlines. Avation again reports that it is currently reviewing alternatives in relation to the 6.5% senior notes due in May 2021. Whilst at this point our forecasts remain under review, and near term challenges remain across the industry, we believe that demand for aircraft from lessors such as Avation will increase in time as a result of airlines being even more reliant upon aircraft leasing firms due to the retirement of older aircraft during 2020 in combination with much weaker balance sheets that are unable to support direct aircraft purchases.
Companies: Avation PLC
Agronomics has announced it has conditionally raised £10.0m gross from an equity issue at a price of 6.0p, which represents a 6.8% premium to the most recently reported NAV per share of 5.62p. Assuming the company's post-raise cash balance is £8.15m, after repaying a £1.9m bridging facility, we estimate the new NAV per share to be c5.7p. We see significant potential in the cultivated meat sector and believe Agronomics is well positioned to support this developing sector and generate strong returns from these investments. We see upside in Agronomics' portfolio and have today initiated coverage with a Buy recommendation.
Companies: Agronomics Limited
ANGLE plc (AGL.L): Acceptance of FDA submission | Feedback plc (FDBK.L*): Partnership agreement | Open Orphan (ORPH.L): Human Challenge Study Model contract with UK Government
Companies: AGL FDBK ORPH
Agronomics is an investment company building a portfolio of investments in the developing alternative protein sector. The company is focused on early stage investments, offering attractive valuations and significant upside potential. Importantly, we believe Agronomics represents an opportunity for public investors to gain access to early stage private companies, which might not otherwise be available. We expect the cultivated meat sector to be driven by a number of global mega trends that will increase public awareness of the issues the sector is aiming to overcome. We see strong upside in Agronomics' existing portfolio and initiate coverage with a Buy recommendation.
Secure Trust Bank’s (STB) Q3 trading update disclosed that Q3 was stronger than expected and FY20 earnings are likely to be well ahead of consensus forecasts. Loan repayment holidays in its Motor Finance and Retail Finance divisions were down remarkably and credit quality is not deteriorating. Loan demand is strengthening after the lockdown. Capital and liquidity remain good. The bank remains cautious due to continued COVID-19 and Brexit uncertainty and is still not providing formal guidance. We are upping our earnings forecasts and fair value from 1,704p to 1,756p. In our view, the valuation remains depressed compared to fundamentals with banking stocks still out of favour. STB trades on an FY20 P/BV of 0.53x, yet it has a strong track record of value creating returns (ROE above COE), a good capital base and liquidity. The Q3 good news reinforces our view that we are unlikely to see book value deterioration during this downturn to justify any NAV discount.
Companies: Secure Trust Bank Plc
Trading at MJ Hudson (MJH) has improved steadily since its March nadir, and visibility has improved. As such, we are reinstating forecasts, with Adj EBITDA of £5.5m and £6.7m in FY21E and FY22E respectively. We believe that MJH's material discount to its core peers (c30%) is unwarranted and consequently, update our rating to Buy (previously Under Review).
Companies: MJ Hudson Group Plc
Venture capital returns take time to emerge. Augmentum Fintech (“AF”) is a relatively new fund, yet we already see material embedded value with some well-established, highly profitable investments – such as interactive investor. Its dedicated focus on Fintech eliminates distraction. Appraising several key investments individually, and using balance sheet carrying value for others, we calculate longer term fair value at 1.6x FY20 NAV – likely nearer 2x, with value outside the scope of our appraisal.
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
Secular stagnation refers to the economic theory that growth will be persistently low for some time to come, due to an imbalance between savings and investment. If capital is saved rather than invested productive capacity lies idle, while the drag on consumption reduces demand in the economy. As a result GDP growth is reduced. As we have previously discussed, there is no historical evidence that GDP growth has a direct impact on stock market growth – in contradiction of the theorised linkage via earnings. However, in a world of secular stagnation in which there is a glut of savings, corporate earnings will be muted as demand for companies’ wares remains sluggish, which should negatively impact stock market growth. High rates of savings would also push equity valuations higher than they would otherwise be and thereby reduce future returns. Investors can respond to this situation in a number of ways. One is to try to find active strategies, which either seek to harness certain factors likely to boost returns or to generate high stockspecific alpha. In the first case this could mean looking to harness the small cap premium or to the emerging markets which should see greater earnings growth over the long run. It could also mean looking to the tech sector, where earnings are dependent more on secular changes within the economy than the growth rate of the economy. In the second case this would mean looking for highly active stock pickers who run concentrated portfolios and aim to pick the winning companies which can steal market share from competitors. We believe the investment trust universe is the perfect place to find such strategies, as the structure allows managers to focus on managing their strategy and not inflows and outflows, while being able to take exposure to relatively illiquid assets and harvest the premium for doing so. Another way of responding is to look for alternative assets which offer comparable or superior returns to the equity market as a whole. In our view, when we look at likely equity returns over the next ten years, some alternatives look compelling. In the below we sketch a rough idea of likely equity returns over the next decade and then introduce some trusts we think have the potential to generate similar returns from more predictable cash flows and potentially less volatile NAVs.
Companies: USF HICL NESF TRIG UKW NBLS
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