Fidelity China Special Situations (FCSS) aims to achieve long-term capital growth from an actively managed portfolio of stocks mainly listed in China and Chinese companies listed abroad. It is the largest UK investment trust focused on China. Manager Dale Nicholls believes that the COVID-19 crisis has accelerated several of the trends driving Chinese growth and he sees many investment opportunities, especially among under-researched, mis-priced small-cap stocks. Nicholls’s unconstrained approach allows him to invest in high-conviction ideas, principally in higher-growth consumer-led sectors, which will benefit from China’s strong growth prospects. The trust has delivered significant outperformance against its MSCI China benchmark since inception.
Companies: Fidelity China Special Situations
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
Fidelity China Special Situations (FCSS) aims to deliver long-term capital growth, following a bottom-up approach to investing in companies listed in China, and Chinese companies listed elsewhere. The trust marks its 10th anniversary in April 2020 and, since inception, it has generated an annualised NAV total return of 11%. Chinese equities have been relatively out of favour for some time against a backdrop of the US-China trade dispute, Hong Kong political protests and, more recently, the coronavirus. The manager, Dale Nicholls, is finding exciting opportunities at attractive valuations, and continues to focus primarily on smaller companies that can benefit from long-term secular growth trends.
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
Fidelity China Special Situations (FCSS) offers investors direct exposure to China for a portion of their portfolio, aiming to deliver long-term capital growth from investing in companies listed in China, and Chinese companies listed elsewhere. Since the trust’s inception in April 2010, FCSS’s NAV total return has increased by nearly 11% pa. The portfolio has a bias towards mid- and small-cap companies, which tend to be less well researched and potentially mispriced. The manager, Dale Nicholls, is focused on opportunities related to rising domestic consumption, which in his view is unlikely to be disrupted by the ongoing US-China trade dispute.
Fidelity China Special Situations (FCSS) invests in Chinese equities, aiming to identify companies with long-term growth prospects that are underappreciated by the market. The portfolio has a strong bias to small and mid caps and a wide remit. This allows it to invest in domestic and Hong Kong-listed Chinese companies as well as those listed elsewhere which do business with the country and unlisted, private stocks. The portfolio can also take up short positions in companies or indices. The trust has been managed by Dale Nicholls for just over five years, during which time it has handsomely outperformed the MSCI China index [see performance section for more]. Dale invests in companies benefitting from the growth of the middle class in China, which means the portfolio is tilted towards consumer-facing companies, information technology and insurance. The trust has structural gearing worth 10% of NAV and a track record of maintaining borrowings closer to 25%. Along with the SMID exposure this raises the volatility on the trust: over five years the standard deviation of the Fidelity China Special Situations share price has been 23.2% annualised, compared to 19.08% for the MSCI China benchmark. The trust trades on a discount of 9.3%. Since February 2019 the board has targeted a single digit discount, and used its buyback authority to that effect. While the trust aims for capital growth, dividend growth has also been strong, and the trust now yields 1.8%. The trust has an innovative charging structure. There is a base management fee of 0.9%, which can be 0.2% higher or lower depending on whether the trust has outperformed or underperformed the index, a “fulcrum fee”.
Fidelity China Special Situations (FCSS) has had a challenging period over the last 12 months, with its performance affected by a significant sell-off in Chinese equities. However, the longer-term performance remains strong in absolute and relative terms, with a 16.9% pa NAV total return over five years clearly ahead of the 14.1% pa return of the MSCI China index. The manager continues to find attractive new investment ideas, such as recent portfolio addition, luxury e-commerce platform Secoo Holding, and points to the opportunities for long-term focused stock pickers that can be created by market volatility. FCSS’s discount has recently narrowed below 10% and the board has introduced a formal single-digit discount control policy, which should help reduce future discount volatility.
Fidelity China Special Situations (FCSS) had a challenging year in 2018, heavily influenced by the correction in Chinese equities that was longer and deeper than in other major stock markets. However, the trust’s longer-term returns have been strong, with an impressive 14.0% annualised NAV total return over five years, which is well ahead of its benchmark MSCI China index, as well as the MSCI World and FTSE All-Share indices. The market fall created compelling opportunities for manager Dale Nicholls, who added to holdings in high-quality companies that were trading at historically low valuations. The manager is optimistic about the long-term outlook, but he anticipates that volatility may persist and cut net market gearing from c 23% to c 18% in December 2018, mainly via index hedges.
Fidelity China Special Situations (FCSS) aims to provide an attractive way for investors to gain exposure to the faster-growing areas of the Chinese economy, with China’s growing economic influence raising its importance within a balanced portfolio. FCSS’s longer-term performance has been strong – its NAV total return is ahead of the MSCI China index over five years and since its launch in 2010 – but returns are negative over one year, reflecting the Chinese stock market downturn. While market sentiment has suffered due to the US-China trade dispute, earnings forecasts have been largely unaffected, and the manager has used the correction to add to holdings with strong long-term prospects at historically low valuations.
Fidelity China Special Situations (FCSS) provides exposure to a diversified, actively managed portfolio of Chinese equities. The manager takes a bottom-up approach to stock selection, focusing on the faster-growing consumer-orientated sectors of China’s economy. FCSS’s NAV returns have been strong over the last two years, although modestly lagging its MSCI China index benchmark. This is attributed to FCSS’s tilt to small- and mid-cap stocks, which underperformed large-caps, partly due to passive capital flows into index funds. Over five years, FCSS has significantly outperformed the benchmark, as well as its open- and closed-ended peers. A new variable management fee structure, with a lower base level and no performance fee, will take effect from July 2018.
Fidelity China Special Situations is a £1.5bn portfolio of Chinese equities, structurally tilted to the domestic Chinese economy, in particular small and mid caps in the consumer and technology industries. It has some exposure to A-Shares, stocks listed in China which are being slowly incorporated within mainstream MSCI indices. The trust has structural gearing worth 10% of NAV and a track record of maintaining borrowings closer to 25%. It holds some private companies in its portfolio. The trust has outperformed over the medium term and managed to keep pace with the 2017 rally despite being underweight the large stocks that led the charge. A yield of 1% is not high but has been growing at a significant pace. The trust has traded on a double-digit discount since late 2012, when the emerging markets region fell out of favour. The board has been targeting closing the discount through buybacks.
Being a huge but emerging economy, China is a much larger part of global stockmarkets and GDP than is reflected in the main global indices. As a result, many investors are structurally underexposed to one of the fastest growing parts of the world. The inclusion of A-Shares into the main MSCI indices in May allows investors outside China to invest in Chinese equities easily for the first time, which may have consequences for this trend. The opening up of Chinese markets to foreign capital may lead to an increase in liquidity and interest in the stockmarket.
Companies: JCGI PHI FCSS ATR
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
Research Tree provides access to ongoing research coverage, media content and regulatory news on Fidelity China Special Situations.
We currently have 31 research reports from 5
Trading in the royalty partner portfolio over Q1/21 shows a material rebound from May, which has been sustained to date, as the portfolio as a whole returns to more normalised trading. Consequently, Duke's cash receipts, while down 20% YoY currently, are set to step up in H2/21 as forbearance measures largely expire and deferred royalties realised. This bodes well for a rebound in earnings and a return to cash paid dividends. A share price down over 55% since Feb 20, standing at p/book of 0.56x H1/20A's NAV p/s thus appears overdone. We await further clarity on the portfolio before reissuing forecasts, thus leave our recommendation U/R.
Companies: Duke Royalty
L&G reported an operating profit from continuing divisions (excluding Mature Savings and General Insurance businesses) of £1,128m, -2.2% yoy. The COVID-19-related cost was £129m. LGR posted a growing operating profit to £721m. Net profit amounted to £290m vs. £874m a year before, being affected by the reduced discount rate used to calculate LGI reserves. The Solvency II ratio stood at 173%. The Board recommended an interim dividend of 4.93p/share, stable relative to H1 19.
What’s new: Purplebricks Group results for the year to 30 April 2020, show the Australian and US units as discontinued; but include the Canadian unit sold for C$60.5m (i.e. £35m) in July. Investors will focus on the UK unit which revealed:
11% fall in UK revenue to £80.5m (FY19: £90.1m), as the number of instructions fell 23% (impacted by early Covid uncertainty and lockdown), but the average revenue per instruction “ARPI” rose 12% to £1,394;
UK gross profit margin improved to 64.1% (FY19: 63.0%);
UK marketing costs to revenue improved to 25.6% (FY19: 29.6%);
Spend on Digital capacity pushed UK operating costs 32% to £26.2m (FY19: £19.9m), as new management team pursued initiatives which are being “delivered at pace with significant opportunity for further innovation.”
UK adjusted EBITDA fell 53% to £4.8m (FY19: £10.2m).
Companies: Purplebricks Group Plc
For this Monthly, we are delighted that Rooney Nimmo and 24Haymarket have allowed us to reproduce a recent report they jointly published, entitled An analysis of UK exits (2015-2019), which provides a granular analysis by sector of the activity in our dynamic private companies world. We hope you find the insights of interest.
Companies: AVO AGY ARBB ARIX CLIG ICGT NSF PCA PIN PXC PHP RECI SCE TRX SHED VTA
H1 20 operating profit declined by 12% to £1,225m and the COVID-19 claims impact was £165m. Cash remittances from business units to the group was only £150m. The insurer said that it will focus on the UK, Ireland and Canada, which means an exit from other European and Asian markets. The Board has declared a second interim dividend in respect of the 2019 financial year of 6p/share and will inform shareholders about the 2019 final dividend in Q4 20.
Companies: Aviva Plc
Since the restrictions were lifted in mid-May, Belvoir has seen a surge in activity due to pent-up demand, resulting in June being a record breaking month for the group’s Newton Fallowell estate agency network in terms of instructions and sales and the financial Services division in terms of written income. Management have stated that with the positive impact of the stamp duty reductions still to take effect they are confident that the Group is well positioned to capitalise on the current market upturn and to take advantage of the opportunities arising from more challenging conditions. We have upgraded our PBT forecasts for FY 2020 to the level we forecast pre-COVID. We have also upgraded our target price from 169p to 233p and highlight that H1 2020 has demonstrated the resilience of the group, management’s ability to navigate difficult market conditions and the power of the franchise-led strategy.
Companies: Belvoir Group Plc
Vacancy strongly increased in Q2 20. LTV surpassed the 50% mark on 30 June 2020 due to strong value destruction in H1 20. Hammerson announced a £550m cash capital increase coupled with a disposal of £270m. Its ex-post pro forma net debt should be £2.2bn, i.e. LTV of 42% on a proportionate basis. Too high?
Companies: Hammerson Plc
We believe now is an interesting time to invest in Northgate, with a new executive board and a capable management team in place who have already delivered progress on an ongoing turnaround as we await a full strategic review. The group now has a clear and well communicated capital allocation strategy in place and improved earnings quality, in our view. We believe that the growth opportunity in the UK, the value of the Spanish business and the progress made to date with the turnaround are not being reflected in the share price, which is currently 15.9% below book value (414p per share in FY19A rising to 468p in FY22E). We use a variety of valuation methods including P/B, SOTP, DDM and DCF modelling and arrive at an average implied share price of 450p, 29.0% above the current share price.
Companies: Redde Northgate Plc
Today's update highlights that despite the Covid-19 outbreak and UK/IRE lockdown, which has affected trading, Duke has continued to collect cash royalties from most of its royalty partners. Short-term alternative payment terms have been agreed with those partners hardest hit, to support them to periods where royalties can be fully recouped. Therefore the 61% fall in p/b from 1.3 (at 20 Feb) to 0.5 today, appears overdone.
The group’s earnings surprise was driven by goodwill impairments. On the negative side, management upgraded, albeit slightly, its full-year loan impairments guidance and warns about revenue and CET1 pressure. It also reckoned that the tensions between the US and China will impact the group.
Companies: HSBC Holdings Plc
The Law Debenture Corporation (LWDB) has reported another strong set of results for its independent professional services (IPS) business in H120, with EPS growth remaining in the target mid- to high single-digit range despite a more challenging economic backdrop. With the trust’s largely UK investment portfolio having been hit by the widespread stock market sell-off in February and March, IPS has provided a larger than average contribution to revenue returns. This means fund managers James Henderson and Laura Foll can continue to search for attractive total return opportunities in a broad range of sectors, while maintaining LWDB’s focus on both capital appreciation and above-inflation dividend growth.
Companies: Law Debenture Corporation
As expected, the quarter saw a sharp increase in loan impairments. However, one can wonder if the increase was not capped by the group’s willingness to keep its results afloat. Management’s downbeat guidance in terms of revenue recovery potential and cost reduction does not bode well as regards the group’s future credit loss absorption capacity.
Companies: Lloyds Banking Group Plc
Despite challenging market conditions, Picton’s Q121 DPS was well-covered by EPRA earnings and robust portfolio capital values. Combined with low gearing, NAV per share was just 1.3% lower versus Q420 and including DPS paid, the NAV total return was -0.6%. With encouraging rent collection data continuing and the lockdown easing, we have reinstated our estimates and look for the quarterly DPS run-rate to increase in H221.
Companies: Picton Property Income Ltd.
The scaling of Duke's royalty portfolio was progressing as expected up to March 2020, with record cash receipts that month. Due to Covid-19 and the UK's economic shutdown, macro conditions have worsened and become highly uncertain. This is likely to see some royalty partners' future cash royalties decline, which in turn, will negatively impact FV's in the FY20E results. Duke's high margin and cash generative nature ensures it is well placed to trade through these challenges. Given the degree of uncertainty in outlook, we remove forecasts and put our recommendation Under Review and await further clarity on the portfolio.
Raven’s positive trading update was reassuringly robust, despite ongoing uncertainty regarding the long-term impact of Covid-19 on the Russian market. We believe that kind of performance deserves attention, although we plan to reinstate detailed forecasts post (a) the General Meeting scheduled for 31 July, which will decide upon proposals designed to create a simplified capital structure (outlined below) and (b) the interim results due in August.
Companies: Raven Property Group Ltd.