Henderson Alternative Strategies Trust (HAST) has recently passed its three-yearly continuation vote, underlining investor confidence in the rebuilt portfolio of specialist and alternative funds. Medium-term NAV total returns are now in line with the informal annualised target of c 8% over rolling three-year periods, and in FY17 (to 30 September) all the underlying strategies – hedge funds, private equity, property, specialist sector and specialist geography – contributed positively to returns. In an environment of increased market volatility, the differentiated nature of many of the underlying assets could provide a source of diversification for investors, and a progressive dividend policy underpins the current yield of 1.8%.
HAST aims to provide a ‘one-stop shop’ solution for investors seeking exposure to specialist and alternative assets. Run by the experienced duo of Ian Barrass and James de Bunsen, with support from Peter Webster and the wider multi-asset team at Janus Henderson Investors, the focused portfolio of 30-40 holdings blends openand closed-end funds in areas such as private equity, hedge funds, property, credit, single-sector strategies and geographical specialists, aiming to achieve annualised NAV total returns of c 8% over rolling three-year periods.
After a year of record low volatility, extending into the early part of 2018, equity and bond markets have recently seen sharp reversals. While global economic conditions remain relatively benign, expectations for earnings are demanding, and high equity valuations leave little room for manoeuvre in case of disappointment. Against such a backdrop, investors may wish to consider whether an allocation to alternative asset classes could provide some protection against continued volatility
At 13 February 2018, HAST’s shares traded at an 18.5% discount to cum-income NAV. This came amid heightened market volatility affecting the price of listed investment companies as well as operating companies, following a narrowing to a five-year low of 11.0% in early January. HAST’s weekly NAV has held up better in the volatility than its share price, falling by 1.6% from 26 January to 9 February, compared with a 7.1% fall in the share price. The discount had previously narrowed as investors saw the evidence of improved underlying performance, and the shareholder register now contains more retail investors and wealth managers, and fewer short-term discount players. The shares currently yield 1.8%.