Invesco Asia Trust (IAT) has generated an annualised NAV total return of 10.1% over the past 10 years, supported by steady income. The board aims to pay a regular six-monthly dividend equivalent to 2% of NAV. A performance-related conditional tender offer (subject to shareholder approval), announced in August 2020, emphasises the board’s focus on total return. The fund manager, Ian Hargreaves, who has co-managed IAT since 2011 and has been sole manager since 2015, aims to outperform the market over three- to five-year rolling periods, following a bottom-up, contrarian approach, blending growth and value. He targets a double-digit annualised return from each portfolio holding. The manager expects his strategy to work well in the current environment.
Companies: Invesco Asia Trust
Invesco Asia Trust’s (IAT’s) primary objective is to deliver long-term capital returns through investing in Asian companies that are worth more than the market believes, following a rigorous bottom-up process. Over the past 10 years the trust has generated an annualised NAV total return of 10%. Investor sentiment towards Asian equities has suffered from an extended period of negative events, including trade disputes, political protests in Hong Kong and, more recently, the outbreak of the coronavirus. The manager, Ian Hargreaves, has a long-term investment horizon and believes golden opportunities are presenting themselves in this environment.
Invesco Asia Trust (IAT) is managed by Ian Hargreaves, who aims to generate double-digit returns over a three- to five-year period by investing in good-quality businesses which are worth more than the market believes. Generally, returns are expected to come from capital growth, but a secular shift to paying higher dividends in the region means that the yield on IAT’s portfolio has risen to 2.8% (the shares currently yield 2.2%). Ian expects dividend growth to be a medium-term trend in the region, while IAT’s board is committed to growing the dividend, and has the ability to pay out of capital. The trust has generated returns close to target since Ian took over in March 2011, with annualised NAV total returns of 9.4%, despite the market trending sideways over the past two years. IAT has tended to perform well in both rising and falling markets, helped by the strategy of balancing risk exposures (see the Portfolio section). Overall, the trust has outperformed its peer group by an impressive 16% over five years, with Ian beating the benchmark in both good times and bad. In fact, he has outperformed in seven calendar years out of the last nine. Ian observes that the valuation gap between IAT’s portfolio and the index (MSCI AC Asia ex Japan) has widened in recent months as he has found a number of cheap opportunities after a weak period for Asian markets. These valuation opportunities and Ian’s optimism for the region in 2020 explain why the gearing has reached new highs, as we discuss in the Gearing section. Despite the strong long-term performance record, the discount stands at 9%, wider than the AIC Asia Pacific sector average of 7.5%.
Invesco Asia Trust (IAT) aims to deliver significant capital returns to shareholders over the long term through investing in Asian equities, following a rigorous bottom-up process. The manager, Ian Hargreaves, is not constrained by index considerations and the portfolio of 50–70 stocks represents his highest-conviction investment ideas over a three- to five-year horizon. The trust has a solid medium- and long-term performance track record and has generated an annualised NAV total return of 11.3% over 10 years, while its dividend per share has more than doubled.
Since the start of 2018, investors in Asian equities have had a torrid time, with the region underperforming global stock markets. Perhaps reassuringly for investors, the drivers of this underperformance have not been economic fundamentals but more unpredictable factors, which are external to the economies and markets of the region – namely, the ongoing trade dispute between the US and China, and expectations for the US federal funds rate (the global economy’s risk-free rate). However, this does make it harder to read what the future has in store for the region and the trusts that invest in it. Interestingly, despite the poor returns from markets and the growing negative news flow (concerns about the demand for smartphones have been another factor weighing on markets), managers of trusts investing in this region remain bullishly positioned, with a few exceptions. As we show below, on average investment trust managers have retained their strong bias to economically-sensitive companies and sectors. We consider the possible scenarios that could develop from here, economically and financially, and the ramifications for the different trusts in the sector.
Companies: IAT JAGI SST PAC ATR BRFI
Invesco Asia (IAT) invests in Asian companies in order to generate capital growth. The strategy is valuation sensitive and contrarian, but the process ensures a diversified portfolio which has managed to outperform in different types of market in recent years. Over five years the trust has handsomely outperformed the index and its peers. NAV total returns have been 75.7% compared to 64.1% for the index and 64.4% for the Morningstar IT Asia Pacific ex Japan peer group and the share price returns have been even better: 80.1%. The trust has outperformed in two of the past three down markets as well as during the 2016 and 2017 sharp cyclical rally. Stock selection has been key to the alpha generated, with positions in India and China particularly significant. Some positions have been held for many years and generated excess returns for shareholders: Samsung Electronics in Korea, Netease in China and UPL in India, for example. Historically, the portfolio has tended to trade on a significant discount to NAV and peers, and the board struggled to shift it within their 10% maximum. However, it appears that the strong performance has finally led to a significant shift, with the discount below 10% for most of 2019, although still wider than the average of the peer group which it has outperformed. It is currently on a 9.7% discount. A tender offer in 2018 saw some discount playing investors reduce their holdings, and the board has focused on broadening the shareholder base which we believe has helped the performance to affect the discount unlike in the past. A revamped dividend policy may also have been significant: this year the board, under a new chairman, has committed to a progressive dividend policy, and has signalled the intention to use revenue and capital reserves to fulfil this if required. The trust has also implemented an interim dividend for the first time, although the yield of 2% is still relatively low. However, should the trust pay the same final dividend on top of the interim already paid, the yield would jump to 2.9% on the current price. We note that trusts with a higher yield in the Asia Pacific sectors tend to trade on tighter discounts.
Invesco Asia Trust (IAT) aims to provide significant capital returns over the long-term through investing in listed companies in Asia. It follows a rigorous bottom-up investment process with few constraints, to build a relatively concentrated 50–70 stock portfolio representing the manager’s highest-conviction ideas over a three- to five-year horizon. The approach also emphasises the valuation discipline and favours cash-generative companies, which is reflected in the underlying portfolio yield of c 3%. IAT has increased its annual dividend in seven out of the past 10 years and over that time has delivered an annualised NAV total return of c 16%.
Today, we introduce our investment trust ratings. According to the quantitative screens we have selected in an attempt to highlight the best performers in the closed-ended universe, the trusts discussed here have been the best in their classes over the last five years. We have selected trusts using two different sets of criteria, aiming to identify the top performers for capital growth and for achieving a high and growing income. There are many rating systems for open-ended funds, but no quantitative-based system for investment trusts that is available to the average investor. While we cannot identify trusts which will perform well in the future – past outperformance is no guide to future out-performance – we hope these ratings will highlight the outstanding performers in the closed-ended universe and those managers who have best used the advantages of investment trusts to generate alpha. We are trying to reward consistent and long-term outperformance, and so we have decided to look over a five-year period. All data is as of the end of December 2018, sourced from Morningstar and JPMorgan Cazenove. We have looked at NAV total return performance and discount value has not been considered: the aim is to identify those trusts which have performed the best rather than highlight bargains.
Companies: IPU FAS ATR JEO FEV FGT THRG SEC PAC BRSC IAT HNE MIGO TRY JMG DIVI SLS BGS SDP JETI SOI BCI MRC TIGT EDIN JAGI BEE SDV BRIG AAIF HFEL SCF SIGT BRFI IVPG CTY HINT JCH NAIT
Invesco Asia Trust (IAT) aims to deliver significant capital gains to shareholders over a three- to five-year horizon, primarily through investing in Asian equities, following a disciplined, bottom-up process. It has a solid long-term track record of NAV total return outperformance against its benchmark and has delivered annualised returns of 13% pa over the past 10 years. Although the primary objective is capital gains, since 2001 IAT has also consistently maintained or grown dividends, which increased 28% in FY18. The MSCI Asia ex-Japan index has corrected around 18% from its January 2018 peak and the manager believes many interesting investment ideas are emerging.
Invesco Asia is a relatively concentrated portfolio of Asian equities. It is loosely benchmarked to the MSCI AC Asia ex Japan index, but has the freedom to go off-benchmark into Japan and Australasia and to buy ADRs and US-listed securities when appropriate. The manager, Ian Hargreaves, is a member of the Invesco Global Smaller Companies Group, and his expertise in this area is utilised on the trust, which is consistently overweight small and mid-caps (c 20% of NAV). The focus of the manager is on stock picking. While macroeconomic analysis is employed, this is not intended to be the key source of alpha and the fund tends not to be highly active relative to sector and geography, but focuses on generating excess returns through selecting the right 50 to 60 stocks. Valuation is a key element to the stock-selection process, in keeping with the philosophy and expertise of Invesco as a group. Ian looks for companies trading at a discount to intrinsic value with characteristics he likes, chiefly strong balance sheets and cash flow, and high barriers to entry. This focus on valuation is a relative rarity in emerging markets investment. The fund is the second-best performer in the AIC sector over five years, and one of the top performers over three years too; it has outperformed the index substantially over both time frames. The manager has achieved this despite underweights in some of the top-performing stocks during the rally. At 12%, the discount is wider than the board’s stated objective of 10%.
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
Invesco Asia Trust (IAT) aims to provide attractive long-term capital growth through investing in a diversified portfolio of Asian and Australasian equities. With few investment constraints, the relatively concentrated portfolio of 50-60 stocks is a reflection of the manager’s highest conviction ideas, driven primarily by bottom-up considerations. IAT has a solid long-term track record and its NAV total return has outperformed the benchmark over three, five and 10 years. Asian equities have performed strongly over the past two years, leaving valuations above the historic average. However, they remain at a meaningful discount to global equities, and the manager continues to find attractive long-term investment ideas.
Invesco Asia Trust (IAT) seeks capital appreciation from a diversified portfolio of Asian equities across the market cap spectrum. Despite a re-rating of global equities, the manager is still finding attractive investment opportunities across a variety of sectors and geographies. IAT is benchmarked against the MSCI AC Asia ex-Japan index; its NAV total return has outperformed over one, three, five and 10 years. It has also outperformed peers over these periods, ranking first over five years. The board actively manages the share price discount to ex-income NAV via share repurchases. Despite the focus on capital growth, IAT’s annual dividends have increased or been maintained every year since 2001.
Invesco Asia Trust (IAT) aims to generate long-term capital growth from investment in Asia ex-Japan equities across the capitalisation spectrum. The portfolio of c 60 stocks is diversified by sector and geography. IAT’s NAV total return has outperformed its MSCI AC Asia ex-Japan benchmark over one, three, five and 10 years. Near-term absolute returns have been particularly strong, having been enhanced by a fall in the value of sterling. IAT’s board actively manages the share price discount to ex-income NAV via tender offers and share repurchases. Annual dividends have been maintained or increased every year since 2001; the current yield is 1.6%.
The Board of Invesco Asia Trust (IAT) has highlighted its strong performance over the last six months and over the medium term. It has also reiterated its commitment to limit the discount at which the trust trades. The trust’s discount averaged 10.7%, on an ex-income basis, for the first half of the year ending 31 October 2016. While the company has repurchased 1.7million shares during the first half of the year, market conditions have meant that the shares need to trade at a discount of 9.3% or less for the second half of the year to satisfy the Board’s discount control policy. The Board has confirmed its proposal for a conditional tender offer for up to 15% of the Company’s shares at a 2% discount to net asset value (NAV) less costs, if the shares trade over the year to 30 April 2017 at an average discount of more than 10% to net asset value (ex income).
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FY20A results largely reflect a period prior to the Covid-19 lockdown, yet show Duke entering a more challenging FY21E with momentum. Yesterday's trading update demonstrated another notable rise in quarterly cash receipts for Q2/21, as royalty partner trading continues to improve. As some partners' forbearance measures will expire this month, Q3/21 receipts should continue this upwardly momentum. This opens the door to a return to cash dividends at some future point. Today, Duke also confirms it is now seeking new royalty partners, alongside follow-ons.
Companies: Duke Royalty
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.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact globally in many areas. While primarily a health issue, it has had wide-ranging implications for stock markets, which have now rallied after the plunge in share prices in mid-March when the full severity of the emerging pandemic became more widely appreciated. Nonetheless, the FTSE 100 Index remains almost 20% off its late February 2020 figure.
Companies: AVO ARBB ARIX CLIG DNL GDR ICGT NSF PCA PIN PXC PHP RECI STX SCE TRX SHED VTA YEW
Frontier IP has announced it has invested £320k in a £720k convertible loan financing of Nandi Proteins. Nandi Proteins is developing functional proteins for food ingredients aimed at reducing levels of fat, additives and gluten in processed foods addressing important social, health and environmental concerns about processed food. Frontier IP holds a 20.1% equity stake in Nandi Proteins; the last disclosed value of the holding was back in July 2017 at approx. £2.9m. Connected in part to the announcement today, we have used the opportunity to refresh our cash flow forecasts to reflect the net £2.1m proceeds of the July 2020 fundraise, the planned deployment of proceeds into bridge financing and refreshed our Sum-of-the-Parts valuation analysis to reflect the excellent portfolio progress made in FY’20. We anticipate a 50% increase in the unrealised profit on the revaluation of investments in FY’20e to £5.82m (vs. £3.0m prior estimate; £3.85m in FY’19). Applying the peer group multiple of 1.6x on Yr1 Book value of late-stage assets and incorporating the £2.1m proceeds and dilution associated with the July placing, implies an intrinsic value of 82p/share, 27% above the current share.
Companies: Frontier IP Group Plc
Interim results demonstrate YoY growth and a resilient outcome that has exceeded management's expectations from the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. This is testament to the degree of recurring revenue generated across the business. FY21 trading looks to be more challenging, as notably lower new insurance sales post-lockdown will translate into lower premium income. A number of organic opportunities are being worked on to fill the shortfall. Rising UK redundancies and their impact on policyholder retentions creates great uncertainty, hence our forecasts remain withdrawn and recommendation remains Under Review.
Companies: Personal Group Holdings Plc
Sigma Capital (“Sigma”) has partnered with global alternatives manager EQT to deliver and manage a £1bn GDV private-rented sector (“PRS”) housing fund focused on Greater London. EQT will invest £300m equity, complemented by debt (including a Homes England facility), to build 3,000 homes in 5 years. Sigma will generate fee income as development manager, a recurring fee income stream from managing completed assets, as well as participation in returns via a minority co-investment (£16m) and a profit share. We estimate that the fee income alone is worth £45m to Sigma in the first five years: 50% of the current market cap. Crucially, this is a step up in AuM bringing a high quality long-term recurring earnings stream. We will reforecast following interim results (expected tomorrow) to provide full context.
Companies: Sigma Capital Group Plc
With the sale of the Singaporean operations for £1.6bn, the new CEO, Amanda Blanc, shows her intention to focus rapidly on its preferred markets (the UK, Ireland and Canada). The next candidate for sale is the French unit. This transaction is more complicated than the previous one, with the necessity to obtain the agreement of Afer, its key partner in France. With potential proceeds of £2.9bn, Aviva could reduce its debts significantly and allocate more capital to the UK bulk annuity business.
Companies: Aviva 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
As anticipated, Record has confirmed a material uplift in AUME following the rebound in financial markets from April. We upgrade FY21E forecast EPS by +18%, with higher staff costs offsetting some of the benefit. We expect AUME growth to be more modest from herein. While no performance fees have been recognised over Q1/21 and will be harder to achieve due to Covid-19, any future recognition would have a materially positive impact on earnings. Covid has temporarily paused new client wins, but we expect further additions to come as conditions improve.
Companies: Record Plc
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.
Companies: Legal & General Group Plc
Belvoir’s H1 results evidence both strategic progress and profits growth. Given the challenges presented by COVID-19, this bodes very well for the group’s long-term growth potential. H1 adj. EPS grew +16%, the acquisition of Lovelle contributed well and in July the group entered into a strategic alliance with The Nottingham Building Society. Cash flow remained strong and the progressive dividend policy has been reinstated, with a 3.4p interim declared plus an additional 2p, as partial compensation for the missed 2019 final. With the resilience of lettings and the current record activity levels in sales and new mortgages the Board is optimistic that full-year results will hit its pre-COVID expectations and we make no changes to our PBT/EPS forecasts. Our target price of 233p (48% upside) assumes a 10% discount to the small/mid cap market. Given the above average performance in H1 and continued evidence that the long-term growth strategy is yielding value we see good upside to this target over time.
Companies: Belvoir Group Plc
JPMorgan Global Growth & Income (JGGI) aims to provide superior total returns and outperform its benchmark over the long term by investing in a portfolio of 50–90 companies from around the world. It has achieved this objective, delivering outright gains and outperforming its benchmark since the inception of its current strategy in 2008. JGGI makes quarterly distributions set at the beginning of the financial year, with the intention of paying at least 4% of NAV at the time of announcement. Dividend payments can be funded from reserves, which means the managers are not constrained by the need to purchase high-yielding stocks but are instead free to invest in non-dividend paying stocks for capital growth. The managers believe this gives investors ‘the best of both worlds’.
Companies: Jpmorgan Global Gwth & Inc Plc
City of London has announced its full-year results for FY’20. As previously indicated, over a volatile year, FUM grew to $5.51bn. This led to a 4% increase in fee income to £33.3m. With cost control excellent, as usual, this led to a 9% increase in operating profits to £11.6m. Earnings were impacted by exceptional costs for the Karpus transaction and losses on the seed investments in the new REIT strategies, and fell 19% to £7.37m. The final dividend was increased from 18p to 20p, giving 30p for the full year. This leaves cover ahead of the target cover over a rolling five-year period of 1.2x.
Companies: City of London Investment Group Plc
In line interim results to 30 June 2020 show the strength of this business amid a difficult environment. This is the first step in what should be an exciting growth trajectory toward a larger, scaled up business with high recurring revenues and ownership of the full supply chain in the personal injury and clinical negligence market for clients requiring long-term, risk-adjusted returns. We reiterate our TP of 50p, noting further upside potential as acquisitions are completed.
Companies: Frenkel Topping Group Plc
There have been few structural shifts in the property sector as profound as the one currently taking place in retail. Consumer spending patterns have drastically changed over the past five years, with online sales now accounting for 19.7% of all retail spend in the UK (August 2019, source: ONS), compared to 11.5% in August 2014. When you look at fashion retailing specifically, online sales accounted for 26.8% of consumer spend on clothing in 2018 (source: Mintel).
Companies: CAPC CAL HMSO INTU NRR SHB