We have knitted together the impact on the investment companies from what is now widely considered to be the most severe pandemic in a century. The collapse in asset prices over the latter part of March, brought the curtain down on an up-market that lasted more than ten years. In amongst this, there were pockets, such as the technology sector, that held up well. For many industries, the worst is still to come, as we brace ourselves for the sharpest contraction to global growth since the US great depression.
Companies: ASL SDV ASIT BGEU BRLA CCPE DPA IEM JMF JZCP JUKG EPIC PSHD CSH RIII CCPG BLP TMPL BPCR SEQI AIF SMT CIFU KKVX FAIR ICON RSE CRS GWI USF DIGS
JPMorgan Mid Cap (JMF) aims to generate long-term capital growth from investment in a portfolio of UK mid-cap stocks. Managed by Georgina Brittain and Katen Patel, the trust looks to identify structural winners in the mid-cap market and utilises a stylistically blended approach which combines qualitative and quantitative elements. As we have detailed in the Portfolio section, the managers seek to identify companies with a mixture of quality, value and momentum styles, and believe this approach is well suited to a mid-cap market where stockbroker coverage is lower than in the large-cap market (and thus there are more opportunities to identify unappreciated growth and/or mispricing opportunities). Relative performance was very strong over the 12 months to 14/02/2020, with NAV returns significantly outstripping the benchmark index. The wider market seems to have recognised this, with the discount narrowing over this period to its present level of c. 2.7% (as of 14/02/2020), helping to ensure share-price returns were very strong over this period. Whilst the primary aim of JMF is to generate capital growth, the managers and board also aim to see the dividend rise in excess of inflation every year. This has been comfortably achieved in recent years, allowing the board to increase distributions at a rate substantially above inflation whilst simultaneously accumulating further revenue reserves, as we cover in the Dividend section. JMF presently yields c. 2.1%. As a result of the managers’ positive outlook for the UK mid-cap market, gearing has been increased and now stands at c. 9%. This reflects the variety of opportunities they continue to identify.
Companies: JPMorgan Mid Cap Investment Trust
In our recent research, Measure for Measure, we discussed the importance of a manager’s activeness and the difficulties involved in gauging it. As we have highlighted before, the chance of generating alpha generally rises with how active a manager is, and the UK closed-ended universe has become significantly more active in response to the challenge of cheap passive products. In that article we took a look at a range of measures for assessing the ‘activeness’ of a manager and their strengths and weaknesses. In this article we take a deep dive into the numbers, using tracking error, concentration, gearing and sector movements to look at how active the managers are across the major closed-ended equity sectors; the UK All Companies, UK Equity Income, Global, Global Equity Income, Japan, Europe and North American sectors. We rank the trusts based on each individual metric, but also relative to the rest of the sectors. Finally, we discuss which trusts stand out across the different metrics, and establish an overall ranking for each trust which shows how ‘active’ they are. As always, we are not recommending anything here, and this ranking should not be construed as anything other than a scale showing how ‘active’ each fund is relative to the other funds in the study, according to the metrics we have used. Neither are we suggesting that being very active is, in itself, meritorious.
Companies: IIT LTI SMT JEO FSV BGEU SCF JMF DIG
JPMorgan Mid-Cap (JMF) aims to generate long-term capital growth from UK mid-cap stocks by using quantitative research and fundamental stock analysis to take advantage of investor psychology and inefficiencies in the market. The managers, Georgina Brittain and Katen Patel, believe this approach is perfectly suited to the mid cap market as it is less well covered by analysts than the large cap market and is therefore less efficient, meaning that there are many opportunities to gain an edge with superior analysis. The track record of JMF shows the potential in their approach: over the past five years JMF has generated NAV total returns of 61.2%, compared to just 36.6% for the FTSE 250. The share price has risen 66.4% over the same period, as the discount has narrowed. Since 2013, the first full year Georgina was in charge, NAV total returns have been ahead of the index in four of the six full years, and in 2019 are so far ahead of the index again. The trust has done particularly well in the strongest rallies, such as in 2013 and 2017. The two down years were 2016 and 2018, both related to the Brexit referendum and aftermath. The trust aims for capital growth, but it does have a progressive dividend policy, aiming to grow the dividend ahead of inflation each year. Over the past five years it has comfortably achieved this, with annualised growth in the payout of 10.2%, excluding special dividends. The historic yield is 2.5%, again excluding specials, which by definition may not recur. With specials included the dividend yield rises to 2.6%. Georgina and Katen have reduced their gearing since the Brexit vote, and have been tending to run with a maximum of 5% of NAV in gearing, in recognition of the risks to the UK economy and currency from the ongoing Brexit negotiations. They have aimed to ensure the portfolio is not over-exposed to one outcome from the negotiations (i.e. a no-deal exit or a smooth transition). Nevertheless, the sector and trust remain out of favour thanks to the Brexit issue, with JMF trading on a 12% discount, wider than the sector average of 9.7% and the trust’s one-year average of 7.4%. A change of broker in June 2019 is intended to help support marketing efforts to narrow the discount, although we understand that the board’s reticence to use buybacks to this end reflects its belief that while the Brexit negotiations are ongoing, the UK is likely to remain out of favour.
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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
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
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
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