The Merchants Trust (MRCH) is managed by Simon Gergel at Allianz Global Investors (AllianzGI). Aiming to continue to provide a high and growing level of income, he is adjusting the trust's portfolio in the wake of dividend cuts sparked by the negative economic effects of COVID-19. If there is an income shortfall in this financial year, MRCH is well positioned to maintain its dividend, with revenue reserves of more than 1x the last annual payment. It has not been an easy period for value managers over the last decade as growth stocks have led the charge; however, Gergel has outperformed the UK market over this period in both NAV and share price terms. The board reduced MRCH's gearing in late January 2020, which was opportune timing ahead of the recent significant stock market weakness.
Companies: Merchants Trust
The Merchants Trust (MRCH) offers investors the potential for long-term capital growth along with a high and growing level of income. Helped by the refinancing of the trust’s high-cost, long-term debt, for FY20 (ending 31 January) the board’s intention is that MRCH’s annual dividend will be at least 4.2% higher year-on-year. Manager Simon Gergel at Allianz Global Investors (AllianzGI) is optimistic about the trust’s prospects, citing a broad opportunity set due to attractive valuations in the UK stock market. He says that at some stage the deeply depressed sentiment towards UK shares should improve, which could lead to a meaningful revaluation of the domestic market.
The Merchants Trust (MRCH) is managed by Simon Gergel at Allianz Global Investors (AllianzGI). He highlights the trust’s growing income stream, long-term capital growth and above-average dividend yield. The manager notes that in FY19, MRCH’s dividend growth of 4.8% was meaningfully higher than the rate of UK inflation, and a step up in dividend growth following the debt refinancing in January 2018. He explains that revenue growth in FY19 was even stronger, allowing an addition to reserves, which can be used to smooth dividend payments in years when revenue growth is lower. Gergel says that MRCH’s portfolio continues to generate a healthy level of income, with most investee companies increasing their dividends, including Legal & General, St James’s Place and the tobacco companies.
The Merchants Trust (MRCH) is managed by Simon Gergel, chief investment officer of UK equities at AllianzGI. He says the current uptick in volatility in the UK stock market is providing a lot of opportunities for active stock pickers, with a wide divergence between the valuation of shares in companies with steady growth characteristics and those whose earnings outlook is less clear. Although MRCH’s annual dividend has increased in each of the last 36 years, growth in the years following the global financial crisis has been modest. However, the manager says the refinancing of a large tranche of the trust’s high-cost debt in January 2018, coupled with higher levels of portfolio income, means the board has increased confidence in growing the dividend at a faster rate, from a starting yield of more than 5%.
The Merchants Trust (MRCH) is managed by Simon Gergel at AllianzGI. He aims to generate a high and growing level of income, with the potential for long-term capital growth, from a portfolio of UK equities. The manager considers there are great opportunities in the UK stock market for high-yield investors, and that in aggregate UK stocks are looking attractively valued compared to global equities. MRCH has a distinguished dividend history; payouts have grown in each of the last 36 consecutive years. In FY18, the annual distribution was 2.5% higher than in FY17 – a larger growth rate than in recent years, reflecting higher dividend growth from portfolio companies, but also due to MRCH’s lower interest costs following the refinancing of a tranche of its high-cost debt in late 2017.
The Merchants Trust (MRCH) adopts a long-term approach to investing in UK equities, aiming to generate an above-average level of income along with long-term capital and income growth. The trust has announced a refinancing of its first tranche of high-cost debt, which will bring its effective cost of borrowing down from 8.5% to 6.1%, saving £2.8m in annual interest costs and locking in low-cost funding for the next 35 years. The board adopts a progressive dividend policy; annual dividends have increased for the last 35 consecutive years and the current 5.0% yield compares favourably with the average of MRCH’s peers in the AIC UK Equity Income sector.
The Merchants Trust (MRCH) aims to generate a high and growing level of income with the potential for long-term capital growth from a relatively concentrated, actively managed portfolio of UK equities. At end-January 2017, the benchmark was changed from the FTSE 100 index to the FTSE All-Share index, reflecting the evolution of the portfolio over several years towards a lower exposure to large-cap equities, giving the manager the opportunity to select from a broader range of dividend-paying companies. MRCH has a competitive yield compared to the UK stock market and also versus its peers. It has a progressive dividend policy and has increased its annual dividend for the last 35 consecutive years.
The Merchants Trust (MRCH) invests in a portfolio of primarily large-cap UK equities aiming to generate income and long-term capital growth. MRCH differentiates itself from its peers due to its high income and dividend growth – its dividend yield is consistently above the benchmark FTSE 100 index – and has 34 years of consecutive annual dividend growth. Near-term investment performance has improved; this is partly a function of rising bond yields as investors are starting to rotate away from expensive bond proxies and towards more cyclical, higher-yielding sectors of the UK stock market. MRCH is now outperforming its benchmark over five years. Gearing of up to 25% of net assets is permitted.
The Merchants Trust (MRCH) is a very well-established trust investing in UK equities, primarily in higher-yielding, large-cap companies, which aims to produce high income and long-term growth in capital and income. While recent months have been a difficult period for investing in this area, the manager sees good value in the portfolio across a range of themes. MRCH ranks highly in the AIC UK Equity Income sector in terms of dividend yield (c 6.0% vs 4.5% sector average) and the annual dividend has increased in each of the last 34 years, providing investors with an important source of total return in an environment of low earnings growth. The latest annual dividend was more than covered by income.
The Merchants Trust (MRCH) offers one of the highest yields currently available on a mainstream equity investment trust (5.9% at 11 December), as well as the potential for capital growth. Manager Simon Gergel has positioned the trust with a tilt towards mega caps in areas such as banks, where dividend growth could come back strongly as legacy issues subside. The focused portfolio of 44 stocks also has exposure to UK economic growth via the industrial and consumer services sectors, and selected holdings in resources offer recovery potential. MRCH pays dividends quarterly and has a 33-year record of annual dividend growth. The discount has widened over the year as large caps have fallen from favour, with scope for it to narrow to a level more in line with long-term averages.
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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
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
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 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
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
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.