Smaller companies are usually a problematic area to invest in during significant downturns or recessions; and the sharp fall in 2020 hasn’t been an exception. In this article we assess the performance of smaller companies trusts throughout the pandemic, while identifying the factors that have differentiated the winners from the losers. This includes the impact that cash, market cap exposure, sector allocation, revenue exposure and growth or value biases have had, with some surprising results. We also ask whether now is an attractive time to invest in smaller companies, highlighting the trusts which stand out to us…
Companies: THRG GHE MINI RMMC ASIT ASL MTE TRG BRSC DSM
Miton UK MicroCap (MINI) is a £69m investment trust offers investors a domestically-focused and differentiated portfolio invested in the smallest companies in the UK. MINI was launched in 2015 in anticipation that globalisation would cause political upheaval, and on the assumption that microcaps were set for a revival. The managers pride themselves on the portfolio being unlike any of the major indices, or the other smaller company trusts in the sector for that matter, with an active share of almost 100% to the FTSE All Share. Stock-specific risk is spread via a wide range of relatively small holdings, and currently the portfolio has 120 holdings, of which the top ten make up close to 30% of NAV. This diversification is an important part of the approach at MINI, with moderated risk and managing downside volatility being key characteristics of the trust. To that end, the investment process focuses on meticulous fundamental analysis and on entering companies at attractive valuations. Since inception of the trust performance has been varied, as discussed in the performance tab. With this said, it has been an exceptionally difficult period for UK smaller companies managers, and even more so in the micro-cap space. However, with this brings the current discount of 6.4%.
Companies: Miton UK Microcap Trust
The most terrifying words in the English language are, or were at least according to the late president of the United States Ronald Regan: "I'm from the government and I'm here to help." and for investors in global smaller companies, this could be prescient. Most investors into smaller caps are attracted by the prospect of exponential business growth. Young companies with innovative products are supposed to offer a disruptive threat to established companies, with huge potential markets to grow into. However, developments in society and politics could be calling into question the ability of smaller companies to generate the same excess returns in the coming decades. The chief issue is regulation: while regulation is often mooted as in the interest of society at large, there is evidence that in recent years the chief beneficiaries of regulation have been the large players in existing industries, who are better able to adapt to the increasing costs. In this study we consider how the regulatory burden is affecting markets around the world and what it means for investors in the various regions.
Companies: JUS USA JEO MINI AJOT
Miton UK MicroCap (MINI) is a £87m investment trust which seeks to offer investors a domestically-focused and largely differentiated portfolio, by investing in the smallest companies in the UK. MINI was launched in 2015 in anticipation that globalisation would cause political upheaval, and that outperformance of microcaps was set for a revival. Since then, the company has performed strongly and, in what has been a difficult UK environment, the trust has an annualised return of 5.6%. The portfolio is broadly diversified relative to its peers and its benchmark, and has a high active share, meaning that Miton UK MicroCap adds diversification benefits to investors’ portfolios. Stock-specific risk is spread via a wide range of relatively small holdings, and currently the portfolio has 118 holdings of which the top ten holdings make up close to 25% of the portfolio. The trust’s discount has remained largely the same over 2018 and on average has traded at a discount of 4.5%. This has ranged between a discount of close to 1% and 10%.
Miton UK Micro Cap is a £102m investment trust which seeks to offer investors a domestically focused and largely differentiated trust, through investing in the smallest companies in the UK. The managers believe that, a result of the financial crisis, poor productivity and stagnant wage growth has created an environment which is ripe for political upheaval. Managers Gervais Williams and Martin Turner think a backlash against globalisation has been a key factor behind the political and economic changes that we have only just started to see happening. Added to this, the bull market we have enjoyed over the past decade caused by the response to the financial crisis, has caused a massive misallocation of capital due to the prolonged period of low interest rates and easily available credit. In their view, the clear beneficiaries of the anticipated changes to political and economic environments, will be better conditions for their small, domestically focused companies. The portfolio is well diversified, with stock specific risk also spread via a wide range of relatively small holdings, currently 119. Of this, the top 10 holdings equate to 28% of the portfolio. Since inception the company has performed well, returning close to 45% for investors. Although c.4% ahead of the Numis SC 1000 (Inc. Investment Companies) sector, the trust has trailed the benchmark FTSE AIM All Share by c.8%. It is worth bearing in mind that much of the outperformance of the benchmark has been dominated by a few names. Over the same time, the share price rating has varied greatly. For the first year after launch, the company traded on a significant premium. However, the referendum in 2016 saw the trust go from a c.10% premium to a c.8% discount in a matter of months. The trust’s discount has remained largely the same over the past 6 months and has traded on an average discount of -4.33% over the past year. The managers often refer to the trust as an early stage income fund, as many of the holdings are early stage companies who they hope will increase their levels of cashflow, and in turn dividends, as they improve their productivity. However, at this moment in time the current yield is just 0.5%, relative to the sector AIC Smaller Companies average of 2.0%.
Popular wisdom has it that, while over the long term small caps have outperformed large caps, this has tended to be at the cost of greater levels of volatility. However, our research suggests that the extent of this volatility is overstated. In fact, the last five years have seen lower volatility from small-cap stocks relative to large caps across the world. This could be due to the fact we have enjoyed an extended bull run, or that the UK government has been utilising quantitative easing to maintain artificially low interest rates. Whatever the cause, crunch the numbers and you will find that over this period the FTSE SmallCap sector has seen a lower maximum drawdown than the FTSE 100, but a maximum gain 21.6% greater than large caps. This phenomenon is not limited to the UK either. When comparing the MSCI Europe Small Cap Index to the MSCI Europe Index, the former has delivered double the annualised returns, again at a lower standard deviation. This combination of superior returns and comparable volatility is an attractive blend. Furthermore, with research on small caps likely to become even more thinly available as a result of Mifid II, the ability of small-cap managers to add alpha – a trait they’ve already shown themselves very capable of – is likely to be magnified. Against this backdrop, we consider the outlook for smaller companies.
Companies: SLS MINI IPU ASL JUSC BGS
Many smaller companies managers have been shifting into micro caps in the first half of 2018, including Aberforth Smaller Companies, BlackRock Smaller Companies and JPMorgan Smaller Companies - all of which increased their weightings significantly in late 2014 too, before a strong run for this area of the market. Against this backdrop, we examine the case for micro-caps and highlight a number of trusts focused on the area, and a number which have high allocations to this segment. Micro cap stocks have shown high growth potential in the past, offer diversification benefits to a balanced portfolio and since the Great Financial Crisis (GFC) have been cheaper than the larger small caps. However, there are significant risks involved, and greater flexibility allows the manager a degree of leeway to manage them.
Companies: ASL SLS MINI IPU
Research Tree provides access to ongoing research coverage, media content and regulatory news on Miton UK Microcap Trust.
We currently have 12 research reports from 2
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.
To achieve YoY revenue growth over H1/20A despite the challenges of Covid-19 and its impact on the travel sector is testament to Equals' resilience and increasing focus on B2B and International payments services. While weaker gross profit and EBITDA margins have impacted profitability in H1/20, we see potential for an earnings recovery in H2/20 given cost reduction measures currently being undertaken. This should lead Equals to cash breakeven in Q4/20 and FCF positive by early FY21.
Companies: Equals Group Plc
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
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
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
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
In June, faced with the task of replacing its longstanding portfolio manager, Alistair Mundy, Temple Bar Investment Trust’s (TMPL’s) board reiterated its commitment to a value style of investing. The board has now opted to hand the management contract to Nick Purves and Ian Lance of RWC Partners, two managers with considerable experience of managing income portfolios using a value-style approach. Value investing, where managers buy stocks that are valued more cheaply than market averages – based on measures such as price/earnings, price/book and yield – is deeply out of favour. The RWC team says that value stocks have never looked more unloved in the 30- odd years that they have been managing money. In their view, this makes it imperative that TMPL investors keep faith with the strategy and it also means this is an attractive entry point for new investors. One important change, however, is a cut to TMPL’s dividend to a level that the RWC team believes will be more sustainable.
Companies: Temple Bar Investment Trust
HSBC’s future should be clarified as soon as the US and China come back to the negotiation table. This will not happen before the US elections are over. In the meantime, HSBC will continue to be instrumentalised and its share price will remain under pressure.
Companies: HSBC Holdings Plc
Today's news & views, plus announcements from VOD, POLY, SMDS, BLND, BYG, WEIR, DC, SNR, SHI, INTU, IHR, CNC, ARE, INCE
Companies: INTU SHI INCE
The impressive full year 2019 results included some eye-catching numbers, including a record PBT of £40.1m (nearly 3x FY18 @ £14.3m), £620m of reserves acquired over 16 legacy deals, and $842m of (estimated) Contracted Premium in the Program business – on track to breach $1bn in FY20 as previously guided and $1.5bn-$2bn in 2022-2023.
Companies: Randall & Quilter Investment Holdings Ltd.
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
COVID-19 and a further cut to power price assumptions saw NAV per share fall to 309p in H120 (FY19: 337p). However, PPP performed well, bidding momentum has picked up recently and John Laing Group (JLG) expects ‘modest’ NAV growth in H2. New CEO Ben Loomes highlighted digital connectivity and energy transitions as potential future investment themes, and will set out further details in November. We cut our FY20 NAV per share forecast by 14% to 308p. The share price stands at an 8% discount to FY20e NAV per share.
Companies: John Laing Group 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
Trident Royalties Plc (AIM: TRR) has, this morning, announced the acquisition of a 1.5% Net Smelter Royalty (NSR) over the resourcestage Lake Rebecca Gold Project located in the highly prospective Eastern Goldfields province in Western Australia. The royalty package is being acquired from a private seller for a total consideration of A$8.0 million (c. US$5.63 million), comprising of A$7.0 million in cash and A$1.0 million in new ordinary shares in Trident. The acquisition is Trident’s fifth overall and its third gold deal. As per strategic guidance the company is moving fast assembling a diversified portfolio with a paying cashflow stream from iron ore and copper production and several strategic gold royalties with the potential for near term revenues. The market is paying attention with TRR shares up 49.8% since its IPO on AIM in June this year. There is clearly more to come with c. US$7.5 million of uncommitted cash as well as the potential for debt funding and the ability to use equity as acquisition consideration. The Lake Rebecca Gold Project operated and wholly owned by Apollo Consolidated (ASX: AOP), is located 150km ENE of Kalgoorlie in the Eastern Goldfields Province of the Yilgarn Craton. The Project, envisaged as a simple open pit operation, is close to existing gold infrastructure namely Saracen Mineral Holdings Limited’s (ASX: SAR) Carosue Dam Operation whose processing plant is in the process of being upgraded to increase throughput to 3.2 Mtpa.
Companies: Trident Royalties Plc