2020 has so far proven to be the latest episode in a long period of technology outperformance, as we observed in this article. Over the past decade, technology-related companies have tended to perform like consumer staples or defensives on the downside, and like high-growth discretionary stocks on the upside: an ideal combination from the investor’s point of view. As a result the indices (and fund managers’ portfolios) are increasingly correlated to ‘big tech’. How do investors who want a diversified portfolio deal with this, and how can they introduce more diversification into their portfolios, without reducing the potential for growth? The first step, of course, is to use specialist funds to diversify one’s holdings of individual technology stocks. Allianz Technology Trust (ATT) and Polar Capital Technology Trust (PCT), for instance, are both run by tech specialist managers. But ATT differs from PCT in that the portfolio is significantly more concentrated and, at times, has greater exposure to mid-caps. This combination of features means that ATT can be more volatile and deviate from the benchmark to a greater extent, from time to time. Nonetheless over the last five years, these two aspects of ATT have paid off for its shareholders – having outperformed PCT by a total of 15% in NAV terms. While both trusts have delivered strong returns relative to their Dow Jones World Technology benchmark, both of their fortunes are also inextricably linked to big tech. If the biggest technology companies catch a cold, then the wider technology sector will likely catch it in the short term. At the same time, as we conclude in this article, there are good reasons why the quality characteristics which technology stocks display give them the potential to outperform for years to come. But nothing lasts forever and, while we wouldn’t bet against technology performing strongly in absolute terms over the medium term, it might be that sector leadership could pass elsewhere.
Companies: ATT PCT SMT BBH UKW IBT MHN IEM BERI MWY
Scottish Mortgage (SMT) aims to generate superior returns from global equities with a highly active, long-term approach. The success of that strategy, particularly over the past decade, has led SMT to grow into the largest investment trust on the FTSE and pass on the benefits of scale in exceptionally low fees. The NAV growth has largely come through performance. As we discuss in the Performance section, over the past decade the trust has generated annualised NAV total returns of c. 20%, one of the very best results in the investment-trust sector. Growth has also come through regular issuance of shares in the long periods the trust has been on a premium. Despite a wobble during the recent crisis, the trust is now back on a 3.6% premium. The managers James Anderson (appointed in 2000) and Tom Slater (deputy manager from 2009 and joint-manager since 2015) aim to identify companies which can deliver exceptional returns, then invest in them at an early stage of their development and hold them for the long run. In recent years this has led them to invest heavily in companies developing and benefitting from new technologies, often centred around the internet. This includes those companies operating out of Silicon Valley, but increasingly also their Chinese equivalents and competitors. The managers believe the new technologies being developed in recent years tend to provide opportunities for increasing returns to scale, meaning that many investors have underestimated the long-term potential in companies exploiting them. This has led to a willingness to hold onto companies at apparently high valuations when the managers believe their long-term potential is still being underestimated.
Companies: Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust
In the financial markets, the biggest winners from the crisis so far have – without a doubt – been the technology sectors. Software, hardware, ecommerce and related sectors have outperformed in the immediate aftermath (as we discussed in a recent strategy note). They also seem likely to benefit from some of the likely long-lasting changes to society that the crisis will forge. This is the latest episode in a long period of outperformance. Looking back over the past decade, technology-related companies have tended to perform like consumer staples or defensives on the downside, and like high growth discretionary stocks on the upside: an ideal combination from the investor’s point of view. But will this continue, and can it? In this piece we consider why technology-related stocks and sectors have been so successful and the dangers which could bring their run to an end.
Companies: PCT ATT JFJ MNL SMT
Companies: PCT ATT JFJ MWY SMT MNL BBOX
To those who regularly invest in investment trusts, discounts can often be part of the opportunity. But to others, discounts are an extra complication, not to mention an extra risk. The last six weeks has probably strengthened the prejudices of both sides on the topic. The recent bout of volatility has – in our opinion – more clearly exposed both the advantages and the disadvantages of investment trusts. Our perspective is that discounts are like a drunk friend. They are fun to have around, but at times they let you down, often when it matters most. Ultimately, the investment trust sector is defined by its discounts. The NAV is what the manager delivers, which is the reason why most of our research is focussed on the NAV. Whereas the share price return reflects the NAV with an accelerant (or detractor) – represented by the change in discount over the respective holding period. Why discounts narrow or widen is a matter of continuing debate and, in most cases, comes down to very specific factors applicable to each trust. We would argue that – with the exception of very broad patterns or trends – past movements in discounts are significantly less repeatable than past NAV performance. Fundamentally this is why we believe it is more helpful to use historic investment trust NAV returns as a prism through which to judge the performance characteristics of a trust, rather than historic share price returns. On the other hand, there are ways to incorporate discount analysis into an evaluation of the opportunity presented by an investment trust at any given point in time. We feel that understanding the historic volatility of the discount is fundamental to the task of analysing a trust’s discount, and of defining factors that will influence it in the future. In this article we attempt to quantify the reasons for discount volatility, and point to trusts which offer significantly less discount downside from the current level.
Companies: PLI BHGU SMT RCP TIGT MWY RICA JAM BRWM
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 KKVX FAIR ICON RSE CRS GWI USF DIGS
The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, but with March coming to a close we have perhaps seen the end of the first act. Most of the developed world is in various degrees of ‘lockdown’; anxiously watching poorly reported – and often poorly understood – numbers for indications that their government’s strategy is working. Meanwhile equity markets saw one of their worst ever quarters in Q1 2020, as whole swathes of the economy were shut down by government diktat. The speed with which the situation developed was remarkable; and it is fair to say that all managers would have been surprised, even if they had other reasons for being bearish. We take a look at how and why certain investment trusts have done well in absolute and relative terms amidst the carnage, and ask if the causes of the crisis can provide any indication how the situation might end, and which trusts might outperform.
Companies: BHGU BHMG RICA PSHD BGUK MWY USA BGEU SMT MNL ATT FGT TIGT
Recent years have seen companies opt to remain private for longer; due to their ability to access capital from alternative areas and to remain free of the increasingly burdensome requirements of being listed. The implosion of the Woodford Equity Income Fund as a result of liquidity problems has shone a negative light on open-ended funds holding stakes in private companies. However, the capacity to hold illiquid assets is one of the key characteristics of the investment trust structure. In this article we assess the advantages and disadvantages of holding minority stakes in private companies, and the impact that being re-valued periodically can have in a market characterised by wild swings in sentiment; which is perhaps of most relevance in the current market.
Companies: MERI USA SMT FCSS RCP EWI AUGM
nvestors are increasingly turning to global funds. We suggest that concerns around Brexit are most likely leading investors to seek diversification overseas. In terms of retail sales the global sector has been comfortably the most popular among investors over the past few quarters. In 2018 global funds had close to twice the level of retail sales of any other sector, as can be seen in the chart below. A similar trend has emerged in the investment trust sphere, where the average discount within the 16-strong AIC Global sector sits at 4.7%. Only North America trades at a narrower average. While Brexit may be the cause of this increased appetite, diversifying overseas is a sensible strategy in all economic environments; although investors typically still overweight their own market, a tendency known as ‘home bias’. The AIC Global sector consists of a diverse collection of trusts, which are suitable for a range of different investment purposes. In this paper, we consider the diversification benefits of investing in overseas equities and the options available in the sector. As well as scrutinising each option, we aim to explore which trusts offer genuine diversification.
Companies: SMT MNP MNKS MWY
Scottish Mortgage (SMT) is a global equity portfolio run with a long-term investment time-frame, via a highly-concentrated, growth-orientated stock picking approach. It is the largest ‘conventional’ UK-listed investment trust with net assets of over £8.3bn. The managers aim to invest in the most promising growth companies across the globe, whether publicly listed or private. SMT, which is a member of the FTSE 100, has built a long-term track record of outperformance, growing assets at a rate far in excess of its benchmark index and its sector over the past 20 years. The managers’ focus on exponential structural growth opportunities, seeking to identify companies with products that can change and dominate consumers’ spending habits, often leads them to take sizeable long-term positions in often highly volatile stocks, and the portfolio has often been characterised by a strong weighting to technology stocks. In recent years the managers have identified that an increasing number of companies are seeking to remain privately listed for longer, or even to avoid a public listing altogether. Noting that this often affords management greater freedom to pursue long-term growth opportunities, in alignment with its own investment style, it has sought to incorporate exposure to the private equity market in SMT, and presently holds around 22% (as of 31/08/2019) of its portfolio in unlisted stocks (with a maximum permissible level of 25%). The reasonably concentrated portfolio, high conviction positions and long-term outlook can often lead to periods of sharp volatility, and the trust has generally been more volatile and exposed to drawdowns than the wider market. James Anderson and Tom Slater, the managers of SMT, believe that the effects of strong management and company growth in their stocks cannot be expected to be realised in less than five years, and tend to look through such short-term volatility. Scottish Mortgage remains a strongly performing higher-risk option for equity investors, yet is among the cheapest in terms of OCF. The trust has generated higher levels of volatility than the index and peers and is currently on a discount of 2.3%.
Anyone who takes a strong interest in financial markets sometimes feels the pull of market timing. It is seductive to imagine yourself a canny trader, buying or selling positions just before the market shifts, trading investments daily and beating the herd with superior analysis and instincts. We can add to the existing research suggesting this is a bad idea, and that taking a long-term view of your investments is the way to go. We looked at investment trusts that have outperformed over the past ten years and ran monthly NAV returns. We then calculated how many months were responsible for their outperformance. In other words, how many months did you need to miss to have ended up with market performance or less, negating any benefit of choosing an active fund over a passive fund? The results were surprisingly low, suggesting that switching in and out of investment trusts is fraught with danger and a potential recipe for underperformance, and underlining the case for a long term approach.
Companies: SDV CTY SMT FGT MNP JMG SDP
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
In recent years active management has been under almost constant attack from the rise of passive funds. Yet threats often give rise to opportunities: we believe that complacency is always the real enemy, and so competition from passive funds can be seen as a positive development in the industry. Active managers have been forced to up their game, and as we discuss below, our research shows that the UK closedended universe has become significantly more active in response to the challenge of cheap passive products. Here we discuss this shifting landscape, its implications for investors and the varying measures for ‘activeness’ available to investors.
Companies: EWI SMT HOT ASEI
“The single greatest edge an investor can have is a long-term orientation”, according to Seth Klarman, the American billionaire hedge fund investor. On the Hargreaves Lansdown platform the number of people with more than £1m in their ISA has increased from just three in 2012 to 168 today. However while this sounds very impressive, £1m doesn’t seem that fanciful given full historic contributions to PEPs and ISAs since 1987 would have added up to more than £291,000. We calculate that an investor would “only” have to have generated an IRR of 7.74% on every year’s subscription to have generated a seven-figure sum today. ISAs offer an excellent way to grow capital and benefit from compounding (that eighth “wonder of the world”) over the very long- term entirely free from the clutches of HMRC. Investments are tax neutral within the ISA wrapper, and in contrast to a SIPP, there is zero tax payable on the entire amount when capital or income is withdrawn. Another contrast to a SIPP is that there is no size limit – under current legislation an individual’s ISA can be as big as it gets. Whilst building an ISA pot of £1m is clearly a huge achievement, our analysis suggests that many investment trust managers would have delivered significantly more. There are around 48 trusts for which we have meaningful statistics going back to 1987 which have had broadly the same strategy and/or elements of the same management team over this time. Of these, an incredible 34 trusts would have delivered a total ISA value (share price returns net of fund fees, but before the ISA wrapper fees) of over £1m, if an individual had put their entire PEP / ISA subscriptions in the same trust every year.
Companies: SMT IIT JEO IEM JEO ICGT OCI SUPP ATST LWI FGT
Over the last few years, fees and costs have become a lightning rod in the investment world, attracting the scrutiny of regulators, the media and the public alike. Investment trusts, with their independent boards acting partly on the views of shareholders, have been quick to respond. We review the changing fee landscape among investment trusts in 2018 through proprietary analysis, and discuss those which boards have done most to reduce costs for investors.
Companies: PCT SMT HSL CTY JAM IPU MWY LWI
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Cenkos’s first half results demonstrated the benefits of its flexible operating model and strength of its client relationships. While challenges related to COVID-19 are set to continue, Cenkos’s focus is on growth companies and its fund-raising year-to-date has had a greater emphasis on corporates financing M&A and growth opportunities rather than for defensive purposes. This should prove more sustainable although, as always, the timing of transactions in the encouraging pipeline reported remains uncertain.
Companies: Cenkos Securities plc
Following on quickly from its impressive full year results, these interim results confirm that our confidence for growth in the Program Management business was not misplaced.Contracted Premium increased 95% YoY (and 12% ahead of December 2019) to $925m –a stone's throw away from the $1bn 2020 guidance set in 2018. At the same time, Gross Written Premium (GWP) grew 42.6% to £247.2m, resulting in Economic EBITDA turning positive, at £0.8m compared to a loss of £0.3m in 1H19
Companies: Randall & Quilter Investment Holdings Ltd.
Primary Health Properties (LON:PHP) is a real estate investment trust (REIT) that holds a portfolio of 510 primary health facilities in the UK (92% of the portfolio by value) and Ireland (8%). The business model is to manage the properties for rental income and to grow the portfolio over time. The
Companies: PHP PP51 PHPRF
Record’s Q221 trading update confirmed that its new $8bn dynamic hedging mandate has started and that, prior to this, assets under management equivalent (AUME) expanded by 4% in the quarter. The group continues to work on developing new products and is deploying technology to enhance its ability to deliver these and existing products cost effectively.
Companies: Record plc
Cenkos Securities plc has terminated coverage of Record Plc. Our previous recommendation (BUY) and forecasts can no longer be relied upon.
Please contact Cenkos for further information.
What’s new: Today’s trading update reveals 17% rise in assets under management (AuM), double digit revenue growth, and an increasing operating margin as the business scales. The outlook is positive. Highlights are:
12.6% rise in 1H Group Revenues to £11.0m (1H last year: £9.7m);
21.9% rise in 1H adj operating profit to £5.0m (1H last year: £4.1m);
17.4% rise over 6 months in AUM to £7.8bn on 30 September 2020,
n.b. From 31 March 2020 the WMA balanced index rose 11.6% to 4510;
- Market movements added 12.5% to AUM (i.e. Tatton outperformed WMA);
- 1H net inflows of £328.1bn were 4.9% of opening AUM (i.e. c 10% annualised net inflows);
3.0% rise in Paradigm Mortgage Services member firms to 1,591
2.5% rise in Paradigm Consulting member firms
Interims will be announced on Wednesday, 18 November 2020
Companies: Tatton Asset Management Plc
Tatton has reported an in-line H1 financial performance: revenue totalled £11.0m (vs N+1Se £10.9m) and £5.0m adj. EBIT (50% N+1S FY21e). AuM grew by 3.4% to £7.8bn as net inflows continued throughout H1 (+£328m) – a positive performance given the backdrop. Paradigm, particularly in Mortgages, has been resilient post-lockdown. Having delivered 50% of our earnings forecast for FY21e, there is potential for upside. However, we leave our forecasts unchanged and a margin for safety as we remain alive to potential external risks/volatility.
ANGLE plc (AGL.L): Acceptance of FDA submission | Feedback plc (FDBK.L*): Partnership agreement | Open Orphan (ORPH.L): Human Challenge Study Model contract with UK Government
Companies: AGL FDBK ORPH
The interims confirmed that Covid-19 was minimally disruptive operationally in H1 20 and, ironically, may have improved both of R&Q’s divisions’ mediumterm trading outlooks. As the pandemic and other industry events have generated significant losses for insurers, they have created the current ‘hardening’ market driving demand for Legacy and Program Management.
There was an eclectic mix of property companies to feature in the top price movers for September. Top of the tree was private rented sector and residential development specialist Sigma Capital Group, with a 34.2% rise. The group launched a £1bn joint venture with EQT Real Estate, the real estate platform of global investment firm EQT, to deliver 3,000 private rental homes in Greater London. Micro-cap investor Panther Securities also hit double-digit gains, while Macau Property Opportunities saw an uplift in its share price after announcing debt refinancing and a disposal. CLS Holdings, the investor in offices in Germany, France and the UK, continued to see a recovery in its share price – which has risen 15.1% in the last three months. Off the back of solid results, Berlin residential landlord Phoenix Spree Deutschland saw its share price gain 7.2%. Schroder REIT’s share price rose 6.6% in the month as it embarked on a share buyback programme, while Irish commercial property investor Yew Grove REIT also saw positive shareholder reaction to amending its investment strategy to increase its target loan to value ratio to 40%.
Companies: SUPR DIGS CRC PSDL ASEI TPON RLE UKCM BREI BCPT RGL SIR SLI TOWN CAL
Life sciences is one of Mercia’s areas of focus and investment expertise. Seven of Mercia’s top 20 holdings at 31 March 2020 were in life sciences, valued at £29m in aggregate or 33% of total portfolio value (all of which had originated through Mercia’s third-party managed funds), with another c 40 earlier-stage life sciences investments across its third-party managed funds. COVID-19 has accelerated the opportunity for a new generation of novel and recombinant vaccines. This explosion of potential new treatments will require new diagnostics and bio-manufacturing support to scale supply once they are approved. These are areas where Mercia is already invested.
Companies: Mercia Asset Management PLC
The most pleasing aspect of Tatton’s trading update for the six months ending 30 Sep 2020 (H1 2021) was how robust its fundamental offering to clients (financial advisers) has proven to be in highly uncertain market conditions. It continued to attract strong net inflows into its asset management business while also growing its base of IFA consulting and mortgage services clients. The prospect of beating our previous FY21 forecasts looks promising. Longerterm growth prospects also look strong. We do, however, remain wary of the potential impact of further large market dips. For now, we maintain our fundamental valuation of 300p per share but see room for significant upside on that mark if Tatton continues to deliver.
NextEnergy Solar Fund has low operating costs, low finance costs and has consistently delivered generation outperformance. We estimate that it can sustain its current level of dividend with an electricity price well below today’s price. The shares show the lowest NAV premium of all the UK renewable yieldcos and the highest yield.
Companies: Nextenergy Solar Fund
It was a remarkable second quarter with global markets staging the sort of comeback few would have thought plausible, at the end of March. With some countries still battling the first wave of infection and others seemingly headed to a second, not to mention what happens when governments start to remove direct stimulus measures, uncertainty still abounds.
Companies: NCYF EGL NAIT NAIT THRG GCP IGC HHI JLEN PCT VNH ASLI IBT HRI CSH SIGT
Secure Trust Bank (STB) reported H120 PBT of £5.1m (vs £18.1m a year ago) and a 3.0% ROE. Income grew 4% y-o-y, but impairments almost doubled, and payment holiday charges also hurt. STB notes that since the lockdown ended, business has been rebounding. Its robust capital (CET 13.5%), business model and proven agility allow it to react to the changing lending environment. STB currently trades on a P/BV of 0.49x, reflecting sentiment more than fundamentals given its profitability track record and successful model. Our fair value estimate is 1,704p per share, down from 2,428p..
Companies: Secure Trust Bank Plc