Standard Life Private Equity Trust (SLPET) closed the year ending
30 September 2019 (FY19) with an above average volume of new commitments, with 11 new primary and secondary investments along with its first direct co-investment. Meanwhile, its distribution income (£138.1m) remained above its total drawdowns (£81.6m). SLPET recorded a 10.5% NAV total return in FY19, broadly in line with its performance since inception (10.2% pa), while being clearly ahead of the FTSE All-Share Index (2.7%). Subsequent sterling appreciation resulted in a NAV decline, with a
c 5.4% one-year NAV TR as at end-December 2019.
Companies: Standard Life Private Equity Trust
Standard Life Private Equity Trust (SLPET) closed the year ending 30 September 2019 (FY19) with an above average volume of new commitments, with 11 new primary and secondary investments along with its first direct co-investment. Meanwhile, its distribution income (£138.1m) remained above its total drawdowns (£81.6m). SLPET recorded a 10.5% NAV total return in FY19, broadly in line with its performance since inception (10.2% pa), while being clearly ahead of the FTSE All-Share Index (2.7%). Subsequent sterling appreciation resulted in a NAV decline, with a c 5.4% one-year NAV TR as at end-December 2019.
Standard Life Private Equity Trust (SLPE), has made its first co-investment in Mademoiselle Desserts, alongside IK Investment Partners – see page 9, with more set to follow (up to 20% of NAV over time).
Standard Life Private Equity Trust (SLPE), has made its first co-investment – a stake in Mademoiselle Desserts, made alongside IK Investment Partners – with more set to follow (up to 20% of NAV over time).
Standard Life Private Equity – Q4 2018 trading statement
Standard Life Private Equity Trust (SLPET) has broadened its opportunity set through the recent revision to its investment objective and policy, allowing it to make direct co-investments alongside private equity managers. While offering potential for improved returns, co-investments will only be introduced to the portfolio gradually and SLPET remains focused on maintaining a concentrated exposure to ‘best in class’ primary private equity fund opportunities, investing mainly in funds with a European focus. SLPET’s NAV total return has outperformed the LPX Europe index NAV return over one, three, five and 10 years. The trust pays dividends quarterly and its 3.7% prospective yield is the second highest among the five dividend-paying funds in its private equity fund of funds peer group.
Standard Life Private Equity – Finals to 30 September 2018 | Amedeo Air Four Plus – Interims to 30 September 2018
Companies: Standard Life Private Equity Trust Amedeo Air Four Plus
Standard Life Private Equity (SLPE) is a private equity fund of funds and is the only such trust with no performance fee. SLPE invests in a high conviction portfolio of third party private equity funds. At any one time, the Trust is investing through about a dozen core managers and currently the top ten managers’ investments constitute 66% of NAV. At the start of 2017, the company started to increase exposure to North America by broadening its investment criteria to include US domestic funds The team expects exposure to gradually increase, as well as continuing to target secondary investments to take advantage of attractive investment opportunities and help reduce cash drag. In common with peers, realisations from the portfolio have been coming in steadily. SLPE currently has c.13.5% of NAV in cash which the Manager is happy with, giving it the flexibility to be opportunistic if market conditions deteriorate. The company runs an “over-commitment” strategy to try to maintain investment levels. Its long-term target range is 30-75%, and as at 30th September 2018 we calculate that the level was 35% - which is in the target range – considerably up on the September 2017 figure of 24.5%. Last year and this, the manager has been trying to place more emphasis on buying fund interests in the secondary market, which can be used to increase the company’s exposure to attractive funds without adding significantly to outstanding commitments. It has been actively bidding on deals, but reports a very competitive backdrop. A successful transaction would likely absorb a significant amount of cash, and quickly transform the invested position of the company. Since inception in 2001 to 31st July 2018, SLPE has delivered an annualised NAV total return of 9.6% relative to the FTSE All-Share Index’s annualised total return of 6.0% - representing strong outperformance against quoted markets. Indeed, the underlying portfolio returns will have been higher than this, given cash drag over the years and the fact that until 2016 the manager was paid a performance fee. Over the past five years, SLPE is well ahead of quoted markets, driven by strong realisations at material uplifts. The board is targeting a dividend of 12.4p per share, equivalent to a yield of approx. 3.7% on the current share price. Going forward, the board intends to grow the dividend at least in line with inflation and has moved to pay quarterly dividends, further enhancing the attractiveness of the trust to income investors. SLPE currently trades at a discount of c 16%, in line with the peer group average.
Investors have become increasingly aware in recent years of the rich pickings which can be found among companies which are yet to see an IPO. Indeed, statistics show that the range of companies which have already listed on a stock exchange are less and less representative of all of the growth opportunities which exist in an economy. Investment trusts have been quick to respond to this trend, and an increasing number have come to market in recent years looking to invest into unquoted, private companies. Certainly, there are success stories – witness Scottish Mortgage’s investment in Alibaba way before it IPO’d. Naturally, examples like this can lead to investors worrying about missing out and, without addressing the private company investment universe, clearly investors are limiting themselves to only a sub-set of the complete opportunity set. For many investors the worry is that the companies they are ignoring, arguably, have the best long-term wealth creating characteristics. However, there are risks involved in unquoted stocks, and before getting carried away with the new trusts targeting them, it is worth bearing in mind that listed private equity sector, within which many trusts have demonstrated strong returns over various cycles, has for some time been focused exclusively on this area.
Companies: SMT PHI USA AUGM ICGT SLPE NMCN
At the latter stages of a bull market, enthusiasm can sometimes get the better of all of us. Investors always find ways to justify prices for companies at any stage in the cycle. To contrarians, the fact that the price of something has gone up tenfold doesn’t necessarily make it more attractive. However, momentum (as it is now called) is popularly touted as a sustainable investment strategy for the long term. Have the proponents of the ‘ever the greater fool’ theory had a re-brand? Within the world of investment trusts, ‘excessive optimism’ is more easily measured in terms of premiums to net asset value (NAV). This is particularly the case where the majority of a trust’s assets are themselves quoted. Of the 90 trusts (or investment companies) which currently stand on premiums, 55% have illiquid and/or unlisted assets representing greater than 50% of their portfolios. With these trusts, overenthusiasm is perhaps a little less easy to gauge – it is entirely possible that either valuations have moved on since the last official valuation, or that the board is being conservative in its valuations. Either way, each is likely to have its own story and a premium is not necessarily an indicator of excessive optimism. We list below the trusts which have greater than 50% of their assets in listed or publicly traded investments, yet trade at significant premiums. One of the common themes observable is that of strong relative performance over recent times. However, whether you are a contrarian or not (or a follower of momentum as a strategy), we believe that paying anything over a very modest premium is setting yourself up for a fall. Premiums are very rarely sustainable and tend to evaporate at inflection points, exacerbating a poor period of performance from a manager in absolute or relative terms. Indeed, the table below shows how quickly a premium can be eroded, with a corresponding effect on shareholder returns, irrespective of manager performance.
Companies: MAJE SUPP IBT SLPE ICGT IIT SEC JEO SYNC III
Following on from last year’s compelling returns, Standard Life Private Equity’s (SLPE’s) recent results show a modest NAV total return of 1.5%, over the six months to 31 March 2018, that is markedly ahead of the LPX Europe Index’s return of -4.9%. Distributions from underlying companies have remained strong, enabling further new commitments to be made, laying the foundations for future performance.
Standard Life Private Equity Trust (SLPET) continues to follow a long-term, conviction approach to selecting primarily European private equity buyout funds, managing its exposure through the primary and secondary fund markets. Having broadened its investment policy in 2017, SLPET added exposure to a domestic US manager by acquiring a secondary position in Onex Partners IV in H118, and recently made a new primary commitment to MSouth Equity Partners IV, with the manager undertaking due diligence on a number of other US funds. SLPET has achieved above-average NAV returns among its fund of fund peers over one, three and five years, and has also outperformed UK and European stock market indices over these periods. SLPET has a competitive ongoing charge versus peers and its 3.8% yield ranks at the top of the peer group.
Standard Life Private Equity (SLPE) represents a “pure” fund of funds (with no co-investments) and is the only such trust with no performance fee. SLPE, as a “conviction fund investor”, has a more concentrated portfolio relative to Pantheon or HarbourVest’s very diversified funds, although in our view, slightly less concentrated when compared to Fund of Funds (FoF) such as ICG Enterprise and F&C Private Equity. At the start of 2017, the company started to increase exposure to North America. The team expects exposure to gradually increase, as well as continue to target secondary investments to take advantage of attractive investment opportunities and help reduce cash drag. In common with peers, realisations from the portfolio have been coming in thick and fast. SLPE currently has c.14.5% of NAV in cash. As at the end of January, the “over-commitment” level is currently 28% - below the target long-term average of 35% - 70% but up since the September 2017 figure of 24.5%. On a commitment-cover basis (representing cash and gearing, divided by uncalled commitments) SLPE registers 0.6x (according to JPMorgan Cazenove) which is very much in-line with the FoF peers. Since inception in 2001 to 30 September 2017, SLPE has delivered an annualised NAV total return of 9.9% compared to the FTSE All-Share Index annualised total return of 5.8%, representing very strong out-performance of quoted markets. Over the past five years, SLPE has performed broadly in-line with peers but this masks a much stronger recent performance that the Trust (and peers) have delivered in the past four years relative to equity markets. The Board are now paying a materially increased dividend (by using a combination of income (c.2/3rds) and capital (c.1/3rd)) of 12.0p per share, equivalent to a yield of approx. 3.6% on the current share price. Going forward, the Board intend to grow the dividend at least in line with inflation and have moved to pay quarterly dividends, further enhancing the attractiveness of the Trust to income investors. SLPE currently trades at a discount of c 11%, slightly narrower than the peer group average of 12.2%.
Standard Life Private Equity Trust (SLPET) takes a long-term, conviction approach to fund selection, evidenced by its new primary commitments in FY17 being made to private equity managers where there was a strong existing relationship. NAV total returns have been ahead of peers over three and five years, and share price returns have noticeably outpaced NAV returns over one year. The share price discount to NAV has narrowed markedly from c 36% in early 2016 to c 14% currently, arguably due in part to the strength of SLPET’s underlying performance, as well as its revised dividend policy, with improved and more frequent payouts scheduled. The manager sees portfolio companies’ earnings growth continuing to drive value creation, with the maturity profile of SLPET’s portfolio suggesting further near-term upside potential from prospective realisations.
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Ramsdens has reported a strong set of trading results in the last twelve months to March 2020. COVID lockdown has led to store closures, which will lead to weaker trading over the following months. However, Ramsdens has a very solid balance sheet, is diversified and is well positioned to re-open stores and continue its growth. We use an 8x multiple on last 12 months to March 2020 earnings as a reflection of a normalised earnings base which reduces our target price to 162p from 180p. At this target price Ramsdens would trade on a CY20 P/B of 1.5x. This target price offers 15% upside and we re-iterate BUY.
ULR’s finals were in line with on EPRA NAV and earnings a little better than expected. Valuations remain stable and full rent collection has been achieved for the current quarter. We see fundamental quality and resilience in the (now expanded) portfolio – ULR has already invested nearly £100m in the first two months of the new year following the £136m equity raise. We make no material changes to forecasts. Current valuation points to an 7%+ annualised return, with upside remaining from deployment of funding headroom, active management and potential for valuations to improve.
Companies: Urban Logistics REIT
A number of REITs have the ability to thrive in current market conditions and thereafter. Not only do they hold assets that will remain in strong demand, but they have focus and transparency. The leases and underlying rents are structured in a manner to provide long visibility, growth and security. Hardman & Co defined an investment universe of REITs that we considered provided security and “safer harbours”. We introduced this universe with our report published in March 2019: “Secure income” REITs – Safe Harbour Available. Here, we take forward the investment case and story. We point to six REITs, in particular, where we believe the risk/reward is the most attractive.
Companies: AGR CSH ESP DIGS IHR LXI PHP RESI SIR SUPR THRL SOHO BBOX SHED WHR
Aside from its FY 19 earnings presentation, British Land has adopted a more cautious anticipation about Offices in the City of London. We share this pessimism and have been surprised by the recent share’s bump. The latter is the opportunity to turn negative, again, and update our divestment case.
Companies: British Land Company
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 covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on the share price of property companies, with 31% wiped off the value of their total market capitalisation during the first quarter of 2020.
Companies: AEWU CREI CSH BOOT INL HLCL THRL SUPR RESI RGL DIGS GR1T SOHO PHP BOXE ASLI UTG AGR UAI BLND UANC CAL SHED CWD WHR EPIC WKP GRI YEW HMSO PCA INTU NRR
In the past month the group has made significant progress in pivoting its business away from its traditional face-to-face model. Although lending levels remain appropriately subdued, it has achieved an impressive collections performance, with its largest business running at about 90% of pre-lockdown levels. This, combined with the group’s high risk-adjusted margins has enabled it to generate £3m of FCF in the first three weeks of April, taking its net cash position to £38.7m as of 21 April. This strong financial position, combined with the group’s innovative approach to product development puts it in an extremely strong position to serve its clients and win share when the current government restrictions are eventually lifted. Reflecting this positive outlook we reiterate our BUY rating.
Companies: Non-Standard Finance
In this note, we analyze the indebtedness of 35 international E&Ps publicly listed in the UK, Canada, Norway, Sweden and the USA. For each company, we look at (1) cash position, (2) level and nature of debt (including covenants), (3) debt service and principal repayment framework and (4) Brent price required from April to YE20 to meet all the obligations and keep cash positions intact. We also estimate YE20 cash if Brent were to average US$20/bbl from April to YE20. While the oil demand and oil price collapse are of unprecedented historical proportions and the opportunities to cut costs much more limited than in 2014, most companies (with a few exceptions) entered the crisis in much better position than six years ago, with stronger balance sheets and often already extended debt maturities. In addition, this time around, many E&Ps have already been deleveraging for 1-2 years and are not caught in the middle of large developments that cannot be halted. The previous crisis also showed that debt providers could relax debt covenants for a certain period as long as interest and principal repayment obligations were met. This implies that as long as operations are not interrupted and counterparties keep paying their bills (Kurdistan), the storm can be weathered by most for a few quarters.
With (1) Brent price of about US$50/bbl in 1Q20, (2) reduced capex programmes, (3) material hedging programmes covering a large proportion of FY20 production at higher prices and (4) limited principal repayments in 2020, we find that most companies can meet all their costs and obligations in 2020 at Brent prices below US$40/bbl and often below US$35/bbl) from April until YE20 and keep their cash intact, allowing them to remain solvent at much lower prices for some time. In particular, Maha Energy and SDX Energy are cash neutral at about US$20/bbl. When factoring the divestment of Uganda, Tullow needs only US$9/bbl to maintain its YE20 cash equal to YE19. Canacol Energy, Diversified Gas and Oil, Independent Oil & Gas, Orca Exploration, Serica Energy and Wentworth Resources are gas stories not really exposed to oil prices and Africa Oil has hedged 95% of its FY20 production at over US$65/bbl.
Companies: AKERBP AOI CNE CNE DGOC EGY ENOG ENQ GENL GKP GPRK GTE HUR IOG JSE KOS LUPE MAHAA OKEA ORC.B PEN PHAR PMO PTAL PXT RRE SDX SEPL TETY TGL TLW TXP WRL
The positive market movements (£19.5bn) offset the net outflows of £1.3bn. The adjusted operating profit before tax reached £1,149m, down 21.9% yoy. The insurer benefited less from longevity assumption changes (£126m vs. £441m in 2018) in the Heritage business and the lower Asset Management fees margin (38bp vs. 40 bp in 2018) in the Savings and Asset Management one. The current context has led to a decrease in the Solvency II ratio by 10%, but the capital position remains resilient at 166%.
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
U+I’s post-close trading update confirms c. £16m of development and trading gains for FY20, which includes Harwell. This is broadly in line with our revised expectations. Proactive steps are being taken to preserve liquidity in the short-term, including suspending the final dividend and stopping all non-essential spend. Positively, benefits of the cost saving programme will now be realised 12 months early. The balance sheet is strong, with ample liquidity; covenant levels are a long way off. Management’s time is being spent repositioning teams to be ready when restrictions are lifted, when there will be a renewed focus on the short-to-medium term value gain opportunities, of which there are plenty. The shares currently trade at 59% spot discount to our updated NAV forecasts, vs the UK sector at a 9% discount. We leave our recently lowered 180p target price unchanged and continue to see upside from here.
Companies: U&I Group
Recent news: On 21 April CLIG’s 3Q trading update to 31 March 2020, revealed:
27% fall in Funds Under Management (“FUM”) from US$6.0bn to US$4.4bn
- with weaker Sterling, FUM in £ fell 20% from £4.5bn to £3.6bn.
In 3Q, while Diversification CEF strategies (Opportunistic Value and Developed funds) had net inflows of US$25m, the Group’s Emerging Market Funds had net outflows US$68m
The Group has an active pipeline across all its major CEF offerings with increased interest in the Diversification CEF strategies
Post COVID-19, income to FuM remains unchanged at c. 75 bps of FuM
Companies: City Of London Investment Group
The COVID-19-related crisis further increases the top-line pressure. However, the quarter showed ongoing efficiency gains and, above all, management’s cost of risk guidance stood significantly below our stress test based projections.
Companies: Lloyds Banking Group
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
We wrote on 7 May, about the shape of the music global industry following the publication of the IFPI 2019 report. Taking a deeper dive into this report we examine the prospects of further growth in streaming numbers as the nonwestern markets come online.
Companies: Hipgnosis Songs Fund