Standard Life UK Smaller Companies (SLS) is managed by Harry Nimmo at Aberdeen Standard Investments (ASI). He has a long-term record of meaningful outperformance versus the trust’s benchmark. The manager has a clearly defined investment process, focusing on quality, growth and momentum, and uses a proprietary screening tool known as the Matrix to sift the investible universe of c 500 companies. Nimmo retains his disciplined approach regardless of the macro background; he says this has served him well across several market cycles. SLS’s board has a progressive dividend policy and aims for a maximum 8% discount in normal market conditions.
Companies: Standard Life UK Small Co's Tst
Standard Life UK Smaller Companies offers investors an actively managed, concentrated portfolio of high-quality growth stocks, with the aim of delivering long-term capital growth. The manager, Harry Nimmo, looks to achieve this goal through a combination of quantitative and qualitative research; incorporating a proprietary scoring system called ‘the matrix’. The matrix assesses numerous metrics, narrowing down the number of companies which Harry will meet and enabling him to interrogate management and investigate the strength of the company’s business model. The end-result of Harry’s efforts is a portfolio of between 50 and 60 stocks, currently 54. The trust has a bias towards the upper end of the small-to-medium market cap range of companies, principally due to Harry’s preference for well established companies and his propensity to run his winners. Over the long run, Harry’s track record is excellent. The past ten years has seen SLS outperform the benchmark in eight, including in both rising and falling markets. This strong performance has continued into recent times, and over the past 12 months the trust’s NAV has comfortably outperformed the sector and index. Over this period SLS also saw considerable levels of volatility, however; H219 was the strongest six months in NAV total return terms since the manager was appointed in 2003, while H119 was the worst since 2008. SLS has seen a complete turnaround in sentiment over the past six months. Starting Q3 of 2019 on a discount of nearly 10%, the trust narrowed relentlessly to a premium by the year-end. This has since slipped and currently the trust is trading on a discount of 5.2%.
Standard Life UK Smaller Companies (SLS) has a long-term record of significant outperformance versus its benchmark. Manager Harry Nimmo says that his disciplined investment process, which focuses on quality, growth and momentum, also provides an element of resilience in periods of market weakness. He is encouraged by the trust’s growing level of income, which is allowing SLS to employ a progressive dividend policy, and argues that over the long term, investors have been well served by an allocation to smaller UK companies as they have outperformed the broader UK market. The trust’s board actively employs a discount control mechanism, and has recently been repurchasing shares as SLS’s discount has bumped up against its 8% target maximum.
In January we introduced a new quantitative rating system for investment trusts. Our ratings look at NAV total return performance. They are, we believe, the first quantitative rating for closed-ended funds to do so and thereby capture the performance of the management team rather than the noisier share price movements. Our ratings aim to identify the top performers for capital growth and for income. We have designed the quants to identify those trusts which have added the greatest alpha to their benchmarks and which have displayed an attractive balance between performance in rising and falling markets. For the income ratings, we have set out to identify those trusts which have managed to generate a high yield while growing their dividends and without sacrificing capital growth. We have scored all AIC trusts on our selected metrics and awarded the top twenty in each category our growth or income ratings. We believe our ratings highlight those trusts which have displayed the most highly attractive characteristics for investors in the recent past. Pleasingly, since we launched the list the trusts have done well on average, outperforming their benchmarks significantly – particularly the capital growth trusts We will rebalance the ratings at the end of 2019, but here we give an update on the performance of the trusts we have rated and the key factors affecting performance.
Companies: FGT SLS IPU BEE JCH
Standard Life UK Smaller Companies (SLS) is managed by experienced UK smaller-cap specialist Harry Nimmo. He is somewhat cautious on the near-term outlook for UK equities, citing ongoing Brexit uncertainty, lower US earnings growth and the US/China trade dispute. The manager continues to follow his tried-and-tested investment process, seeking high-quality firms that can grow their businesses regardless of the stage of the economic cycle. He notes that SLS’s portfolio companies are generally trading well, showing good earnings momentum and beating expectations, which he expects will lead to higher dividend payments. The trust currently offers a yield of 1.6%.
Today, we introduce our investment trust ratings. According to the quantitative screens we have selected in an attempt to highlight the best performers in the closed-ended universe, the trusts discussed here have been the best in their classes over the last five years. We have selected trusts using two different sets of criteria, aiming to identify the top performers for capital growth and for achieving a high and growing income. There are many rating systems for open-ended funds, but no quantitative-based system for investment trusts that is available to the average investor. While we cannot identify trusts which will perform well in the future – past outperformance is no guide to future out-performance – we hope these ratings will highlight the outstanding performers in the closed-ended universe and those managers who have best used the advantages of investment trusts to generate alpha. We are trying to reward consistent and long-term outperformance, and so we have decided to look over a five-year period. All data is as of the end of December 2018, sourced from Morningstar and JPMorgan Cazenove. We have looked at NAV total return performance and discount value has not been considered: the aim is to identify those trusts which have performed the best rather than highlight bargains.
Companies: IPU FAS ATR JEO FEV FGT THRG SEC PAC BRSC IAT HNE MIGO TRY JMG DIVI SLS BGS SDP JETI SOI BCI MRC TIGT EDIN JAGI BEE SDV BRIG AAIF HFEL SCF SIGT BRFI IVPG CTY HINT JCH NAIT
Standard Life UK Smaller Companies is a relatively concentrated portfolio of quality growth stocks held for the long run, with a long-term track record of outperformance. The manager, Harry Nimmo, has run the strategy since 1997 for the trust’s sister open-ended fund and since 2003 for the trust itself. Historically, much of his outperformance has come in falling or flat markets. Stock selection leans heavily on quantitative screens, with Harry analysing the output of a proprietary scoring system, called the Matrix, which assesses numerous metrics, and then meeting company management and investigating the strength of the company’s business model. The last 12 months have seen the trust outperform in NAV total return terms, despite the sell-off in the autumn hurting some of the trust’s largest positions disproportionately. At 8%, the discount is tighter than the sector average, as has been the norm, although it is wide compared to its own recent history. The board targets 8% as a lower limit and has been active with buybacks when it has gaped wider. The yield is 1.7%, but dividend growth has been strong over ten years, and the manager aims to continue to grow it year on year.
Standard Life UK Smaller Companies (SLS) is managed by Harry Nimmo at Aberdeen Standard Investments. He has followed the same investment process since he took over management of the trust in 2003, through a number of economic cycles, and considers it to be stable, predictable and well defined, while providing an element of resilience during periods of stock market weakness. He also believes that the investment process is optimal for running large amounts of UK small-cap money. Nimmo has a long-term record of outperformance – SLS’s NAV total return is ahead of its blended benchmark over the last one, three, five and 10 years, and above the averages of its larger peers in the AIC UK Smaller Companies sector over one and five years, and broadly in line over three years.
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
Standard Life UK Smaller Companies has a relatively concentrated portfolio of quality growth stocks held for the long run, with a long-term track record of outperformance, particularly in falling or flat markets. The manager, Harry Nimmo, has run the strategy since 2003 on the trust and since 1997 on the sister open-ended fund. Stock selection leans heavily on quantitative screens, with Harry analysing the output of a proprietary scoring system, called the Matrix, which assesses numerous metrics, and then meeting company management and investigating the strength of the company’s business model. The last 12 months has seen continued strong performance from the trust, and over ten years it is the top-performing smaller companies trust, with the lowest volatility and the highest Sharpe ratio. At 6.5%, the discount is tighter than the sector average, as has been the norm, although it is wide compared to its own recent history. The trust recently saw the redemption of convertible unsecured loan stock which may have contributed to that by creating a stock overhang. The yield is low at 1.3%, but dividend growth has been strong over ten years, and the manager aims to continue to grow it year on year.
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
Standard Life UK Smaller Companies Trust (SLS) is managed by Harry Nimmo, who aims to generate long-term capital growth from a portfolio of smaller-cap UK equities. The trust has a strong performance track record; it has meaningfully outpaced its benchmark over one, three, five and 10 years. SLS has also outperformed the majority of its peers over these periods, ranking second out of 10 funds over one and three years, fifth over five years and first over 10 years. The trust has recently changed its benchmark to include AIM stocks, reflecting SLS’s increasing exposure to this area of the UK stock market, as the board and manager consider the quality of these companies has improved in recent years.
Standard Life UK Smaller Companies Trust (SLS) has been managed by Harry Nimmo since 2003. He aims to generate long-term capital growth from a diversified portfolio of smaller-cap UK equites. While a little more cautious on the near-term outlook for small caps given, their strong start to the year and Brexit-related uncertainty, Nimmo remains very positive on the longer-term outlook. He suggests that the portfolio’s companies have potential earnings growth of 10-15% pa, which bodes well for SLS’s dividend growth. The trust has a very strong performance track record; it has outperformed its Numis Smaller Companies ex-Investment Companies Index benchmark over one, three, five and 10 years. Over the last 10 years, SLS’s dividend has compounded at an annual rate of 23.5%; its current yield is 1.5%.
Standard Life UK Smaller Companies Trust (SLS) aims to generate long-term capital growth from a portfolio of high-quality smaller-cap UK equities. Manager Harry Nimmo follows a long-standing, consistent investment process to construct a relatively concentrated portfolio of c 55 high-conviction holdings. SLS’s NAV total returns are ahead of the benchmark Numis Smaller Companies ex-Investment Companies index over three, five and 10 years and SLS leads the pack versus peers over 10 years. SLS’s annual dividend has compounded at an average annual rate of 23.5% over the last 10 years.
Standard Life UK Smaller Companies (SLS) is an actively managed UK small- and mid-cap focused trust with a quality-biased portfolio. Manager Harry Nimmo has followed a consistent approach to stock selection since taking responsibility for the portfolio in 2003, seeking companies with resilient business models and the potential to deliver sustainable growth. SLS’s NAV total return has been ahead of its benchmark over one, three and 10 years, with notably strong outperformance over the last 12 months against the background of a decline in the broader UK market. Recent market volatility has pushed the discount towards the recently introduced 8% target level for the share buyback policy.
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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
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
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
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
Mercia’s FY20 results reflect continued progress, delivering on management’s three-year strategy. AUM climbed 58% to £0.8bn, while FUM rose 73% to £658m. Following the acquisition of the NVM VCT fund management business, the company is operationally profitable on a monthly basis, with annual revenues exceeding operating costs for the first time in FY20. Net assets rose 12% to £141.5m, with the direct investment portfolio stalled at £87.5m reflecting the impact of COVID-19 fair value adjustments and a £15.7m net investment. The group remains well-placed for a downturn with £30m of unrestricted balance sheet cash and £320m of group cash. Post period end the group exited The Native Antigen Company, with £5.2m in cash (8.4x return, 65% IRR) expected. Despite the group’s progress, Mercia’s shares continue to trade at a material discount to NAV (0.60x), even before considering the embedded value of the third-party fund management business (> 4.5p at 3% of AUM).
Companies: Mercia Asset Management 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
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
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: AGY ARBB ARIX BUR CMH CLIG DNL HAYD NSF PCA PIN PXC PHP RE/ RECI SCE SHED VTA