TR European Growth Trust (TRG) aims to deliver capital growth by investing in smaller and medium-sized companies in Europe (excluding the UK). It tends to own smaller companies, on average, than the majority of its peers and pursues a contrarian valuation driven approach which sees it more highly exposed to ‘value’ plays than others in the sector. With a strong record of dividend growth, the trust offers a solid yield, and is insulated from the threat of dividend cuts by a large revenue reserve. Though well diversified, the trust’s high gearing and preference for smaller, often outof-favour, companies has meant significant volatility for investors. Ollie Beckett has been running the portfolio since 2011, utilising a bottom-up approach to stock selection. The investment process differentiates the trust from others in the sector, as it involves assessing companies based on the stage of their life cycle as opposed to by sector or geography. Depending on where each company sits in its cycle, Ollie will assess different attributes, valuation metrics and sell signals to understand if it is intrinsically undervalued. The trust is well diversified with close to 150 stocks, and the top ten holdings make up less than 20% of NAV. There is an emphasis towards small- and microcap companies relative to peers, with the average market cap in the portfolio £916m, in comparison to the AIC European Smaller Companies sector average of £1.69bn. Ollie pursues a contrarian approach, looking for undervalued companies which he believes are misunderstood by the market, and has been increasing his exposure to companies with leverage throughout the pandemic. Typically, the trust has outperformed in rising markets but done little to protect capital during falling markets. This is primarily due to the type of company Ollie invests in, as well as the high levels of gearing employed (currently 11%). Over the past five years the trust has delivered NAV total returns of 32.4%, outperforming the benchmark but underperforming the AIC European Smaller Companies sector. Currently the trust is trading at a discount of 16.4%, the widest in the sector.
Companies: TR European Growth Trust
TR European Growth Trust (TRG) suffered in the recent equity market sell-off for a number of reasons, including its relatively high level of gearing, procyclical bias and structural focus on the smaller end of the European small-cap market. However, by taking advantage of the chance to buy good companies at low valuations, and disposing of holdings whose balance sheets looked vulnerable, manager Ollie Beckett has so far outperformed the EMIX Smaller Europe ex-UK Index since the mid-March lows. The manager argues that while the COVID-19 pandemic may have wide-ranging effects, and an EU-wide approach to rebuilding economies is key to the union’s long-term survival, there are many opportunities for small-cap investors to benefit from the recovery, whatever shape it takes.
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
This time last year the team at Kepler Trust Intelligence (KTI) chose their personal ‘top picks’ within the investment trust universe for 2019. The aim was for each member of the team to choose the trust they believed would perform best from an investor’s point of view; i.e. in share price terms rather than NAV. Any trust could be selected, regardless of whether it was equity-focused or not. Overall the year was a prosperous one for those brave enough to hang on throughout. The MSCI World Index (in sterling terms) rose by 22.4%, with the US the best-performing major market. The S&P 500 rose by 26.4%, while the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 were up by 17.3% and 28.9% respectively. The DAX and MSCI Emerging and EURO STOXX 50 also increased. In terms of currencies the pound sterling ended the year roughly where it started relative to the dollar. This has masked what has actually been quite a volatile period for both currencies. The same pattern has been seen with sterling versus the yen, which started the year at around 140 and has ended at a similar level, around 143. What may surprise some investors is that sterling has appreciated relative to the euro by 5.9%; once more not without volatility, and with much of the gain coming in the second half of the year.
Companies: STS AJOT TRG MWY
The focus for the team at TR European Growth Trust is to deliver capital growth by investing in smaller and medium-sized companies in Europe (excluding the UK). At the helm of the portfolio is Ollie Beckett, who uses a bottom-up approach to stock selection, splitting companies based on their stage of the life cycle. Depending on the stage, the manager looks at different attributes, valuation metrics and sell signals to understand if a company is intrinsically undervalued. This unique method not only helps the manager to decipher between different opportunities, but also to diversify the fund’s risk exposure. 2018 was a difficult year for the trust, and the correction in Q4 saw the trust lose 19.9%. However, the trust has rallied strongly in 2019 and has delivered NAV total returns of 15.7% year to date. In comparison the EMIX benchmark has returned 14.4%, while the IA and AIC peer groups have returned 14.1% and 16.3% respectively. As might be expected in the current European climate, the discount for the trust is extremely wide relative to past history. 2018 saw the trust switch from a premium of 1% to a double-digit discount: at the time of writing the discount sits at 17%. The last time the trust was at this level was during the referendum in 2016.
TR European Growth Trust (TRG) has seen its share price de-rate substantially over the past 18 months, from a c 3% premium to NAV to a c 15% discount, following a period in which its small-cap value style of investing has been out of favour with investors. However, its NAV has risen c 13% year to date, with lead manager Ollie Beckett taking advantage of depressed valuations in smaller European companies whose growth potential he believes is underappreciated by the wider market. The portfolio is diverse, with c 140 holdings broadly spread by country and industry sector. TRG has a more value-oriented investment approach than its peers and is more exposed to stocks at the lower end of the market capitalisation spectrum, which have greater potential to grow exponentially. The largest positions rarely exceed c 2%, which limits stock-specific risk, while a well-covered c 2.5% dividend yield provides support for total returns in periods of market volatility.
As with most people, we are sick of discussing Brexit’s endless possible scenarios and how it might impact equity markets. The outlook is forever shifting, the large majority of “information” being pure conjecture. Nevertheless, the political and economic backdrop means that Europe is now one of the most out of favour investment regions. In the open ended IA sector, Q3 and Q4 of last year saw total outflows of -£1.6bn in Europe, relative to the US and Global sectors which saw inflows of £289m and £114m respectively. Only the UK saw greater outflows. The discounts on closed-ended funds also suggest an out-of-favour asset class. As can be seen below, relative to both historical averages and global peers, European investment trusts are good value. In fact, Europe is even more out of favour than the UK, judging by discounts.
Companies: HNE BRGS TRG FEV JESC
The aim of TR European Growth Trust is to deliver capital growth through investing in small and medium-sized companies in Europe (ex-UK). The manager uses a purely bottom up approach, and holds a well diversified portfolio of 120-150 companies. This approach includes splitting companies based on their stage of life cycle, helping the manager to decipher opportunities and diversify the fund’s risk exposure. Additionally, different attributes, valuation metrics and sell signals are looked at, helping to further understand the life cycle stage in which the company operates. 2018 has been an extremely difficult period for the trust, largely because of macroeconomic factors (as opposed to company specific performance). Alongside this, the manager’s approach has been a particularly out of favour, as 2018 has very much been a momentum led year, as opposed to the value driven strategy that TR European Growth has favoured. With this said, the manager remains optimistic about the outlook of Europe where he thinks valuations continue to look cheap. That said the manager, Ollie Beckett, admits that there are headwinds going into 2019, mainly the FED raising rates, political uncertainty (including Brexit) and global trade wars. As one might expect against this backdrop, the discount has widened significantly throughout 2018, starting at a premium of 1%, and descending to a discount of close to 10%. Towards the end of 2018, the discount widened to as much as -14.3%.
TR European Growth Trust (TRG) lead manager Ollie Beckett says he and his team are still finding plenty of investment opportunities, in spite of the global bull market in equities arguably being closer to the end than the beginning. The managers focus on attractively valued smaller companies in continental Europe, where improving returns or management changes have not yet been appreciated by the wider market. After a stellar year of performance in FY17 (NAV and share price total returns of +54.0% and +75.5% respectively), recent returns have been more muted relative to the benchmark and peers, and the trust has moved from a slight premium to NAV to a discount, more in line with long-term averages. Beckett has recently taken profits in holdings where valuations looked stretched, and has increased TRG’s gearing to take advantage of a dip in investor sentiment. The stock list is towards the longer end of the historical range.
TR European Growth Trust (TRG) invests in a diversified portfolio of small and mid-cap European (ex-UK) companies, with the aim of achieving capital growth. Its manager at Janus Henderson Investors seeks companies that are undervalued as a result of being misunderstood by the market. The portfolio is weighted towards the smaller end of the market cap spectrum, where companies are less well-researched. As recovery has taken hold in Europe, TRG’s recent performance has been exceptionally strong. It has beaten its benchmark, the EMIX Smaller Europe ex-UK index, in share price and NAV total return terms over the last five discrete years to 31 October, and cumulatively over one, three and six months, and one, three, five and 10 years. It also ranks first in its peer group over one, three and five years. TRG actively manages gearing in a range of up to 15% of net assets (13% at end-October 2017), does not tend to hedge currency exposure, and currently offers a dividend yield of 1.2%.
TR European Growth Trust (TRG) has enjoyed an exceptionally strong period of recent share price and NAV performance, posting gains of c 50% over 12 months to 30 April. While returns from all overseas investments have been boosted by the weakness of sterling since the UK’s Brexit referendum, TRG’s outperformance has been assisted by a focus on better-value cyclical stocks, and the decision of lead manager Ollie Beckett to increase gearing in the second half of 2016. The trust invests in European (ex-UK) smaller companies, with a particular focus on those at the lower end of the market cap spectrum, where both rewards and risks may be higher. Because of this, TRG has a longer stock list than peers. While the discount to NAV has narrowed somewhat, it remains at c 9% compared with an average of 0.7% for the investment company universe.
TR European Growth Trust (TRG) holds a diversified portfolio of European (ex-UK) small and mid-cap companies, with the aim of achieving long-term capital appreciation. Set up in 1990, the trust has been managed by Ollie Beckett (assisted by Rory Stokes) at Henderson Global Investors since July 2011, over which time it has comfortably beaten the benchmark Euromoney Smaller Europe ex-UK index in share price and NAV total return terms, as well as outperforming larger-cap European stocks and the FTSE All-Share index. The portfolio is biased towards value situations and companies at the smaller end of the market cap spectrum. While focused on capital growth, the trust has also grown its ordinary dividend by a compound 15.5% a year over the past five years.
TR European Growth Trust (TRG) is an established investment trust investing in small and mid-sized continental European companies. Managed by Ollie Beckett at Henderson Global Investors since July 2011 (assisted by Rory Stokes from 2013), its principal aim is to achieve capital growth, although it also has a long record of year-on-year dividend growth. TRG has a longer stock list than its peers, driven by its focus on companies further down the market capitalisation spectrum, where greater diversification may be advised. This focus on the smaller end of the market (as well as a small exposure to unquoted companies) means performance may diverge from that of the benchmark; the trust has outperformed the Euromoney Smaller Europe ex-UK index in four of the last five 12-month periods to 30 September in both NAV and share price total return terms.
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Litigation Capital Management (LCM) is an alternative asset manager specialising in disputes financing, with its main operations in Australia and the UK. The company provides funding for litigation in exchange for a share of any settlement and has built a strong track record of supporting winning c
Companies: Litigation Capital Management Ltd
Mondelez International has announced that it has appointed MediaMonks to manage global technology infrastructure, global websites and content production for North America, Latin America and AMEA. We believe this account win by S4 Capital further vindicates the unitary structure and integrated offer of the group as Mondelez initially worked with MightyHive before broadening the scope of this relationship to encompass MediaMonks. S4 Capital describes the account as a Whopper, indicating that it will generate revenues of over $20m when the account is fully transitioned. We will update our forecasts for the account win at the next financial newsflow from the group. We currently forecast LFL Gross Profit growth of +26% for FY21 and believe the Mondelez win will further accelerate this. We raise our target price to 500p (was 475p) and retain our Buy recommendation.
Companies: S4 Capital plc
Liontrust has delivered in line interims, however AuM growth since the HY point drives higher earnings estimates. In H1, net inflows remained strong despite the backdrop and, alongside performance, contributed to 28% AuM growth. Post-period, performance momentum has boosted AuM by a further 5% to £28.1bn, plus the completion of Architas. Together, this results in a step up in the run rate. We update our forecasts for higher than expected AuM driving a +5% upgrade to FY21e EPS and +10-13% in outer years. We do not forecast scaling in Architas or Global which could prompt further upgrades, reducing the 15x FY22e PER.
Companies: Liontrust Asset Management PLC
An in-line trading update for the year to 31 December 2020 states EBITDA will be at least £3.6m and £2.0 at the PBT level. However, conservative budgeting affects 2021E and 2022E with the company rebasing expectations following year-end re-forecasting exercise, taking into account the prolonged challenging macroeconomic environment. The acquisitive opportunity remains in place.
Companies: STM Group PLC
Today's news & views, plus announcements from LLOY, POG, FRAS, PETS, SPR, WHI, FKE, RLE
Companies: Lloyds Banking Group plc (LLOY:LON)Real Estate Investors plc (RLE:LON)
Today's news & views, plus announcements from Capita, JD Wetherspoon, HarbourVest Global Private Equity, Walker Crips Group, Randall & Quilter*, Michelmersh Brick, LoopUp, Schroders British Opportunities Trust and Baillie Gifford UK Growth Trust.
Companies: Randall & Quilter Investment Holdings Ltd.
President Trump likes to project himself as a highly successful businessman, but surprisingly little is known about his true financial position. Various articles, including a 2016 in-depth analysis by The Wall Street Journal, have speculated about his income and asset base. All sorts of claims and counter-claims have been made about his wealth – by Trump himself, pitching his fortune at some $9bn, and by journalist Timothy O'Brien, suggesting that it is as “low” as $150m-$250m. It is doubtful whether we shall ever know the truth, but we can use Trump’s UK corporate filings to gain an insight into his businesses in Scotland.
Companies: AVO ARBB ARIX CLIG DNL FLTA ICGT PCA PIN PHP RECI STX SCE TRX SHED VTA YEW
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
Palace Capital’s (PCA) H121 performance was robust and ahead of our central expectations. We have slightly increased FY21 earnings forecasts and introduced FY22–23 estimates, with growth driven by Hudson Quarter completion, on track for March 2021. Significant additional reversionary potential and development/refurbishment represent significant value creation potential.
Companies: Palace Capital plc
Record has set itself the goal of generating greater growth and H121 showed some encouraging steps in this direction. The substantial new dynamic hedging mandate in the period was traditional business for the group, but there was also news of a new currency impact fund, which provides diversification, higher fee margins and the potential for significant development. The implementation of new IT systems is underway, and measures to develop and retain staff have been taken.
Companies: Record plc
1H’21 results cover the depths of the initial market impact of COVID-19. We note the 4.7% fall in EPRA NTA and the effect of the dividend rebasing announced some months prior. There are no negative surprises. The focus on regional offices is a positive. There are other positives that we consider to be important, namely the ongoing contractual performance of the leisure asset tenants and lengthening of leases there, and the continuing encouraging residential sales (and small letting) at the mixed-use development of PCA’s newly created Hudson Quarter, York. Here, we see just one of PCA’s initiatives to unlock value and deliver attractive returns.
Today's news & views, plus announcements from KGF, MRO, UU, BAB, BRW, FUTR, GNS, HICL, LIO, AEXG, FUL, KWS
Companies: AEX GNS HICL
Alliance Trust (ATST) underwent a major overhaul three and a half years ago, refocusing on its global equity portfolio. Non-core parts of the company have been sold and overheads slashed. Today, the trust’s assets are managed by nine of the world’s best stock pickers. Investing sustainably is a strong theme within the fund, but the manager, Willis Towers Watson, seeks to blend managers with different styles so that the trust is not beholden to any particular fashion in markets.
Companies: Alliance Trust
Today's news & views, plus announcements from AV, BVIC, PZC, RQIH, PMI, MUL, AEXG, INCE
Companies: AEX RQIH INCE
The Merchants Trust (MRCH) has been managed by Simon Gergel at Allianz Global Investors (AllianzGI) since 2006. He is continuing to find interesting opportunities in the UK market, seeking high-quality, reasonably valued companies with attractive dividend yields. The manager says we are ‘past the worst’ in terms of dividend cuts in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, with many companies reinstating their payments. MRCH has sufficient revenue reserves to be able to build on its record of 38 years of consecutive annual dividend growth. As shown in the chart below, the trust offers a consistently above-market dividend yield.
Companies: Merchants Trust