Witan is a self-managed investment trust which aims to achieve growth in capital and income over the long term, through a portfolio of global equities. The team follow a highly active multi-manager approach, using a range of third-party managers who run concentrated portfolios of 15 to 60 stocks. Currently there are ten managers in the portfolio, with allocation sizes and mandates being controlled by the board and executive team, led by Andrew Bell. Alongside this, the executive team are directly responsible for up to 12.5% of the portfolio, investing in specialist collective funds and smaller managers that could be larger constituents in the future. Since adopting the multi-manager approach in 2004, the trust has performed strongly relative to peers and the benchmark. This has also been seen over the short term, although the current exposure to the UK and low exposure to FAANG stocks have been a slight headwind in the short term on a relative basis. Alongside capital appreciation, the trust offers investors a strong income stream. The trust has an enviable track record of 44 years of dividend increases, and over the past five years the trust has delivered triple the dividend growth of the average peer in the sector. Over the past few years, the trust has traded on a narrow discount to NAV. The current discount of 3.8% is a little wider than in recent years, and the company is repurchasing shares on a regular basis.
Companies: Witan Investment Trust
Witan Investment Trust (WTAN) employs a multi-manager strategy providing a ‘one-stop shop’ for exposure to global markets. The trust’s investment director James Hart highlights WTAN’s robust revenue stream, which is underpinned by a portfolio of high-quality companies with long-term growth potential. The trust’s annual dividends have compounded by 8.7% pa over the last 10 years and by an enhanced 10.3% pa over the last five. Hart says that although expectations have moderated, the outlook for growth remains favourable, which is positive for the long-term, patient investor, despite shorter-term periods of stock market volatility.
Witan Investment Trust’s (WTAN) investment director James Hart suggests that equities are currently an attractive asset class for the patient and selective investor. He believes that selectivity is becoming more important given the elevated valuation levels of parts of the equity market. The director argues that this plays to the strengths of WTAN’s multi-manager investment approach, with experienced managers that are able to take advantage of the evolving investment environment. Although relative performance was weaker than average in 2018, the trust has outperformed its composite benchmark over the last three, five and 10 years, while generating NAV and share price total returns between 11.0% and 15.0% pa over the last three, five and 10 years.
Witan follows a highly active ‘manager of managers’ approach, using a range of thirdparty managers to gain exposure to global equity markets. Currently, the company consists of ten managers, who run a collection of concentrated portfolios under the overall asset allocation plan set by CEO Andrew Bell and the management team. Alongside this, the executive team runs up to 12.5% of the portfolio, investing in specialist collective funds and smaller managers that could be constituents in the future. The trust’s objective is to generate long-term NAV growth and to deliver income at a rate greater than inflation. Since adopting the multi-manager approach in 2004, the trust has performed strongly. Over five and ten-year periods, to the end of 2018, Witan has delivered an NAV total return of 52.1% and 207.1% respectively, compared with the benchmark’s 44.6% and 163.4%. For most of 2018, Witan’s returns were positive and ahead of the benchmark. However, Q4 hit the trust particularly hard and the macro and political uncertainty, coupled with the trust’s gearing, meant the trust ended in negative territory. Alongside capital appreciation, the trust offers investors a decent income stream. The trust has an enviable track record of 44 years of dividend increases, and the 2018 dividend of 23.5p was 11.9% greater than the 21p paid in 2017 and once again greater than the rate of inflation and fully funded by earnings. As of the most recent annual report (December 2018), the trust has revenue reserves that cover the dividend by 1.5x, adding further reassurance to income dependent investors. Over the past few years, the discount has narrowed significantly. After trading on a discount of close to 10% to NAV in 2016, the trust now trades at a discount of 2.5%. The board places a high degree of importance on creating sustainable liquidity at or near to asset value and has buyback authority which it continues to use as necessary.
Witan Investment Trust (WTAN) offers investors broad exposure to global equities via a multi-manager strategy. The trust’s investment director, James Hart, believes that the global economy, led by the US, is still growing at a healthy but moderate pace, even though there are regions that are growing more slowly, and equity valuations are reasonable. He says this provides opportunities for long-term investors. While recent performance has been affected by higher stock market volatility, WTAN’s longer-term record of outperformance versus its composite benchmark remains intact. Given the trust’s robust level of income so far in FY18, the board is confident of another year of dividend growth, which would represent the 44th consecutive annual increase.
Last year saw investment trusts soar in popularity among both retail investors and wealth managers. Statistics from the AIC show that during 2017, independent financial advisors bought £990m-worth of investment trusts through platforms. That was 46% more than in 2016, and 41% more than the previous record of £704m in 2015. This increased demand has shown itself in the average discount across the investment trust universe, which has narrowed markedly, as shown in the chart below.
Companies: ATST JCH WTAN
Witan pursues a highly active ‘manager of managers’ approach, using a range of third party managers based around the world, each one investing in concentrated portfolios under the overall asset allocation plan set by CEO Andrew Bell and the management team. The trust’s objective is to generate long-term NAV growth and to deliver income at a rate greater than inflation. Since the change in strategy in 2004, when it adopted the multimanager approach, the trust has performed strongly, comfortably beating the composite benchmark over one, three, five and ten years (to the end of May 2018). In particular, 2017 was a strong year for the trust, as the financial backdrop was prime for global equities. Throughout the year the trust beat its benchmark by 3.9%, with NAV total returns of 19%. However, 2018 has brought new challenges, and macroeconomic backdrop has exposed it to some volatility. In particular the possibility of trade wars has impacted performance, as well as the effect that an environment of higher interest rates could have on emerging markets. Additionally, the lack of exposure to US markets has squeezed relative performance. Whilst the trust has not performed particularly well this year, Witan has a good long-term track record and Andrew Bell, James Hart and the team have a proven ability to identify strong managers for the fund’s allocations. We note that the trust has taken steps to increase its active share in the last twelve months, increasing the portfolio's stock specific focus at a time when - in hte manager's words - "index valuations offer few windfalls". It is also worth highlighting that the trust enforces a fairly strict discount control policy, limiting discount volatility, and - while it isn't the cheapest in the sector - it is by only slightly more expensive than the average trust in OC terms.
Witan is one of the UK’s largest investment trusts and aims for capital growth and an income which rises faster than inflation, with a portfolio of global equities managed by a number of third party management groups overseen by chief executive Andrew Bell. Witan has performed strongly over the past year, and delivering NAV total returns of 17.8%, in comparison to the benchmark total return of 14.2% (full year to 31.01.2018). For the same period, the share price total return is +21.4%. Since the start of January 2017, Witan’s benchmark has been a composite of 30% FTSE All-Share, 25% FTSE All-World North America, 20% FTSE All-World Asia Pacific, 20% FTSE All-World Europe (ex UK), 5% FTSE All-World Emerging Markets. Since Andrew Bell (pictured) took over as CEO in 2010 the trust has performed well – outperforming the board’s customised benchmark on a NAV basis in four of the past five years. On a NAV total return basis, it has also outperformed the MSCI All Countries World Index, and the average trust in the AIC Global sector over Andrew's tenure. During 2017, the board bought shares 2,857,284 shares, demonstrating the boards policy to use buybacks to achieve a "sustainable low discount (or premium) to NAV... taking account of prevailing investment conditions". The trust has traded on an average discount of -2.3% over the course of the year to 5 March 2018 according to data from Morningstar.
Witan Investment Trust (WTAN) invests globally and is one of the largest investment trusts, with net assets of c £2.0bn. It adopts a primarily multi-manager investment approach, aiming to generate long-term capital growth and real growth in income. The trust has a solid investment track record; it has outperformed its blended composite benchmark over one, three, five and 10 years. Against an improving economic and political backdrop in Europe, WTAN has increased its exposure to the region. It has replaced Marathon’s pan-European mandate, appointing two new managers: CRUX Asset Management and S.W. Mitchell Capital. They both run actively managed, concentrated continental European portfolios, using the FTSE Europe ex-UK Index as a benchmark. WTAN has a distinguished dividend history; its annual payout has increased for the last 42 consecutive years.
Witan Investment Trust (WTAN) uses a multi-manager investment approach to invest in global equities. Since 2004, it has allocated capital to eight to 13 external managers (currently 11), who all run high-conviction investment strategies and up to 10% of the fund is invested directly in collective specialist assets, which includes private equity. The multi-manager approach aims to generate an attractive NAV total return ahead of WTAN’s benchmark (a composite global equities index reflecting its chosen investment universe), as well as real dividend growth. NAV total return is ahead of its benchmark over one, three, five and 10 years.
Witan Investment Trust (WTAN) is a well-established fund that is unique among its peers in having a predominantly multi-manager approach. It aims to generate capital return and income growth in excess of UK inflation. The trust currently has allocations to 10 external managers, all with high-conviction investment strategies. Up to 10% of the fund is invested directly in specialist collective assets, including private equity. WTAN’s NAV performance versus its benchmark is positive over one, three, five and 10 years. Its dividend yield compares favourably with the peer group average and the annual dividend has increased for 41 consecutive years.
Witan Investment Trust (WTAN) aims to generate long-term growth in income and capital using a multi-manager approach to investing in equities globally. The trust has outperformed its benchmark over one, three, five and 10 years, and has recorded consecutive dividend growth over 40 years. Whilst there can be no certainty over future performance, the manager selection and diversification provided by Witan may well appeal to investors seeking a one-stop solution for global equity investment.
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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
With a new CEO, Amanda Blanc, Aviva’s shareholders could dream of a possible change in the group’s strategy, with a more focused insurance business. The new Chief has an opportunity to take painful decisions in a year where no one will require a high operating performance.
Companies: Aviva Plc
The Native Antigen Company (“NAC”) has been acquired by LGC for up to £18.0m – with the ongoing COVID pandemic highlighting the value of knowledge and execution in the infectious diseases space. Mercia invested in NAC via both its balance sheet and 3rd party funds. The exit represents a strong return for both sources of capital, validating complete connected capital to optimise value creation. For the balance sheet stake, the £5.2m proceeds represent a £2.5m gain on realisation (c.1.5% of our FY21e NAVps). Final Results will be announced next week, when we will review our forecasts. The shares are currently trading at a 45% discount to NAV (which is 20% cash). Today’s exit demonstrates justification for a much narrower discount, if not a premium, to conservative carrying values.
Companies: Mercia Technologies
Trading Well in Tough Market
Companies: Palace Capital
With the sale of The Native Antigen Company (NAC) for up to £18m in cash, Mercia expects to realise £5.2m (1.2p per share) for its 29.4% stake. This exit delivers another significant milestone in management’s strategy to achieve an evergreen funding model. Management has confirmed that the group is profitable on a day-to-day basis following the acquisition of the NVM VCT management contracts (NVM) in December 2019. NVM, together with additional allocations from the British Business Bank (BBB), has lifted AUM to c £800m. Management’s three-year strategy targets a sustainable, evergreen balance sheet with AUM of £1bn in FY22, with future investment commitments met through existing cash resources and realisations without the need for further recourse to the markets. Despite real progress, Mercia trades at 0.69x its September 2019 NAV, with the fee-earning funds business as further upside, not captured in an NAV-based calculation. FY20 results are due on 14 July 2020.
HgCapital Trust’s (HGT) 12-month NAV TR to end-March 2020 was a solid 13.8% despite the COVID-19 market downturn in March 2020 (ytd NAV performance since end-December 2019 was a 6.2% decline). The coverage ratio reached a historically low level (13% vs three-year average of 53%) after HGT notably increased its investment activity and commitments in Q120. However, a significant part of these new commitments will not be drawn in the near term. The board continues to review its future funding arrangements and may also opt out of a new investment without penalty across all funds. HGT’s portfolio focus is on the resilient software and technology sector and the manager expects a limited direct earnings impact on its portfolio from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Companies: Hgcapital Trust
Hot on the heels of the Architas acquisition – announced 1st July, Liontrust has issued in line final results (£38.1m adj. PBT vs £38.3m consensus, 24p second interim dividend). An accompanying trading update also confirms that AuM bounced back in Q1 as markets recovered and net inflows were sustained at a record £971m for the quarter. The Architas acquisition – once completed later this year – stands to drive Liontrust through the £25bn AuM mark and bolster the existing multi-asset product offering and wider appeal to the current client base. As joint corporate broker, we have withdrawn forecasts pending the approval of the acquisition at the forthcoming general meeting.
Companies: Liontrust Asset Management
Beijing’s forced implementation of the Hong Kong security law threatens the region’s financial hub status. This is a potential game-changer for HSBC but it does not seem to come as a surprise for the group as confirmed by the acceleration of its investments in China or its efforts to secure a leading position on the RMB.
Accelerating activity in to FY21
Companies: Manolete Partners
Ground Rents Income Fund (GRIO) has today released its interim results for the period ending 31 March 2020. The fully diluted NAV is 110.1p down marginally from previous NAV of 111.3p as at 30 September 2019 year-end. This valuation included a material valuation uncertainty clause as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has subsequently been removed since the period end for long dated ground rent valuations given the defensive nature of the income streams and continued market/transactional activity. The latest valuation represented a decrease on a like for like basis of £0.36 million or -0.3%. Two Interim dividends were paid during the six-month period ending 31 March totalling 1.98p, and a further dividend of 0.99p has been declared today (ex 16 July / payable 10 August). Dividend cover excluding the non-recurring litigation costs on Beetham Tower was 90%. Assuming a full year dividend of c4p this puts the shares on a flat yield of 4.9% and a discount of 26%.
Companies: Ground Rents Income Fund
Burford has announced its results for 2019. As previously indicated, these were lower than in the previous year. Revenue fell 17% from $430m in 2018 to $357m. Profit after tax, on Burford’s basis, declined 31% from $329m to $226m. As announced earlier, there will be no final dividend so only the interim dividend of ¢4.17 was paid for FY19. Unusually, Burford has also released a trading update for early 2020 alongside its main figures. Court results and arbitral awards have been obtained that would generate some healthy profits. Most notable is $200m in income ($300m in cash receipts) regarding which further legal review is unlikely.
Companies: Burford Capital
Gfinity plc* (GFIN.L, 1.625p/£14.0m) | Blackbird plc* (BIRD.L, 16.5p/£55.4m) | Tern plc* (TERN.L, 11.5p/£31.1m) | The Panoply Holdings (TPX.L, 72.5p/£39.9m)
Companies: GFIN BIRD TERN TPX
ICGT, the 39-year listed private equity (PE) investor, has delivered a total NAV return of 178% over 10 years (comparable FTSE All Share return 61%). Since Intermediate Capital became the manager in 2016, ICGT has earned mid-teen p.a. underlying returns every year. This has been achieved by leveraging the attractive PE market with incremental manager synergies. It has a concentrated portfolio of “high-conviction” investments (19% p.a. average returns over five years, 42% of portfolio, defensive growth focus) and a diversified third-party PE funds book. ICGT manages over-commitment tightly. The 33% discount to NAV is above peers.
Companies: ICG Enterprise Trust
Numis’ update for Q320 was positive, reflecting both the need for equity funding in the market and the strength of the group’s franchise as well as its ability to deal with current operating constraints. Subject to the market background in its final quarter, we now expect Numis to achieve a full-year result in line with or ahead of the high end of our previous scenario range.
Companies: Numis Corporation
PetroTal (PTAL LN/TAL CN)C; Target price £0.45: 1Q20 results/Bretaña expected to restart in July – 1Q20 financials are in line with expectations and 1Q20 production had been reported previously. At the end of 1Q20, current trade and other payables had been reduced to ~US$45 mm compared to ~US$55 mm at YE19. Most importantly. PetroTal continues to expect the Bretaña field to be re-opened this month. The contingent liability with Petroperu is estimated at US$25 mm at the current oil price and the company has entered into a financial swap for 0.46 mmbbl of oil with an ICE Brent reference price of US $40.58/bbl to cover the upcoming sale by Petroperu at the Bayovar port. This is a recovery story that we continue to like. It offers a combination of value, production and cash flow growth and reserves upside. We anticipate that the imminent reopening of the field with be an important catalyst to the share price.
i3 Energy (I3E LN): Reveals takeover target in Canada | Maha Energy (MAHA-A SS): Production update | Aker BB (AKERBP NO): 2Q20 update in Norway | Energy (RRE LN): Recommended offer by Viaro Energy | Spirit Energy: Dry hole in Norway | Enwell Energy (ENW LN): Ukraine update | JKX Oil & Gas (JKX LN): 2Q20 update in Ukraine and Russia | Pharos Energy (PHAR LN): Operating update in Egypt and Vietnam | Sound Energy (SOU LN)C: Terms of Moroccan licence renegotiated | Tethys Oil (TETY SS): June production in Oman | Victoria Oil & Gas (VOG LN): Gas sales contract with ENEO in Cameroon terminated
EVENTS TO WATCH NEXT WEEK
14/07/2020: Aker BP (AKERBP NO) – 2Q20 results
15/07/2020: Premier Oil (PMO LN) – 1H20 update
13-17/07/2020: GeoPark (GPRK US) – 2Q20 update
Companies: I3E MAHAA JKX PHAR EQNR AKERBP ENI HUR PTAL REP RRE SOU TPL VOG OMV