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Liontrust GF High Yield Bond Fund

Q4 2021 review

Past performance is not a guide to future performance. The value of an investment and the income generated from it can fall as well as rise and is not guaranteed. You may get back less than you originally invested.

The Fund (C5 sterling accumulation class) returned 0.0%* in sterling terms in Q4 2021 while the ICE Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global High Yield Index (GBP hedged) comparator benchmark returned -0.5% and the average return for the IA Sterling High Yield reference sector was -0.1%. The primary B5 US dollar share class returned 0.1% while the ICE Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global High Yield Index (USD hedged) comparator benchmark returned -0.3% and the average return for the EAA Fund USD High Yield Bond (Morningstar) reference sector was 0.3%.

 

We also compare the Fund’s performance to a leading Global High Yield ETF (seeking to outperform by 1.5% a year). The Fund’s C5 sterling shares class return was slightly ahead of the ETF in Q4 and has outperformed it by around five percentage points since inception (June 2018).

 

The Market

The US high yield market produced a return of 0.7% in Q4. In Europe, returns were broadly flat (-0.02%) during the period. Global high yield produced a return -0.3, indicative of the impact of the small (in terms of index weight) but troubled Chinese property sector.

In a change to the trend we’ve seen for (almost entirely) the last two years, the US high yield market in Q4 saw BB and B bonds outperform CCCs, albeit the difference was relatively minor. That being said, US energy bonds continue to be seen as a safe haven and typically climbed back to pre-Omicron levels before year end, with tightness in the oil market keeping the oil price at relatively high levels. In terms of quality, the reverse was true in the European market, where CCCs continued to outperform higher quality, although again the difference was small.

The global high yield market in 2021 has been a story of thematic sectors. On the one hand, the energy sector, driven by the oil price, has produced very strong returns and has underpinned a marked outperformance, particularly in the US market, of lower quality bonds versus both BB & B rated. On the other hand, one of the big stories in Q4 has been the turbulence in the Chinese real estate sector, leading to large drawdowns and even a couple of high-profile defaults in an otherwise very mild global default environment.

The Fund

Relative to index, the best performing sector in the Fund in Q4 was telecoms, but there was little dispersion amongst sectors outside of real estate. Real estate was the big positive driver of relative returns for the Fund as we do not own any Chinese real estate bonds.

Not owning leisure was a relative drag. The small number of holdings in energy performed well, but overall the sector underweight was a drag. The Fund’s low quality allocation was in general a drag and much of the CCC we own trades like higher quality, not producing double-digit returns in 2021. Other decent contributors to stock picking include UK Life companies, Rothesay and Phoenix, pharmaceutical company, Cheplapharm, travel and insurance company, Saga, and employment agency, House of HR.

Overall, given the very strong returns of a sector we were underweight (energy) and our bias towards higher quality during a period when lower quality was the performance hotspot, we are pleased with the returns generated by the fund in 2021, which is indicative of good stock-picking. Our short duration bias was also helpful and we remain shorter in duration than the Global High Yield Index going into 2022 (to read more on our thinking behind this, see the team’s recent strategy update).

During Q4, the fund participated in a number of new issues, introducing some new borrowers. This included UK-listed building materials company Sig, a company in a cyclical sector but with proven resilience and good governance characteristics. This is a B1/B+ rated, euro denominated bond with 5.25% coupon.

We also purchased UK-based, newly private Aggreko, a company in the equipment rental sector. It was only taken private from a UK listing relatively recently (i.e. there is still plenty of available information) and is in a sector we know well. Although pollutive (a large % of its portfolio is diesel energy generators), it is committed to improving its energy mix in the years ahead and its equipment will play a role in the energy transition. This is a US dollar, B1/BB- rated bond with 6.125% coupon. We sold out of our remaining holding in oil producer, Enquest to fund this position.

We also purchased a couple of new holding company deals. The first is the holding company for a decent quality Swedish real estate business called Heimstaden. As part of a holding company structure, investors in this bond are not close to the physical assets, however the loan to value ratio is low at 20%, leaving plenty of cushion for asset price volatility. This is a euro denominated, BB- rated bond with a sizeable 6.75% coupon. Lastly, we participated in a bond issued by Iliad, the holding company for various telecom operating subsidiaries, including Ireland’s Eircom. This is a US dollar denominated, B/B+ rated bond with 7% coupon.

Outlook

Not long after the Omicron headlines hit, we suggested that a 5%+ yield was a reasonable entry point, particularly given the Fund’s limited exposure to companies meaningfully impacted by lockdowns. Indeed, the Omicron sell-off was somewhat short-lived and the combination of the market rally in the second half of December and the rise in underlying interest rates take us to around a 4.5% yield for the sterling investor.

At this level, we remain enthused by the relative value offered by the Fund. Of course, both yields and spreads are below long-term averages. However, we believe defaults will remain mild in the 12-24 months ahead and, when framed in the context of the quality bias we have in the Fund, we believe we are in a good position to defend capital and harvest the income generation that is the key characteristic of our asset class. Despite a sanguine view on defaults, we have been and will continue to be reluctant to buy the lowest quality parts of the high yield market. For example, we have only 5% of the fund in CCCs and a low exposure to commodities, cyclicals and leisure.

Discrete 12 month performance to last quarter end (%)**:

Dec-21

Dec-20

Dec-19

Liontrust GF High Yield Bond C Acc GBP

3.89%

3.98%

13.85%

ICE BofA Global High Yield Hedge GBP

2.78%

5.10%

12.32%

Discrete data is not available for five full 12 month periods due to the launch date of the portfolio.


Fund positioning data sources: UBS Delta, Liontrust.

*Source: Financial Express, as at 31.12.21, total return (net of fees and interest reinvested).

**Source: Financial Express, C5 share class, total return, net of fees and interest reinvested. As at 31.12.21. The primary share class for this Fund is in US dollars (B5) but we are showing the C sterling-hedged class to compare against the IA Sterling High Yield sector.


While the managers of the Fund seek to outperform a leading Global High Yield ETF by 1.5% a year net of fees over rolling three years, this is not a formal objective. There can be no guarantees this will be achieved over the stated time period. The formal objective of the Fund can be found in the Prospectus. 

Understand common financial words and terms See our glossary
KEY RISKS

Past performance is not a guide to future performance. The value of an investment and the income generated from it can fall as well as rise and is not guaranteed. You may get back less than you originally invested.
The issue of units/shares in Liontrust Funds may be subject to an initial charge, which will have an impact on the realisable value of the investment, particularly in the short term. Investments should always be considered as long term.

Investment in Funds managed by the Global Fixed Income team involves foreign currencies and may be subject to fluctuations in value due to movements in exchange rates. The value of fixed income securities will fall if the issuer is unable to repay its debt or has its credit rating reduced. Generally, the higher the perceived credit risk of the issuer, the higher the rate of interest. Bond markets may be subject to reduced liquidity. The Funds may invest in emerging markets/soft currencies which may have the effect of increasing volatility. Some of the Funds may invest in derivatives. The use of derivatives may create leverage or gearing. A relatively small movement in the value of a derivative's underlying investment may have a larger impact, positive or negative, on the value of a fund than if the underlying investment was held instead.

DISCLAIMER

This is a marketing communication. Before making an investment, you should read the relevant Prospectus and the Key Investor Information Document (KIID), which provide full product details including investment charges and risks. These documents can be obtained, free of charge, from www.liontrust.co.uk or direct from Liontrust. Always research your own investments. If you are not a professional investor please consult a regulated financial adviser regarding the suitability of such an investment for you and your personal circumstances.

This should not be construed as advice for investment in any product or security mentioned, an offer to buy or sell units/shares of Funds mentioned, or a solicitation to purchase securities in any company or investment product. Examples of stocks are provided for general information only to demonstrate our investment philosophy. The investment being promoted is for units in a fund, not directly in the underlying assets. It contains information and analysis that is believed to be accurate at the time of publication, but is subject to change without notice. Whilst care has been taken in compiling the content of this document, no representation or warranty, express or implied, is made by Liontrust as to its accuracy or completeness, including for external sources (which may have been used) which have not been verified. It should not be copied, forwarded, reproduced, divulged or otherwise distributed in any form whether by way of fax, email, oral or otherwise, in whole or in part without the express and prior written consent of Liontrust. Always research your own investments and if you are not a professional investor please consult a regulated financial adviser regarding the suitability of such an investment for you and your personal circumstances.

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