Liontrust Special Situations Fund

February 2020 review

The Liontrust Special Situations Fund returned -8.0%* in February. For comparison the FTSE All-Share Index returned -8.9% and the IA UK All Companies sector average return was -9.4%.


Global stock markets sold off heavily in February amid the continued spread of coronavirus, with cases outside of China jumping. Investors pre-empted the economic impact of containment measures from governments around the world, sending equities and other asset classes lower with only ‘safe-havens’ such as government bonds or gold registering positive returns.


There still remains a large amount of uncertainty surrounding the duration and size of the impact of coronavirus, both in human and economic terms. The Economic Advantage investment process does not attempt to predict events which are notoriously difficult to forecast, and we will continue to focus on companies’ fundamentals. The companies we have invested in tend to have robust balance sheets. Many also have high recurring income. This is one of the core intangible assets that we look for, alongside strong intellectual property and distribution networks. The Economic Advantage investment process has served us well during bouts of previous stock market turbulence, such as the 2008 financial crisis and we believe the strengths of the investment process could again be important during this period of uncertainty.


During February, the Fund offered some resilience to the market moves, outperforming both the FTSE All-Share and the IA sector average. Positive attribution came from the Fund’s underweight allocation to oil companies and zero weighting to miners, with industrial commodity prices taking a hit from the expected economic disruption. The Fund also holds relatively few service sector companies which rely on ‘person to person’ contact, such as retailors, leisure, and transport.


There were areas of the portfolio which did succumb to the broad market weakness. Some of our industrial holdings, such as Coats Group (-21.5%) and Renishaw (-12.12%), saw double-digit declines due to concerns about supply-chain disruption. It was a similar case for our fast-moving consumer groups. Drinks company Diageo (-7.2%) notably released an update giving an initial estimate of the negative impact it expects to incur. For fiscal 2020, it forecasts a £225m-£325m reduction in organic net sales and a £140m-£200m hit to organic operating profit.


Despite the sell-off, we maintained cash levels at around 7%-8%. We will continue to watch share prices carefully, but have not re-positioned the Fund.


Away from coronavirus, there was relatively little newsflow. Keywords Studios’ (+24.4%) share price bounced back from January weakness. At the end of January, the provider of support services to video games publishers outlined expectations of 30% revenue growth in 2019 to €326m, of which half was organic expansion. YouGov (+2.9%) was another company to release a late January statement. The market research and analytics group stated that the first half of its trading year has been in line with its expectations and the board remains confident of meeting full-year forecasts.


Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (-11.2%) reported a 10% increase in revenue to £33.75bn for 2019, while adjusted earnings-per-share (EPS) rose 4%. Looking to 2020, the company emphasised its first priority as 'innovation, to progress our pipeline and support new product launches', forecasting a 1%-4% decline in adjust EPS. 


Positive contributors included:

Accesso Technology Group (+26.0%), Keywords Studios (+24.4%), IMImobile (+6.3%), JTC (+3.7%) and YouGov (+2.9%).


Negative contributors included:

Coats Group (-21.5%), Royal Dutch Shell (-15.3%), Gamma Communications (-13.6%), Aggreko (-12.2%) and BP (-11.7%).


Discrete years' performance** (%), to previous quarter-end:








Liontrust Special Situations I Inc






FTSE All Share






IA UK All Companies







*Source: Financial Express, as at 29.02.20, total return (net of fees and income reinvested), bid-to-bid, institutional class. Non fund-related return data sourced from Bloomberg.


**Source: Financial Express, as at 31.12.19, total return (net of fees and income reinvested), bid-to-bid, primary class.


For a comprehensive list of common financial words and terms, see our glossary here.


Key Risks 

Past performance is not a guide to future performance. Do remember that the value of an investment and the income generated from them can fall as well as rise and is not guaranteed, therefore, you may not get back the amount originally invested and potentially risk total loss of capital. Some of the Funds managed by the Economic Advantage team invest primarily in smaller companies and companies traded on the Alternative Investment Market.  These stocks may be less liquid and the price swings greater than those in, for example, larger companies. The performance of the GF UK Growth Fund may differ from the performance of the UK Growth Fund and will be lower than its corresponding Master Fund due to additional fees and expenses.


The information and opinions provided 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.  Always research your own investments and (if you are not a professional or a financial adviser) consult suitability with a regulated financial adviser before investing.

Thursday, March 5, 2020, 12:40 PM