Liontrust UK Growth Fund

December 2019 review

The Liontrust UK Growth Fund returned 1.7%* in December. For comparison the FTSE All-Share Index returned 3.3% and the IA UK All Companies sector average return was 3.8%.


Following months of talks, the US and China finally agreed a ‘phase one’ deal which is expected to be signed in January. The agreement averted the scheduled mid-December introduction of US tariffs on US$156bn of Chinese goods. The deal will also see the US cut levies from 15% to 7% on the batch of tariffs introduced in September 2019 (on US$120bn of goods). For its part, China made commitments that included US$40bn of US agricultural purchases and a tightening of intellectual property protection.


The US Federal Reserve held interest rates steady and issued a dot-plot of members’ rate forecasts which suggested a more accommodative approach to the next few years. In September the median forecast interest rate for 2022 was 2.4%; this dropped to 2.1% in December.


Investor sentiment in the UK was further bolstered by a convincing election win for Boris Johnson’s Conservatives, which resulted in an 80 seat majority. The prospect of some clarity following months of political uncertainty propelled the pound and UK shares higher. However, while shares hung on to gains, strength in the pound ebbed away over the remainder of the month as it became clear that Brexit talks are likely to dominate the landscape in 2020, with the prospect of a hard ‘no-deal’ lurking in the background.


Several of the Fund’s most prominent gainers were beneficiaries of this positive post-election mood. None of the gains in the five positive contributors listed at the end of this commentary can be attributed to stock-specific news.


Among the Fund’s relatively limited number of fallers, a couple of stocks issued statements. A brief sales update from Unilever (-5.0%) warned that it now expects to miss its prior guidance for sales growth at the lower end of the company’s 3%-5% multi-year target. The deterioration is blamed on economic slowdown in south Asia and difficult trading conditions in west Africa.


RWS Holdings (-7.2%) released full-year results that were in-line with expectations but sounded a note of caution on the impact of sterling strength in recent months. The intellectual property and life sciences translation specialist grew revenue by 16% to £356m, while cost control and a shift in sales mix led to higher margins and a 20% increase in adjusted profit before tax to £74m. The company commented that trading in the first two months of its new financial year has been in line with its expectations, but that sterling strength is presenting a headwind. RWS Holdings has a high level of overseas revenues – particularly the US – but a large proportion of its cost base is in the UK.


Positive contributors included:

TI Fluid Systems (+17.4%), Synthomer (+16.2%), Savills (+14.7%), John Wood Group (+13.4%) and Next Fifteen Communications (+13.0%).


Negative contributors included:

RWS Holdings (-7.2%), Unilever (-5.0%), Renishaw (-4.9%), Indivior (-3.8%) and BP (-1.8%).


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








Liontrust UK Growth I Inc






FTSE All Share






IA UK Smaller Companies













*Source: Financial Express, as at 31.12.2019, 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 31.12.2019, total return (net of fees and income reinvested), bid-to-bid, primary class.


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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.

Friday, January 10, 2020, 10:46 AM