Liontrust UK Growth Fund

November 2019 review

The Liontrust UK Growth Fund returned 3.8%* in November. For comparison the FTSE All-Share Index returned 2.2% and the IA UK All Companies sector average return was 3.5%.

 

US-China trade talks once again dominated investor attention. Although the narrative seemed to shift on a daily basis, the speculation was not backed up with any real evidence of substantive developments, so there was no obstacle to investors choosing to adopt a risk-on mood.

 

Within the FTSE All-Share’s 2.2% rise, the FTSE100 gain of 1.8% was once again outstripped by returns from mid and small caps. As the UK election campaign kicked off, sterling built on October’s gains, albeit in more modest terms: a 0.8% trade-weighted gain followed last month’s 3.4% rally.

 

The macro backdrop for many companies remains tough as global growth continues to slow, but the share price reactions from a number of stocks in November suggest that investor expectations may have dipped too low in some instances. There were some strong rallies for stocks that had merely met guidance or confirmed that the outlook hadn’t worsened.

 

For example, Spectris (+17.2%) rose on the reassuring tone of a trading statement covering July to October. When releasing interim results in July it had stated that, while its full year forecasts were not being changed, they had become harder to achieve due to weak macroeconomic conditions. In that context, the latest statement’s commitment to maintaining full-year forecasts was welcomed. Spectris commented that cost-cutting efforts were mitigating the impact of macro headwinds. Like-for-like sales during the four months were flat on the previous year and reported sales rose 4% due to the impact of acquisitions and beneficial currency moves.

 

Likewise, TI Fluid Systems (+23.1%) has previously warned of the sales impact of challenging conditions in the automotive market, so investors took some confidence from a Q3 trading update which showed outperformance of global light vehicle production. Revenues in the quarter rose 0.9% at reported rates and fell 1.0% in constant currency terms, comfortably ahead of the 2.2% fall in global light vehicle production. TI Fluid Systems engineers fluid storage, carrying and delivery systems for light vehicles.

 

Spirax-Sarco Engineering (+12.6%) also showed evidence of some resilient trading against a weak macro backdrop. A trading update confirmed that sales growth in the four months to 31 October had, as expected, fallen from the rate achieved earlier in the year, but would remain ahead of trends in global industrial production where 1.0% expansion is forecast in 2019. Spirax-Sarco’s full-year trading expectations are unchanged on its interim forecasts.

 

A quarterly trading update from inter-dealer broker TP ICAP (+12.6%) described “favourable market conditions” in the period with revenues rising 17% to £478m as a strong showing from its Rates activities offsetting weakness in Credit and Equities.

 

Full-year results from Compass Group (-7.9%) for the period to 30 September revealed 6.4% organic revenue growth, slightly ahead of the company’s target range of 4%-6%. It was the company’s comments regarding its European division that sent its shares lower. Volumes, profit margins and new business levels have all been negatively affected by deteriorating business and consumer confidence. In response, Compass is cutting back its cost base, a move which resulted in a £190m charge being taken against this set of results and is expected to incur a further £110m in one-off costs in 2010. The measures are targeting an annual cost benefit of £90m.

 

A trading update from British American Tobacco (+13.3%) forecast 2019 adjusted revenue growth in the upper half of the company’s 3% to 5% long-term target range. Adjusted operating profit growth is also expected to be in the upper half of its 5% - 7% long-term range following margin expansion of between 50bps and 100ps.

 

New Category products such as vaping are the area of greatest growth potential for British American Tobacco, but hopes for a 30%-50% guidance range have waned due to a slowdown in the US vapour market. The company now expects the lower end of this range to be achieved. By contrast, its traditional products – now in a division labelled Combustibles – performed better than expected in 2019. While Combustible volumes continue to be in terminal decline, down around 3.5% for the year, price increases of around 7% were implemented. 

 

Asset manager Brooks Macdonald (-2.2%) announced the acquisition of Cornelian Asset Managers in a deal costing up to £39m. Cornelian is a Scottish asset manager whose £1.4bn assets under management will increase Brooks Macdonald’s total by 10%. The deal is expected to be earnings enhancing in the year to June 2020 and to boost earnings by 9% the following year is anticipated cost synergies are achieved. Of the initial consideration of £31m, £22m was paid in cash – an amount it raised via a £30m share placing at 1775p. The placing price was a few percent below the market price for Brooks Macdonald’s existing shares, which accounts for the small monthly drop.

 

Statpro exited the portfolio in November due to completion of Confluence Technologies’ 230p a share acquisition

 

Positive contributors included:

TI Fluid (+23.1%), Spectris (+17.2%), British American Tobacco (+13.3%), Spirax-Sarco Engineering (+12.6%) and TP ICAP (+12.6%).

 

Negative contributors included:

Compass Group (-7.9%), Pearson (-5.2%), Next Fifteen Communications (-4.3%), AA (-3.6%) and Brooks Macdonald (-2.2%).

 

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

 

Sep-19

Sep-18

Sep-17

Sep-16

Sep-15

Liontrust UK Growth I Inc

3.0

9.4

11.5

25.7

1.6

FTSE All Share

2.7

5.9

11.9

16.8

-2.3

IA UK All Companies

0.0

5.5

13.6

11.7

1.9

Quartile

2

1

3

1

2

 

*Source: Financial Express, as at 30.11.2019, 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 30.09.2019, total return (net of fees and income reinvested), bid-to-bid, primary class.

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.

Disclaimer

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.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019, 2:47 PM