Compound Income Scores Portfolio Performance
So the brief spell of Summer like weather gave way to a more soggy end to the month and so it proved in the Stock market too. The FTSE All share after a strong start in line with the weather sold off mid month before recovering somewhat toward the end and returned -1% for the month as a result. This relapse in the market came as there were some concerns about a Chinese property developer going bust and that being a Lehman type moment for the Chinese economy. The authorities there seem to have that under control though, but on going inflation worries and supply constraints in certain areas also weighed on sentiment more generally.
Meanwhile the long run of outperformance by the Compound Income Scores Portfolio since last November finally came to an end in a very disappointing fashion as it returned – 5.9% on the month. The Portfolio has outperformed by over 10% in the year to date with a total return of 24.4% and it has compounded at just over 15% per annum since inception just over 6 years ago.
It is therefore perhaps not too surprising, given the strong run it had prior to this, that some underperformance at some point was probably inevitable. In addition the FTSE 100 held up better than the Mid and Small cap parts of the market where the portfolio has been and remains overweight. That’s just the nature of this investing game and you have to take the rough with the smooth as I always say and not get carried away when things are going well and equally not get panicky or depressed when you have a bad run. As long as you have confidence in your process and are prepared to accept some volatility in your capital in the short term for potential gains in the longer term, which is after all what investing is all about.
There were quite a few contributors to the poor performance this month with 6 stocks underperforming by more than 10% on either fundamental news flow or profit taking in the main. The two worst examples were CMC Markets (CMCX) which fell by around 30% on the back of a poor trading update / profits warning as markets became calmer over the summer and they saw some relapse from the extra trading they had seen in the previous quarters and last year when the pandemic was in full swing.
The other big faller to a similar extent was Luceco (LUCE) which succumbed to a heavy bout of profit taking as their excellent results didn’t lead to any further upgrading of forecasts. This profit taking was probably also prompted by their honesty in admitting that they had seen an extra boost from Covid trading and highlighting cost pressures, although they have been able to deal with those thus far. Their Score fell back to the lower end of the top quartile as they did see a few small downgrades on the month but it stays in the portfolio on that basis and it now also looks better value on a mid teens PE with a well covered 2.5% or so yield.
On the positive side of things there were not too many, but S & U (SUS) put in a good performance after their trading update which led to upgrades which I covered in the mid month update post. While City Of London Investment Group (CLIG) responded well to their full year results reported in mid month which led to some upgrades. While the 10% increase in the dividend for the year was also presumably well received given the dividend background surrounding the pandemic.
British American Tobacco (BATS), EMIS, Strix Group (KETL) & Paypoint (PAY) all featured as holdings with scores in the second quartile this month & as part of the process I therefore consider whether they should remain in the portfolio or if there might be better cheaper alternatives available. Of these I decide to give BATS and EMIS the benefit of the doubt as their scores were not that far into the second quartile. BATS remains cheap as they continue to manage the decline of tobacco products and invest in new vaping products.
While EMIS continues to trade well as reported in the results recently and they are confident of hitting their full year targets. So I’ll continue to run that one as a quality compounder for now although the rating has got a bit richer. I also decided to keep Paypoint again as they enter their close period ahead of the H1 results in November. A further director purchase by the General Council and Head of Compliance just before that helped to sway my decision, while the coming energy price hikes should help to boost their declining bills paying business.
I did however decide to let Strix Group (KETL) go as a bit like Luceco, even though they did report good results they also struck a note of caution on current market conditions and saw a few small downgrades. In addition the rating was not that cheap on still over 21x PE and with a Score of less than 50. Nevertheless it does appear to be a good quality business with a well protected dominant market position, so I wouldn’t put you off holding it for the long term. That’s just the way the Scores process works and it also felt like the time to rotate into some better value given the inflation / interest rate outlook. With the proceeds from this sale and some cash which had accumulated from dividends over the summer I was able to add a couple of better value situations.
One was a housebuilder, despite my own personal reservations about the timing of this, but as several had appeared towards the top of the list I decided to follow the Scores even if they may be a bit rear view mirror in this case. Housebuilders will probably never be highly rated given their cyclicity, but they currently look fairly cheap within their usual 7 to 10x PE rating ranges. This probably reflects concerns about over heating post the ending of the stamp duty holiday, affordability, plus labour costs and materials pricing and availability. Against that interest rates remaining low (for now) and the on going supply demand dynamics continue to offer support. So again I’d leave you to decide if this is a sector you want to participate in. There was also a good Podcast from Money Week which featured an interview with Gary Cannon of Phoenix Asset Management, who had some interesting comments on the builders and remains a bull of the sector.
The other value stock I added, was even cheaper than the housebuilders and subscribers will have seen the details of this in their Scores sheet. In addition to this I also decided to sell CMC Markets (CMCX) on the back of their profits warning (even though it did not score outside the top quartile) and switch into the similar IG Group (IGG) where I prefer the business model and it scores more highly than CMC having had a positive update last month in contrast to CMC.
Summary & Conclusion
After a disappointing end to the summer in the UK we also had a disappointing start to the Autumn in markets and also for the Compound Income Scores Portfolio. This relapse in the market came as there were some concerns about a Chinese property developer going bust and that being a Lehman type moment for the Chinese economy. On going inflation worries and supply constraints in certain areas also weighed on sentiment more generally.
There seem to be concerns that this will retard the on going economic recovery and some of these pressure like supply shortages, commodity price increases and shortages of labour seem likely to put pressure on corporate margins which may well cause the market to continue to struggle in the short term until this picture becomes clearer. Some suggest that this could presage another leg of outperformance for value stocks in the short term if rates rise (or bonds sell off) on the back of higher inflation as hinted at by the US Federal Reserve.
With that in mind I used this months Screening to add a couple of more value orientated shares to the portfolio after taking profits in the more quality growth situation, Strix Group – which had enjoyed a re-rating during its time in the portfolio. While in the UK more widely, the market, for once, seems better placed with its bigger exposure to energy and commodity sectors.
While the UK economy seems to be suffering badly from the after effects of the Pandemic, the resultant supply shortages and the squeeze on energy prices. As a result stagflation fears have stirred given the hit to incomes and coming benefit cuts and tax rises. As a result some fear we might face a Winter of discontent much like the 1970’s which saw three day weeks and power cuts which I remember from my childhood. Despite this politicians have insisted there are no fuel shortages, that Christmas will be fine and that we won’t see power cuts even though some industry representatives claim otherwise.
Given that and the inflation outlook, bonds remain a no go area for me and so personally I continue to rely on a mix of equities and other real & alternative assets to try and maintain and grow my capital and income in real terms. I would highly recommend reading the recent final results from Ruffer Investment Company in this regard and particularly the Investment Managers comments starting on page 19.
After a recent visit to Thatcher’s farm to see their Cider production facilities, it put me in mind of Mrs Thatcher’s comment from the last time we had stagflation & as Maggie May have said "There is no alternative" in terms of sticking with equities. They are simply the best way for me, although I saw that Tina Turner has decided to cash in her royalties which may be the best way for her at her at the age of 81, although I do have a few Hipgnosis Songs Fund (SONG) as part of my alternative assets exposure.
Any way that’s all for now as I must get off down to the shops and get some candles, a frozen turkey before they sell out or go up in price. I’ll leave you with some music appropriate to the above comments.
I've just listened to an interesting podcast on an Investment Trust that I mentioned briefly in passing back in October when the UK was looking unloved and particularly cheap on a historic basis. Fortunately I also bought a few for myself at the end of September at a devilishly good price of 666p and it has done OK since then and the discount has narrowed too which is an added bonus.
The trust concerned is Temple Bar which had a pretty poor run under its previous manager who had to retire hurt, but the new managers have a good reputation as value managers and have some interesting insights on that and the current growth / quality versus value debate, including some interesting comments on M&S, Royal Mail and Microsoft along the way.
You can find the Podcast here and I hope you might find it interesting if you are looking for a way to play a resurgence in Value.
Further to my last update I felt it would be remiss of me if I didn't provide another update, as somewhat unexpectedly City Of London Group (CLIG) have entered into a merger with a similar US outfit today. I say unexpected because they have not made a habit of this, although apparently they have been open to the idea and also a bit surprising that it didn't come with their year end trading update perhaps?
Any way it comes as part of a trend of Asset managers merging to cut costs etc. as they struggle against the rising tide of passive investment management. In this case it is not so much about cost cutting and more about putting together two similar businesses in terms of the way some of their portfolios are managed to include closed end funds, but brings diversification in terms of client type and geography and thereby will help to dilute their current bias towards more volatile emerging markets.
You can read the full announcement and details of the price they are paying (in shares) from this announcement on their website. While there is a useful sponsored note from Hardman & Co. here - which give more details on the Company Karpus that they are buying and also includes some upwardly revised forecasts reflecting the potential from this acquisition and the recent market recovery.
This seems to suggest that it could be on a prospective 6 to 7x earnings with a 9 to 10% yield assuming the deal is consummated in the third quarter of this year, that markets remain OK and that they do not see too much in the way of outflows from the target. They do apparently have some limited protection in the terms to allow for this though apparently. It won't help the liquidity much as they have now also acquired a (retiring) founder shareholder with a large stake in the business having just seen their own founder sell out in recent years.
Thus assuming that they haven't dealt at the top of the recovery and we are about to be hit with the rest of the bear market, then it doesn't look like a bad deal. Indeed if the market does remain benign going forward then it might be possible for the shares, over time to return towards their previous peak around 470p or so which would still only leave them on around 10x with a 6% yield which is levels they have attained in the past. As ever I guess time will tell on which way that pans out from here.
May saw another positive month for markets on top of the recovery seen in April. This comes as quite a relief given the nervousness that was around and as it turned out, unfounded fears of a relapse and rapid re-test of the March lows, so far.
Indeed with the ongoing Central Bank support and some evidence that the worst of the virus effects may be behind us as some economies start to unlock, investors seem to be betting on a V shaped recovery. Indeed market action, in the US in particular, has stayed above the long term trend and with the S&P 500 recently recovering above its 200 day moving average it could even go onto to test recent highs potentially. (See Chart above).
Within all this after early narrow breadth with the FANG technology type stock leading the way, more recently there has been something of a broadening out and even a small rotation into value stocks. This came as some pointed out that the value versus growth performance and valuation comparisons had reached extremes last seen in the dot com era, although it remains to be seen if this will be a lasting shift and indeed if the rally will last or continue.
Market Timing Indicators
These which are based on the trend in UK Equity markets remain in negative territory about 10% below their trend, as the FTSE UK Indices largely lagged the recovery (as usual these days it seems) in other global markets. Thus this would suggest remaining cautious or out of the market if you are trying to time it. This would be reinforced by the large spike upwards in US unemployment that we have seen which has taken that indicator above its trend.
Thus even if markets should carry on rallying and turn the market indicators positive, the theory underlying this model would require the US Unemployment to come back below its trend and this seems some way off. Thus if you are in cash / market timing this would suggest that you will need nerves of steel and the patience of a saint to wait this one out while the markets continue to confound the bears and wait for them to come out of hibernation.
Compound Income Scores Portfolio
Having ignored the timing indicators and kept this pretty much fully invested this continued to benefit from the positive market background. Thus in May it produced a positive total return of 4.2% which leaves it with a negative return of 13.5% for the year to date. This compares to +3.4% and -18.8% for the FTSE All Share Index over the same time frames. Since inception just over 5 years ago the comparison is +75.2% v 10.6% or 11.5% per annum versus 2% per annum from the Index.
Not too many trades this month as few if any of the Scores justified action and one needs to be a little cautious of most figures these days any way given that Companies are reluctant to forecast and predicting outcomes is largely guesswork educated or otherwise.
I did however top slice one of the big winners in the portfolio, breaking the old adage of running your winners. This did however reflect a deterioration in its score, large driven by its valuation moving up toward the top decile as it hit new all time highs. The proceeds were reinvested into a much better value play, which remained oversold having lagged the market recovery despite being sensitive to it. This move therefore played rightly or wrongly to my natural value tendencies.
Summary & Conclusion
So another positive month for markets confounding hopes and fears of a further bout of weakness to potentially re-test the March lows. This was driven by on going support from Central Banks around the world and perhaps better than expected or not as bad as feared outcomes on the Virus front as some economies started to reverse their lock downs.
Consequently investors seem to have bought the dip and be anticipating a V shaped recovery and as such the longer term bullish trend still just about remains intact for now. Of course it remains to be seen if investors current expectations are realised or if something less positive comes to pass which might force a reassessment on markets. Aside from the the timing indicators for the lagging UK market still suggest that one should remain cautious but you might need to be patient to reap the benefit of that as thus far the markets seem to be remarkably chipper despite all the bad news that has been thrown at them recently.
Avoiding all that angst the Compound Income Portfolio continues to, well Compound away quietly in the background, albeit in a losing fashion this year so far, but at a slower rate than the overall market. Time will tell if those loses will continue to shrink or expand again from here. To be honest I really don't know having been surprised by the robustness of the rally, but personally I still wouldn't rule out some more volatility as we go through the rest of this year and get a clearer view of the impact of the virus shut down and subsequent new normal on the economy and the Corporate sector.
Whatever you do, mind how you go, stay alert and safe or whatever the latest sage advice is from the government and enjoy the hot / fine weather while it lasts. I hear that apparently there is a nice Castle in Durham which is worth a look if you fancy a drive and are feeling up to it!
Investec (INVP) the Anglo South African investment group looks good value in a neglected / misunderstood / contrarian kind of way. So what I hear you say why won’t it stay that way? Good question and it may do for all I know. They do however seem to be trying to do something about it by proposing the de-merger of their Asset Management division which incidentally manages £121bn - bet you didn’t know that. That’s before you factor in the £50bn+ that they manage on the private client / wealth mangement side of things. Any way to cut a long story short I have been researching the demerger document and other stuff they have put out on their Investor relations website and I have to say I’m quite taken by it and think it could be quite undervalued, although as I said at the outset I guess it could just remain that way.
Nevertheless as it currently stands it does look pretty good value on around 7.7x earnings with a 5.7% dividend yield which is more than two times covered. The balance sheet also appears to have net cash of around £1.6bn at the interim stage as they have taken in more deposits than the loans they have made. Their lending also seems to be reasonably prudent as the loan losses are pretty low & it is not overly leveraged. They also stand on a price to book value of around 1x with an ROE of 10% or so which seems fair enough for a bank, although they have ambitions to push this up towards mid-teens in the next few years which could argue for a re-rating if they achieve it. So all in all it ticks a lot of value boxes (which I know is a dirty word these days) although it does lack momentum, certainly in price terms, but has had some earnings upgrades more recently.
A look at the sum of the parts is also quite interesting and is I think another potential indicator of some value being on offer here in addition to the above traditional metrics. Firstly there is the Asset Management arm which is being spun off and existing Investec shareholders will end up owning 70% of it given the 10% new stock being issued and the 20% held by employees. In the documents relating to this they seem to be assuming a £1.9bn valuation for this, which seems reasonable given the £121bn of assets they manage, the 30%+ operating margin and the decent growth in assets that they have demonstrated over the last decade. So if we go with a round £2bn 70% of that would be £1.4bn versus the current EV of £2.79bn - so about half of that.
Next they will still have the Wealth and Investment Arm which manages as much as Brewins in the UK plus higher margin assets in South Africa. So that’s probably another £1bn of value there based on Brewins market cap. They also have the broking arm within this which probably compares favourably to the likes of Numis etc. so that probably worth another £0.6bn or so, based on Numis's market cap. So that puts us up to about £3bn already.
Then that leaves the deposit taking and lending that they do, although some of that is undertaken by the Wealth and Investment arm so it is a bit tricky to work out how much of the book value one should ascribe to that. It seems though that 40% of the lending is to HNW’s & other private client lending. So to avoid double counting I’ll ascribe 60% of the book value to the Corporate/other and property related lending. So 60% of £4.6bn comes out at £2.76bn so I could use that, but I note in their group summary this year they detail allocating £3.6bn of capital combined to the SA & UK Banks. So I will probably use that as the base for the banking sum of the parts. Total that up and you get:
Asset Management = £1.4bn
Wealth Management = £1bn
Broking Arm =£0.6bn
Banking Assets £3.6
Total = £6.6bn & an Enterprise Value (EV) of £5bn
This compares to a current market cap of £4.4bn & EV of £2.8bn. Which based on the above rough and ready sum of the parts might suggest that it could be 50% or more undervalued.
Now lets look at the share price chart and earnings history to see if that seems reasonable or even possible. Over 10 years since the end of 2009 the shares have largely gone sideways with a couple of peaks along the way in the 630p region versus the current 440p or so. This would give upside of about 43% if they can make it back up to those kind of levels or equivalent once they split.
While over the same time frame the earnings have meandered their way up from about 43p to 53.6p last year which a fairly dull 2.2% per annum. While the dividend has done a bit better going from 13p to 24.5p or a fairly decent 6.5% per annum, although this did reflect bouncing back from a reduced dividend in 2009 when it was cut from 25p - so you could say no growth from there over 11 years or 12 years as the forecast for to March 2020 is only for 24.6p. If it did get back to say 630p that would equate to 11.75x & a 3.9% yield which doesn’t seem out of the realms of possibility to me. However, I have to say it is a bit disappointing on the earnings and dividend front so maybe the flat price over the piece is not so surprising? It does mean though that it has been de-rated as the earnings and dividends have progressed and the price has trended sideways and obviously the market did see fit to rate it more highly on a couple of occasions along the way.
Summary & Conclusion
So it does look potentially interesting value based on the ratings and my rough sum of the parts for what they are worth, but at least there seems to be a catalyst coming with the asset management de-merger due in March to close some of the undervaluation perhaps? Alternatively the market could continue to ignore it and some holders may be too lazy to do the work and just think oh I’ll ditch it before the de-merger, especially if they are worried about markets etc. Which could even throw up an even better buying opportunity closer to the bottom end of the range in recent years in the low 400’s perhaps? Nevertheless I've decided to take a ride on this Zebra rather than a Unicorn with little in the way of earnings, dividend or assets - but each to their own. As it scored well on the Compound Income Scores it also entered the Compound Income Portfolio after this months screening. See the highlighted links for more details on those.