Man GLG Undervalued Assets & Man GLG UK Income Funds

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  • 26 mins 09 secs
Henry Dixon, Portfolio Manager, discusses his outlook for the remainder of the year compared to predictions at the start of the year, the impact of rising bond yields, how Brexit is affecting valuations and performances of the Man GLG Undervalued Assets & Man GLG UK Income Funds.


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CHRISTIAN ELLIOTT: Good morning and a warm welcome to the Man GLG Undervalued Assets and UK Income conference call, with Henry Dixon and myself, Christian Elliott, Director within UK retail sales. On this call, Henry will provide an update on performance of the funds, covering Q3 and year to date. He will also discuss other themes relevant within the portfolio, which we hope you will find useful. I will now hand over to Henry. 

HENRY DIXON: Many thanks, Christian. Starting on page 2, I just think we’ll go back to the start of the year and just outline our outlook. And very simplistically we leveraged a lot of information off the global synchronised earnings growth we saw in 2017. We went back and looked at prior periods when this was in evidence to break an earnings downtrend, and we ended up in periods such as 1993, 2003 and 2009. And we went away and looked at some of the common denominators that we observed over those periods. And for us it was threefold: continuation of earnings growth, and we’ll come on and provide you with a lot of data on the earnings story this year; commodity price strength in keeping with global synchronised growth; and then finally rising bond yields are always a feature of those periods, which clearly can pose questions of asset markets.

If we come on to the earnings story on page 3, just looking at the line starting bottom left to top right and the left-hand axis, we show you the index points of earnings from the FTSE 100. As we entered the year looking for about 525 index points, and that’s risen very nicely indeed to nearer to 600 index points of earnings. But clearly you can see the FTSE 100 - that darker line sloping top left to bottom right - markets have been very unhappy in the face of this earnings growth, and we’ll come on to the reasons behind this. 

Moving to the next page on page 4, we show you the spread of earnings growth we’ve seen within the market. Here we just isolate the FTSE 100 constituents for you. There’s been a very good divergence is the best thing to say, big winners, big losers. From our perspective as active managers it’s this type of divergence that we do enjoy. It provides us with a lot of disparity, lots of opportunities to isolate valuation and earnings momentum. And as I say from our perspective we see this dispersion as a great opportunity. If we look to the top half, I’d say in the main it’s been characterised by mining, oil and life insurance. What I would say though is this is on a per company basis. If you look at the point at whereby earnings turns positive, and to be clear this is isolating in-year moves, so relative to January 1 we’re isolating the in-year upgrades. 

You can see the median stock has been positive and yes there have been losers in the bottom left-hand corner. We’d isolate names like Rolls Royce, Just Eat, some high profile profit warnings that companies such as SSE, BT. Keeping within telecoms, Vodafone has been disappointing, and also media has been a disappointing sector. But the message to take from here I think is that the median stock has given you an upgrade. And if we tilt it in a market cap weighted basis at an index level the earnings progression has been quite powerful. Clearly, however, asset markets have not been happy, and if we move to page 5, I think a big reason behind that has been rising bond yields. Which very simplistically will depress the multiple that we attach to the earnings stream, that is absolutely the mask behind when bond yields do rise, and then also it will place pressure on stretched balance sheets. 

Moving to page 6, we show you the in-year move we’ve now seen in valuations. So as we entered 2018 we were paying almost 15 times for UK equities; the long run average would be nearer 13. But we’ve seen I think two quite marked periods of derating. So if we look at the first quarter, we had approximately a 10% rerating of equities. And I would put this down to what I would refer to as the cost of capital shock that I think we had in the first quarter, when we saw bond yield rising from 2½% to almost 3% in America, which I think is the key benchmark rate we observe at the moment. 

To put that 10% rating in to some sort of historical context, maybe we would cast our minds back to 2013, which was a prior period we would say of a cost of capital shock. Then it was the taper tantrum, which clearly caused a huge backup in bond yields. But what we saw of valuation during that episode of May 2013 was about 8-9% derating. So again it felt very commensurate with the taper tantrum derating we saw in 2013, what was observed in Q1 of this year. I think we’ve then seen something a little bit more sinister if you like from May through to today. We’ve seen about a 20% derating from that period. And here we’d put it down to fears over global growth I think. We’ll come on to the drivers behind that, be it trade, perhaps Brexit. But again if we were to leverage off history and look at a prior passage in time when I think we were significantly questioning global growth. We’d probably go back to 2011, Q3 2011 that is, when we were in the midst of the European crisis. And in valuation terms what happened to the one year forward P/E within the FTSE All Share is we lost about 17%. 

So what I’d say therefore, as I say cumulatively this year we seem to have had a taper tantrum style derating on the cost of capital in Q1. Growth concerns have pervaded from the end of Q2 in to Q3. But overall the derating of the market this year is statistically pretty significant at over 20%. To find periods of time when we had this magnitude of rerating within the year, you’d have to go back to the lurches that we saw in the market in the midst of 2010 and then also Q3 2011. And the message from history is that the market’s approximately 20% higher in the following year. What we’d also observe now and finally actually for about the first time in five to six years is that the multiple on the market looks better than long run averages. And that’s to say you could therefore probably technically say the market is very definitely absolute value at nearer 11.8 times earnings, relative to a 30 year average which is nearer 13 times.

Moving to page 7, the other key attribute of rising bond yields is I think it will ask some more searching questions of leverage balance sheets. I’m acutely aware we’ve been something approaching a stock record on the subject of rising debt within certain areas of the market. But we absolutely believe our role as active investors with our value approach is to shield investors from the worst of the disconnect of rising debt and falling earnings. 

If we then tackle perhaps the growth shock that I think we are digesting as we sit at this time on page 8, I think a big reason behind it will be the trade wars that currently are very evident with regards to media reports and the like. And absolutely as we sit here I think it would be incredibly inappropriate to say that we have the answers with regards to trade, but I think to some extent it is possible to come up with some numbers. On the left-hand side we show you US imports and on the right-hand side we show you Chinese imports. At the top there you can see China slightly over $500 billion of imports from China. And on the right-hand side we show you $155 billion of imports from the US in to China.

To put trade in to context in the context of GDP at the bottom, very roughly world trade is $20 trillion and world GDP is $80 trillion. So it’s about 25% of GDP. And if we hone in on the numbers between China and America you get to slightly over $650 billion. That equates to about 80 basis points of world GDP, and clearly if tariffs are to be applied to the entire magnitude of that amount of trade, and let’s say at the rate of 25%, then in very simple terms you’re looking at about a 25 basis point hit to global GDP. I think it is manageable. I do think the result from America has slightly split US government now. I think maybe could come up with something more rational with regard to trade going forward. But even if we go to the max with these two geographies, I think there is a tariff burden that I think is manageable in the context of global GDP as we sit here today. 

Moving to page 9, I think the other thing that clearly is in the back of investors’ minds very definitely with regards to investing in the UK at the moment is Brexit. But to some extent it’s very definitely our view that Brexit is starting to affect valuation. So here on page 9 we show you the relative P/E of the FTSE All Share relative to the FTSE World. If we go back to the start of 2016 when we were slightly over a 5% premium to the FTSE World in valuation terms, clearly we had some good growth in the context of the G7, but it is possible for the UK to command a premium to the FTSE World. But we now find ourselves at approaching a 15% discount to FTSE World, which is statistically pretty significant. You’re getting into about the realms of the bottom decile, bottom 15% of valuation data that we have going back through history with regards to the UK versus the FTSE World. 

And as we bring it to stocks on page 10, we just highlight a couple here. On the left-hand side we show you International Airlines Group in relative valuation terms relative to Delta, a US peer; on the right-hand side we show you British American Tobacco versus Philip Morris in relative P/E terms. On the left-hand side IAG trading on slightly less than six times, with Delta nearer nine times; on the right-hand side British American Tobacco in that 10/11 times range, versus Phillip Morris on 16 times. We can replicate this argument across a number of areas at the moment. Because very definitely with our view and our absolute value process, we always like to be aware of relative value of UK peers versus their international peers. And as I say we have observed in periods of time when the valuation argument has been tilted maybe towards Europe, for example, so five/six years ago it was definitely the case with a business such as Allianz was cheaper than Legal & General; now, however, it seems to us overwhelmingly the other way that it’s UK peers that look to be trading unusually cheap versus international peers. 

It’s very easy to be very sombre about the UK at this point in time. We don’t deny that at all. We probably therefore just wanted to be a little bit more rounded on the UK under the proviso that nothing is quite as good, or in this case perhaps as bad as you think it might be. On page 11 we show you the record job vacancies within the economy, now over 800,000. We’re aware that wage growth has of course been elusive. I think we would highlight two areas here. Clearly the public sector has been slightly undercut versus the private sector in recent years, but it seems that’s starting to be addressed. And then we’d also observe actually that low interest rates to some extent are meaning that retired people are very keen to re-enter the workforce as well. And I’d say those are the two factors that are supressing wage growth. But it seems that both of those might have been starting to moderate as we speak. 

With regards to page 12, we show you the state of the banking system, and giving you M4 lending and M4 deposits. But it’s now really the first time convincingly that we have more deposits in the banking system than lending. That was not been the state of play since the early ‘80s when interest rates were in the double-digit range. But I do think this gives some sort of shock absorption to the system with regards to rising interest rates, in that as I say on an aggregated basis there are excess deposits within the banking system as we sit here today. 

And the final point to make on page 13 is regarding the public finances. We show you three lines here. The dark line there is the current deficit. So that’s the day-to-day spending. We then give you a net investment line. And if you aggregate net investment and the current deficit you will get the overall budget deficit. But we now have a situation where the government on a day-to-day basis has more tax receipts at about £720 billion relative to the cost of being in business if you like on a day-to-day basis. And that takes us back to a situation that we haven’t really since the early 2000s. At that point in time there were some unbelievable windfalls for Gordon Brown the then Chancellor. I think it was close to £30 billion that he netted from mobile phone operators, and he also sold our gold, which I think we’d probably give him less credit for. But I think the budget that we saw recently was unusually friendly for this point in the political cycle. But as we look at the government finances, it is perhaps understandable how the purse strings are starting to be loosened somewhat. 
And finally on page 14, something we observed in our half yearly document that we wrote to investors was just how low expectations are for the years ahead; here we give you historic dataset. On the left-hand side we give you the 10 years of the lowest expected earnings growth we had for the start of the year. Predictably the year that analysts in aggregate were most depressed about the year ahead was 2009, given the memories of 2008 live long. And on the right-hand side we show you the years with the most expected earnings growth going forward. And the dataset shows you that the years where we had the most modest earnings growth have actually all been positive, and on average are superior to the dataset on the right, where guess what, in 1994 when we had a year of the most expected earnings growth, the return actually in aggregate was negative during the year. As we look out in to next year expected earnings growth is about 6½%, and as we look at from 2019 in to 2020 expected earnings growth falls to 5%. So while we’ve always had modest expectations I think for the last two years, it’s pleasing that also modest expectations now go hand-in-hand with also modest valuation. 

Coming on to the Undervalued Assets Fund, the process slide very quickly on page 15, I don’t intend to talk to all of this, but very crucially on the left-hand side the two bits of work that we do on every single share. We work out how much money we think you would need to replace it, and also the returns that company is generating on its replacement cost. From our perspective there are two shares that we like to then own on the back of this work, and that is businesses that I think you would have no chance of replacing for the current price on the screen that are cash generative. In the eventual right that tends to be very well rewarded. And then the second situation is where the market is undervaluing the profit stream, and it’s complemented by earnings growth and estimates momentum, and that tends to be a very persistent area of the portfolio with regards to strike rates. 

With regards to the valuation output on that data on page 16, we show you how the FTSE 100 ended the month of October. There was a point in time when, well firstly if we look at this chart here we’ll show you the X-axis are profit analysis if you like. Nearer the left-hand side you’re making less money, and further to the right-hand side you’re making an ever greater amount of money relative to your costs of being in business. And the Y-axis for us is your price to replacement cost. We split this chart into three zones: businesses you’d struggle to replace below that dark blue line at the bottom; the middle right triangle is an area of the market that’s cheap based on earnings; and the top left portion of the market is just an area of the market that looks too expensive for us. There was a point in time towards the end of October when the score in that top left-hand corner got very much closer to 50. But I would say October for us, given the slight risk off nature of it, also potential given concerns about Brexit, was a month actually where some of the cheaper shares got cheaper still. And I think lots of talk has been made of the elastic that exists between value and growth. But actually I think in many ways as I say it was a case that certain value areas of the market got cheaper still in October.

With regards to the portfolio within the Undervalued Assets Fund, that’s on page 17, very happy to talk to you offline regarding any of these holdings. We were quite busy with trading activity during October. At the outset of the month we sold Hays on a price target and also DS Smith as we gained a greater understanding of the pressures to some extent on its balance sheet. We’ve written that up more fully in our fact sheet which will shortly be with you. On the additions, there were three new holdings within the Value Fund in the month of October. We bought Crest Nicholson in the weight of its profit warning. We also added IAG on what looks to be good absolute value relative to its fleet and in absolute value terms on P/Es versus yield, and then also on value terms relative to its international peers. And then finally we also added Monde who’s executed extremely well this year, giving you very good estimates momentum, but clearly it’s been overwhelmed by fears of global growth, which is something to some extent we wanted to stand in the way of. 

Moving to page 18, performance, unfortunately we ended October slightly behind the index year to date. I would characterise our performance this year in two stages. I think if we look at Q1, albeit relatively we actually found the cost of capital shock of Q1 from a relative perspective very manageable. And that’s to say markets probably at their worst were down about 8% during Q1, and we were probably down about half of it. We have however found the global growth rolling shock that we’ve had over these last four/five months harder. The fund I think always has lots of value, but we definitely think to some extent it’s cyclical value, but we always think that cyclical value is backed up by strong balance sheets. But we’ve definitely found that period slightly harder, because it tends to rerate the defensive areas of the market. And then also in the background we’ve clearly had some sort of rolling crisis regarding Brexit, which has vested itself in very weak sterling; although that’s to some extent correcting as we speak. But I would say those are the reasons behind the slightly disappointing performance in Q3.

If we turn the page to page 19, we just introduce very quickly the process of the Income Fund. The key strand is our undervalued assets process, where the yield is at least that of the wider market. Further to that we’ll try and isolate strong balance sheets in order to isolate dividend surprise. And then finally we will look at bond opportunities, where the checklist is as follows. There must be listed equities; we must come to the conclusion that there is equity value in these listed equities; and then we must be able to express that position from a discount to par. Thereby having both an attractive running yield and also capital upside.

Given that we’ve touched on the value process in quite a bit of detail on page 20, we just show you what we’re isolated within the dividend growth portion of the fund. The X-axis here is on the left-hand side and the amount of net debt you have as a percentage of market cap or net cash on the right. The Y-axis for us is your free cashflow yield. And we just keep trying to pepper that top right-hand corner with a superior balance sheet, superior free cashflow. And if there’s operating momentum within that business what you tend to find is that dividend surprise is delivered, which clearly means dividend growth in the fund will be ahead of expectations. But it also tends to be very well received with regards to capital appreciation of the shares. And the final element is our bond portion of the fund, which is almost 10% of the fund, well pushing up to the upper limit where we’d like to keep it, but there’s quite a bit of opportunity. 

On page 21, we show you the example that we wrote to you in our half yearly document, which is Prudential plc, where we seem to have a very isolated case within the bond stack, whereby one of their bonds got down to 78p in the pound; that now currently has rerated to the mid-80s and the coupon at 4¾, so at outset definitely a yield of 6 to 7%. But moving to page 22, this is very indicative of some of the moves we’re seeing in the bond market at this point in time. Here we show you the bond of a UK listed bank. We don’t actually name the bank, just because we’re slightly active in the name as we speak here, as we sit here today, but what you can see is this bond was issued by a very well-known UK-listed bank, an international listed bank that is. Towards the end of last year the bond with a 6% coupon happily trading at a premium to par. But I’d say we’ve seen three stages of weakness this year within the bond market. 

The first stage in that first quarter was rising US interest rates; I’d then say the second quarter was characterised by concerns regarding Italy; and then more latterly I think there’s been quite a well-documented liquidation of a very large absolute return bond fund, which very definitely has placed pressure on certain instruments. But from our perspective where we can see bonds of issuers that we think have plenty of equity value and attractive running yields. So at outset here paying about 92 for these bonds, the yield on a running basis is approaching nearer 7%, and also the opportunity to make some capital upside as well. So from our perspective it seems an eminently sensible area that we should actually be focusing a little bit more on, and our bond weighting is creeping up very slightly as we speak, as we sit here today. 

With regards to valuation of the Income Fund, for those that do get our monthly insight documents you may be familiar with this data output. It’s Bloomberg data of our portfolio, but we give you the split of the fund versus our existing value process; the area of the portfolio that we’re very definitely focusing on for dividend growth. Finally the area of the portfolio we look at bonds, and then we give you valuation data on a one-year forward basis for these separate silos. But the existing value process that has made it through on a yield basis in an around 10 times and yielding pleasingly over 5%. 

Within real estate you’ll notice that we don’t actually have a very significant discount to book. We’ve resisted the temptation to go for the very wide discounts and instead we prefer to expose ourselves to some of the most lowly-valued square feet within the sector, but again a very attractive dividend yield. The dividend growth portion of the fund is slightly more expensive than the value. The yield’s slightly less, but plenty of net cash and pleasing free cashflow characteristics. And then we give you the average price of our bond portfolio, and the average running yield that is rather than yield to maturity. And finally on page 24 performance has been a little bit better than the markets this year, and clearly better than the Value Fund. I think we’d put that down to a couple of things if we isolate the Income Fund versus the Value Fund. Firstly we would say it has potentially less cyclicals within it, so it may be slightly more expensive than the Value Fund. But I think the lack of cyclical exposure has been helpful. And then also the portion of the fund that has been exposed to bonds I think has provided more solidity in these slightly tougher times. 

At that stage I’ll hand it back to Christian, but many thanks for listening. You will shortly be getting fact sheets from us, and we’re very happy also offline to talk to any investors should they so wish. Many thanks.

CHRISTIAN ELLIOTT: Thank you for the update, Henry. The first question we have is: in the run up to Brexit can you give us an idea on your overseas versus your UK earnings exposure in the funds? 

HENRY DIXON: Yes, absolutely. We are slightly more tilted to overseas earnings. The split within the market is roughly 70% overseas/30% domestic. We find ourselves slightly underweight the overseas element, but around 60%. Which is quite high for us, historically we do tend to find more value domestically. But the reason that we have a reasonably high portion of overseas earnings from our perspective is due to the value we’ve been observing maybe in oil and mining for example. And yes if we think back to where we were the day before the actual Brexit vote in 2016, then it’s probably the portfolio is slightly the other way around with regards to our exposures. This in no way is some sort of macro prediction; it’s just very definitely where we see the opportunity set sticking to our bottom-up rules. 

CHRISTIAN ELLIOTT: And the next question we have in is: can you talk to us about the pressure of rising interest rates and when you feel the pinch point might come with those? 

HENRY DIXON: Yes absolutely. So if we think about the two pressures from rising interest rates. There’ll be valuations, so I think we’ve seen to some extent pressure points being applied to valuations from rising US interest rates. I think key to when the cost of capital pain might be over for markets will be any thoughts that rate rises next year in America might be three not four. I think that would be very well received, a slight softening in the tone of the number of rate rises I think will be important. With regards to when pain point exerts itself on an economy from rising rates, I think you’d probably most pertinently look at rising rates and how that’s affecting housing activity. And it’s clear housing activity is starting to slow quite significantly in America with regards to housing starts and transactions. So that might be food for thought for the Fed. And then domestically with regards to rising interest rates, again probably if we just focus in on the mortgage market. 

According to the Council of Mortgage Lenders the average interest rate on a mortgage in the UK at this point in time is approximately 2½%. And then pleasingly also the mortgage is largely fixed rather than floating. So I therefore think given competition in the mortgage market, I think there’s reasonable insulation from perhaps the first rise in, the first 75 basis points of interest rate rises in this country. 

CHRISTIAN ELLIOTT: Thank you very much, Henry, and that concludes the Q&A session for this update. Thank you for those that sent them through. If you would like more information on the strategies which is not available on the website, or indeed if you think of any more questions, please do contact your sales representative at Man GLG. Finally on behalf of myself, Henry and the Man GLG UK Equities team, we would like to thank you for your continued support and for listening to this quarterly update today. Thank you and have a good rest of the week.


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