Skip to main content
  • Register
  • Help
  • Contact us
  • Log out of your HL account

Sell: 97.34p | Buy: 100.35p |
Change 0.53p (0.55%)
Correct as at 25/06/2018

Sell: 102.46p | Buy: 105.62p |
Change 0.55p (0.54%)
Correct as at 25/06/2018

HL Select UK Income Shares

Portfolio breakdown

Explore the portfolio in depth using our interactive charts and dropdowns
Important information - The value of this fund can still fall so you could get back less than you invested, especially over the short term. The information shown is not personal advice and the information about individual companies represents our view as managers of the fund. It is not a personal recommendation to invest in a particular company. If you are at all unsure of the suitability of an investment for your circumstances please contact us for personal advice. The HL Select UK Income Shares Fund is managed by our sister company HL Fund Managers Ltd.

Sector breakdown


  • General Financial 13.5%
  • Travel & Leisure 9.5%
  • Media 8.5%
  • Banks 8.1%
  • Real Estate Investment Trusts 7.8%
  • Software & Computer Services 7.0%
  • Tobacco 6.5%
  • Beverages 6.1%
  • Gas, Water & Multiutilities 5.9%
  • Pharmaceuticals & Biotechnology 5.6%
  • Oil & Gas Producers 4.3%
  • Life Insurance 4.0%
  • Support Services 3.6%
  • Personal Goods 3.1%
  • Household Goods 2.7%
  • General Retailers 2.6%
  • Cash 1.2%

Correct as at 18/6/2018

Company size


  • <£50m0.0%
  • >£50m and <£250m0.0%
  • >£250m and <£1bn13.3%
  • >£1bn and <£3bn26.2%
  • >£3bn and <£5bn6.5%
  • >£5bn and <£10bn4.1%
  • >£10bn and <£20bn6.6%
  • >£20bn and <£50bn21.1%
  • >£50bn21.1%
  • Unknown0.0%
  • Cash and Equiv1.2%

Correct as at 18/6/2018

Full fund holdings

The portfolio shown is correct at 18/6/2018. Holdings will not show if we are building or reducing a position in a particular stock.

NameIndustryCompany size (£)Historic yieldWeightingWhy we hold it

1

HSBC Holdings plcBanks0.1t5.4%5.3%More details

2

Royal Dutch Shell Plc B SharesOil & Gas Producers0.2t5.4%4.3%More details

3

Tritax Big Box REIT plcReal Estate Investment Trusts2.3bn4.1%4.1%More details

4

Legal & General Group plcLife Insurance16bn5.8%4.0%More details

5

Imperial Brands GroupTobacco26bn6.3%3.7%More details

6

Primary Health Properties plcReal Estate Investment Trusts0.8bn4.5%3.6%More details

7

Paypoint PlcSupport Services0.7bn4.7%3.6%More details

8

BCA Marketplace plcGeneral Financial1.7bn3.1%3.4%More details

9

Domino's Pizza Group plcTravel & Leisure1.7bn2.6%3.4%More details

10

Pennon GroupGas, Water & Multiutilities3.3bn4.9%3.3%More details

11

Fidessa Group PlcSoftware & Computer Services1.5bn1.2%3.3%More details

12

AstraZeneca plcPharmaceuticals & Biotechnology66bn3.9%3.2%More details

13

Ascential Group LtdMedia1.8bn1.3%3.2%More details

14

RELX plcMedia32bn2.5%3.1%More details

15

Greene KingTravel & Leisure2bn5.2%3.1%More details

16

Unilever plcPersonal Goods50bn3.1%3.1%More details

17

Britvic plcBeverages2bn3.4%3.0%More details

18

Diageo plcBeverages66bn2.3%3.0%More details

19

Compass Group plcTravel & Leisure26bn2.1%3.0%More details

20

Lloyds Banking Group plcBanks44bn5.0%2.8%More details

21

British American Tobacco plcTobacco81bn5.1%2.8%More details

22

Sanne Group plcGeneral Financial1bn1.9%2.7%More details

23

Reckitt Benckiser Group PlcHousehold Goods43bn2.7%2.7%More details

24

Close Brothers Group plcGeneral Financial2.2bn4.1%2.6%More details

25

National GridGas, Water & Multiutilities28bn5.5%2.6%More details

26

Standard Life Aberdeen PlcGeneral Financial10bn6.3%2.5%More details

27

Sage Group plcSoftware & Computer Services6.8bn2.5%2.5%More details

28

GlaxoSmithKline plcPharmaceuticals & Biotechnology74bn5.3%2.4%More details

29

Rightmove plcMedia4.8bn1.1%2.2%More details

30

XPS Pensions Group PlcGeneral Financial0.4bn0.4%2.2%More details

31

Just Eat plcGeneral Retailers5.6bnNaN%1.6%More details

32

GB Group plcSoftware & Computer Services0.9bn0.4%1.2%More details

33

Auto Trader Group plcGeneral Retailers4bn1.4%1.0%More details

34

CashCashn/an/a1.2%More details
View HL Select UK Income Shares full fund factsheet

Invest now

Invest with a lump sum from £100, or start a monthly direct debit from just £25 per month.

Description

Handles the administration processes on behalf of fund managers. They’re not picking stocks or striking private equity deals, themselves. Other services include managing company share option schemes or executive incentive plans.

Why we hold it

The world of fund administration services is, to put it mildly, staid. Sanne Group comes from the Channel Islands, where there is a well-established investment community, often providing specialist fund products ranging from private equity to fixed income investments.

Sanne service the Alternative Funds sector, rather than mainstream fund managers, and Alternatives have been attracting a lot of fund flows in recent years because often their strategies are based on finding enhanced levels of yield, through investing in illiquid or riskier assets. Once Sanne is contracted to provide admin services to a fund, it normally does so for the life of the fund, because it becomes so deeply embedded into the fund manager’s operations that it is not economic to change administrators, once set up.

The group is growing out of the Channel Islands, and now has a global network of offices, making it less dependent on any lone market or asset class. Margins are strong, 37% at the half year stage, and revenues have been growing strongly. With most business tending to repeat, Sanne is in a strong position.

Its industry is consolidating and Sanne intend to be one of the major players. The group recently acquired a Mauritian-based provider of fund administration services. The deal is expected to be immediately earnings-enhancing, opening up significant growth opportunities in emerging markets and the potential for cost savings.

Description

The UK’s largest independent provider of sub-prime credit, Provident Financial offers home-collected loans, vehicle finance, online personal loans or credit cards via their Vanquis division.

Why we hold it

Our reasons for investing in Provident Financial were predicated on its tremendous track record of cash generation and dividend payments to shareholders and the group’s ability to generate high returns on equity, in both good times and bad.

Recent changes, and revelations of an FCA investigation mean our initial reasons for investing are no longer valid. A full explanation of what has happened and what our view is can be read here.

Description

Imperial Brands is the smallest of the world’s large tobacco companies, with substantial operations in the UK, Europe, USA and many of the world’s emerging economies.

Why we hold it

Imperial Brands has a dividend policy of paying a 10% per annum increase, whilst its current prospective market yield (as of May 2018) is circa 7.0%, variable and not guaranteed).

So long as Imperial’s performance allows it to maintain such a policy, the income attractions of the stock are clear. Tobacco is a controversial industry, but from an investment perspective, there are few others that offer the sheer consistency of delivery that Tobacco has achieved over many decades.

Tobacco companies possess enormous pricing power and have so far been largely immune to the effect of regulation as a result. The model is essentially simple: regulator makes business harder, the tobacco company puts up prices to compensate, smokers pay up.

Imperial made a big move into the states with the acquisition of much of what used to be Lorrillard, which also brought further exposure to New Generation Products, which deliver nicotine without actually burning tobacco. The US is an attractive tobacco market, because a pack of cigarettes is very affordable over there.

Imperial has been a regular acquirer of other tobacco companies, and could conceivably be the last big opportunity for the industry’s very largest players to do a major deal themselves. Takeover rumours are rarely too far away from Imperial, but any acquirer would need partners to divide Imperial up amongst themselves, since it is unlikely that any one would be allowed to buy all of it, for competition reasons.

A deal may happen, or it may not. In the meantime analysts project Imperial to generate around £2.5bn per annum, and rising, of free cash flow, and while that carries on it doesn’t really seem to matter whether a deal turns up, for £2.5bn goes a long, long way.

Description

National Grid owns a series of electricity and gas distribution assets in the UK and some US regions. They have responsibilities for balancing supply and demand for power in the UK and are a highly regulated business.

Why we hold it

National Grid is regulated in pretty much everything it does and the quid pro quo for that regulation is that when the regulator sets prices in the UK, it has an obligation to ensure that well managed, National Grid can make an adequate return of capital.

Revenues are often index-linked, or price limits set after a detailed discussion with a regulator in the USA about business costs. Revenue increases are mandated for years in advance, so National Grid has exceptional visibility of its income.

It may not be the most exciting business, having only changed the design of a pylon once in the last ninety years, but with dullness comes dependability. National Grid’s regulated income allows it to plan far ahead, confident of its position. Part of this predictability extends to the balance sheet. National Grid uses far more debt than is normal. We are not concerned, for the debt is typically long term and often index-linked to match the revenues.

National Grid’s dividend policy is to grow the dividend each year by at least the rate of inflation. The current historic yield (variable and not a reliable indicator of future income) of circa 4.5% makes a strong contribution to the overall yield of the portfolio and underpins the future growth of income.

Description

Formerly known as Xafinity, XPS Pensions is a business that operates in the world of fund administration, focusing on the defined benefit (DB) pension fund space, where it is one of the UK’s leading operators.

Why we hold it

Although the number of DB schemes open to new members has tumbled, ever rising sums will be paid out to retirees for decades to come. XPS expect the payments out of DB pension funds will typically peak in the late 2030s. Schemes will need to be administered until then and far beyond with the last schemes set to finally close around the turn of the century.

The market for servicing pension schemes is dominated by three big players, who control most of the market. XPS is in the second tier and recently announced the acquisition of another operator, Punter Southall. It’s a business XPS’s management know well, for they began their careers there so we expect them to integrate it well. The deal creates cost synergies and the scope to deploy XPS’s Radar technology across a wider clientele. Radar allows clients to get a real-time view of their scheme’s financial position, a big step forward from the traditional three-yearly actuarial valuation.

With funds tending to switch Administrators infrequently, XPS has strong recurring revenues. If they can succeed in exploiting Radar and their other competitive offerings then they should be able to gain and retain market share. The merger with Punter Southall puts them into the position of being a clear challenger to the big players.

There is a Competition and Markets Authority investigation underway in the Pensions sector. This is expected to focus on the potential conflicts that can exist between the larger investment consultancy firms, investment managers and the advice provided to clients. XPS do not have a fiduciary management aspect to their work and do not expect to be adversely affected. Indeed, to the extent that action is taken to reduce the Big 3’s grip on the sector, the CMA investigation could be a catalyst for new business opportunities.

Fund administration is a capital-light activity and we expect the group to have strong cash flows in the years ahead. Dividend paying potential should be strong and the group has little need to retain cash. With much of the consideration for the Punter Southall businesses coming from the sale of new shares, debt levels remain modest in relation to the enlarged group’s scale.

Description

Lloyds Banking Group is the UK’s leading retail financial services group, owning Halifax, Bank of Scotland and Birmingham Midshires as well as the core Lloyds Bank. Life Assurance is provided via Scottish Widows.

Why we hold it

Lloyds is not exciting. Excitement almost did for Lloyds back in 2009, so the business is now thrill-averse. And that is a good thing for dividend-seekers.

Retail banking involves personal lending, unsecured but at attractive margins and mortgage lending, where margins are thin, but the equity in the customer’s property protects the lender from loss. Lloyds has a commercial bank in it too, providing typically plain-vanilla banking services to smaller and medium-sized businesses.

Bad debts are currently very low, for employment is strong and interest rates affordable. As a result, Lloyds is inherently profitable and cash generative, although PPI compensation continues to dog the reported numbers. That ought to fade away before too long even if the regulator extends the deadline again, for who truly is left to claim?

The bank is generating high returns on capital (PPI apart) and does not need to retain much to fund its growth. So Lloyds is committed to paying out a high proportion of its profits as dividends over the medium term, as both ordinary and special payments. The latter can be stopped if the economy turns down and bad debts turn upward, still hopefully leaving shareholders with a respectable income.

Lloyds, especially the former HBoS component of the group, is a lot less racy these days but we prefer the dependability of a retail bank that sticks to its knitting, keeps a strong balance sheet and diverts excess cash back to shareholders. Having cut costs enormously following the HBoS merger, Lloyds now has an industry-leading level of efficiency, which helps to support profit margins and cash generation, further reinforcing its attraction.

Description

Market-leading provider of insurance, passive investment strategies and pension solutions for companies and individuals.

Why we hold it

L&G’s scale means it benefits from lower costs than its peers, enabling it to offer very competitive solutions to its customers, while generating strong cash flows to reinvest back into the business and reward shareholders with healthy dividends.

The group is exposed to a number of favourable long term trends. These include: growing demand for low cost investment solutions such as index trackers, ageing populations, auto-enrolment and de-risking of company pension schemes.

Cash generation has been strong in recent years, allowing L&G to rebuild dividends to shareholders, having been forced to cut back in the financial crisis. Despite those dark days in 2008/09, dividends per share have still more than doubled over the last decade. We see scope for further growth in the pay-out over the coming years (although remember, dividends are variable and not guaranteed), underpinned by L&G’s strong focus on cash and market-leading positions.

Description

Pennon Group owns South West Water, Bournemouth Water and Viridor, a leading recycling, energy recovery and waste management company.

Why we hold it

Most of Pennon’s profits are earned by its water and sewage activities, which are highly regulated. The regulator sets the prices Pennon can charge and has an obligation to ensure that if Pennon runs itself efficiently, it will earn an adequate return from its utility activities.

Demand for water is highly predictable and Pennon has had a good track record in recent years of delivering services efficiently, allowing it to take advantage of the efficiency incentives in the pricing mechanisms the regulator sets.

Viridor has built a portfolio of Energy from Waste (EfW) facilities and expects to earn around £100m per annum from these. They basically burn “black bag” waste, the stuff that people can’t/won’t recycle and in the process Viridor recover some of the heat energy and use it to generate electricity. These facilities have long term contracts with local authorities and other large scale waste producers, to take their waste in return for fees, plus Viridor receives income from selling the power generated.

The combination of regular income from operating utility services and the rising stream of Energy from Waste earnings as new facilities have opened has allowed Pennon to operate a dividend policy of increasing the payment by RPI+4% each year.

That seems highly attractive, given a prospective yield of around 4% and with the EfW portfolio still expanding we are hopeful that Pennon will be able to continue their generous approach to dividends for some time to come. This of course is not guaranteed and dividends by their nature should always be considered as variable.

Description

AstraZeneca is one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical businesses, with an exciting pipeline of new immune-oncology drug candidates that the company believes will offer substantial growth in future years.

Why we hold it

A prospective yield approaching 4% is a good starting point and the potential upside if all of the company’s hopes for its new drug pipeline come through makes AstraZeneca an exciting prospect. The company is complex, with much of its lab work taking place through partnerships and affiliates, with progress triggering cash payments to development partners, ahead of revenues for AstraZeneca later on, if the new drugs finally make it to market.

Presently, the company is making much of its revenues from selling stakes in development drugs to third parties and we hope this activity will reduce as sales of newer drugs build up. We will be watching closely for progress of drugs like durvalumab, tremilumab, tagrisso and benralizumab which could potentially address huge markets for multiple cancers and severe asthma.

Positive news from the portfolio is needed, because in the near term, a major drug, Crestor runs out of patent protection and will see its sales tumble as generic copies flood the US market. The company has been filling the gaps created by patent expiries by selling stakes in lesser products to bring revenues in up front, with smaller ongoing royalties to follow. After a number of years of declining profits, as older drugs patents expired, 2018 will hopefully be the nadir for AstraZeneca’s earnings.

AstraZeneca fended off a bid approach from Pfizer a few years ago with promises that these and other new drugs would lead to sales rising above $40bn over the following decade. So far the group has delivered some major progress with treatments for cancer and other serious conditions, but inevitably, some drugs have not succeeded in their trials. Overall, AstraZeneca look to be on course to build a substantial quantity of additional revenues from their development pipeline.

Description

A massive healthcare operator with major divisions focusing on pharmaceuticals, consumer healthcare brands, vaccines plus a large stake in a specialist HIV care and treatment company.

Why we hold it

GSK has been undergoing major surgery for several years and is now emerging as a business with improving cash flows generated from divisions that are less vulnerable to changes in the US pharmaceuticals market.

The attractions of Glaxo’s 6% prospective yield are clear, but the timetable for the dividend to return to growth is slipping backwards a little. In the near term, earnings may benefit from competitors apparently struggling to get approval to launch a generic challenger to GSK’s Advair, but this is only likely to be a temporary delay.

GSK has gone through a long period of major patent expiries and now looks to be set to deliver an accelerating pace of new product launches, with potential for >£6bn a year of sales from recently launched products next year and potentially rather more to come, as additional new products move from pipeline to market.

That all depends on success in clinical trials, and these are notoriously hard to predict, but GSK scored a big hit with the approval to launch their new Shingrix vaccine for shingles, which has the potential to become a new blockbuster drug for the group. During 2017, GSK received Breakthrough designation for their new Myeloma treatment that could lead to an accelerated approval to launch, so long as the data continues to support the product’s apparent efficacy.

By the end of 2018 GSK also expect to have submitted applications to launch new products addressing major disease categories including asthma and HIV and to have concluded key clinical trials for some of their most promising new drug candidates.

Description

Leading UK hospitality group and brewer, with brands including Chef & Brewer, Loch Fyne, Hungry Horse and Greene King inns and beers.

Why we hold it

Greene King is currently out of favour, with concerns about the impact of the National Living Wage, Business Rates and weaker consumer real incomes due to the inflationary impact of Brexit. That has led to a significant de-rating of the shares and a corresponding increase in their yield.

Greene King actually has a very good dividend track record, with payments having risen pretty steadily over the last twenty years, rising more than six-fold in the process, although there are no guarantees this will continue. Like many pubcos Greene King has quite a lot of debt on the balance sheet, but it is long term and backed up by freehold properties.

The dividend is covered about twice by earnings, so we think the group has plenty of scope to struggle its way through the current pressures. A recent deal to buy Spirit has given them the industry leadership position in Managed Houses, and better exposure to London and the South East, where long term prospects seem brightest.

More and more of the group’s estate is focused toward casual dining, where the long term growth trend is well established. The proportion of meals eaten outside of the home is rising steadily, and with brands positioned to cover much of the potential market, Greene King is well placed to benefit in the long run.

Description

Tritax owns a £1.9bn portfolio of “Big Box” distribution centres in strategic locations around the country, leased to a mixture of mainly blue-chip tenants.

Why we hold it

Big Boxes line our motorways and trunk roads and form a fundamental part of modern retail and distribution activities. Retailers and distributors fill the boxes with massive amounts of automated stock handling systems, often spending many times the value of the building on this kit. Having made such a big commitment, the tenant is likely to want a very long lease to protect their investment.

Often, the tenant will use the big box to house their e-commerce operations, and Tritax’s tenant roster includes M&S’s online business at Castle Donington and Ocado at Erith. E-commerce growth is far outstripping traditional retail sector growth, helping to keep big box demand buoyant.

Tritax have an average unexpired lease term of 15 years, with the portfolio 100% let, making their income quite secure. Rents can be open market, inflation-linked or fixed-uplifts. The robust state of demand is supporting solid rental growth when leases come up for renewal.

With yields of 5-6% available from these properties, Tritax is able to enhance earnings through acquiring new sites. Supply of new projects is fairly tight, and Tritax, as a big box specialist, often get the first call from developers when new assets are being planned. Most of their recent transactions have been conducted off-market, with sellers who value Tritax’s expertise and commitment to the niche.

That should maintain demand for high quality distribution assets and support ongoing rental levels. Tritax is unique amongst UK property companies in being only focused on Big Box assets. That could make it riskier than more diversified businesses, but we believe that the Big Box sector has attractive prospects.

Description

RDS, or "Shell" is one of the world's largest integrated oil and gas producers. Shell recently completed the acquisition of BG Group, to give it a leading position in Liquefied Natural Gas production and deep water oil production.

Why we hold it

Royal Dutch Shell has an unparalleled track record for paying its dividend through thick and thin, having maintained or increased it every year since the end of the second world war. It is reassuring to know that Shell have a serious track record of looking after their shareholders, however it should be remember that dividends and yields are of course variable and not guaranteed.

We must stress that the dividend is declared in dollars, and then paid in sterling at the prevailing exchange rate, so that introduces a degree of uncertainty at the margin.

Like other oil producers, Shell's earnings were hit when oil prices fell in 2014. The company responded by aggressively cutting costs and also bringing new, low cost production assets into the group through a merger with BG Group. This has left the group much more strongly cash generative and reinforced RDS’s dividend-paying capabilities.

The group is raising further capital through disposals of non-core assets and intends to buy-back shares to reduce the future cost of dividend payments.

In the long term, Shell, like all other hydrocarbon producers, faces the challenge of the changing patterns of demand, as renewables account for more and more of the world’s energy production. But demand for oil and gas will remain strong for decades to come. The International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts rising demand for both oil, and especially gas out to 2040, notwithstanding the acceleration in renewables demand.

Shell itself is targeting a long term reduction of 50% in the energy footprint of its operations and its production, as it improves its own carbon efficiencies and switches production toward cleaner fuels.

Description

Life insurer turned asset manager, combining a fund management arm, hugely boosted in scale by the merger with Aberdeen, with a UK savings and pensions business; which includes the Wrap platform for financial advisers and the group's corporate pension proposition.

Why we hold it

The need for people to save more towards their own future is only likely to increase, as governments and companies take up less of the slack. We believe Standard Life Aberdeen is well positioned to take advantage.

The group benefits from a very strong distribution platform to channel money into its own funds. Its market leading Advisory Wrap platform continues to go from strength to strength and is well placed to benefit from growing demand for financial advice. The workplace platform also continues to generate good inflows, driven by rising contributions from auto-enrolment, where Standard Life has captured over one in six workers enrolled.

The merger with Aberdeen offers the scope to reduce costs whilst building scale in the global asset management sector. £350m of cost savings and synergies have been identified as a first step as the enlarged group integrates the two investment businesses, which between them manage or administer over £600bn of assets.

The merger makes the group less dependent on Standard Life’s flagship fund, Global Absolute Return Strategies (GARS) and brings in new strengths in fixed income and global emerging market products. Many of Standard Life’s funds are continuing to see good inflows, even if GARS itself has had some negative flows recently. A key challenge for the group will be to improve the net flows into the Aberdeen platforms. They have been negative, reflecting weak emerging market performance.

The group has lost Lloyds Banking Group as a client, due to the merger. Aberdeen used to manage a large amount of funds on behalf of Lloyds’ Scottish Widows business and Lloyds viewed the merger with Standard Life as leaving its business in the hands of a competitor. Around 5% of revenues are at stake. This episode has been a rare blot in the group’s copybook, but we do not consider it sufficient to negate the other attractions of the business.

More recently, the group has announced the sale of the traditional Standard Life insurance business to Phoenix Group, a deal which will see a £2.5bn return of capital to shareholders, if approved, later this year.

Standard Life was one of the few companies to raise its dividend throughout the financial crisis, with the pay-out having grown every year since listing. The current dividend looks well covered by underlying cash generation, while the balance sheet is in good shape, with approaching £1bn of cash and liquid resources. This gives us confidence in the group’s ability to maintain its progressive dividend policy, although remember dividends are variable and not guaranteed.

Description

Global tobacco giant, with a strong foothold in emerging economies and the USA.

Why we hold it

Tobacco is a horrible product, which generates very attractive financial returns. Since the beginning of the century, BATS has outperformed the world equity market by over 1,000%, whilst paying dividends that have typically offered a yield of 4% or so.

Most companies have to compete on price. Tobacco businesses are selling to addicts. So they have a degree of pricing power that is rarely found outside of businesses with a deep Colombian connection. This pricing power enables strong margins to be earned and this has fed through to phenomenal cash generation over a long period of time.

British American has a portfolio of operating companies spanning the globe, with particular strengths in emerging economies and the USA. A recently concluded merger with Reynolds American will give them greater US exposure. The US is an attractive market for tobacco businesses, because cigarettes are lightly taxed over there.

This combination of US and emerging market growth has allowed BATS to increase its dividend every year this century. Analysts forecast this to continue, though of course there are no guarantees . The company will have significant debt, post the Reynolds merger, but with BATS having generated an average of around £3bn of free cash flow for the last eight years, this should not be too troubling.

A recent announcement by the US Food & Drug Administration, that it was contemplating requiring the industry to substantially reduce nicotine levels, hit sentiment. In practice, the announcement may have little impact. It also announced a more supportive stance toward “reduced harm” alternatives, like e-cigarettes.

Any changes will have to pass inevitable legal challenges, and previous moves by the EU to reduce nicotine levels had little impact. In the meantime, smokers are switching to next-generation alternatives, where BATS & Reynolds have a strong position, and where the profit opportunity per user can often be greater than that of a conventional smoker.

Description

Lender, wealth manager and securities trader, with a focus on niche markets.

Why we hold it

Close Brothers serves specialist lending markets, focused on areas such as auto, property and small and medium-sized businesses. The niche market segments the group serves typically attract lower levels of competition, which has enabled it to earn high profit margins, and sustain high levels of profitability through many economic cycles.

The group benefits from long-standing customer relationships, augmented by a large direct sales force, which results in a high level of repeat business, and a recurring income stream. This is supplemented by a robust balance sheet and a conservative lending criteria, with the group typically choosing to lend more when competition is lower and pull back when the market gets frothy. We believe this common sense approach will continue to stand the group in good stead over the longer term.

Close Brothers’ conservative approach to lending has served it well, enabling it to grow or maintain its dividend every year since 1999, despite the extraordinary economic events along the way. Analysts are forecasting continued growth into the medium term.

Description

World's leading pizza delivery company that stole a march over its rivals by going early and big into technology.

Why we hold it

Domino’s Pizza used the online channel to gain a dominant position in the pizza delivery market. Domino’s holds the licence to use the American-owned brand in the UK and Eire and has grown to a chain of over a thousand stores in the last twenty years or so, growing profits enormously along the way.

Rolling out new stores offers plenty more growth to come; indeed Domino’s recently upped their target UK store numbers to 1,600 (around 1,000 today). Franchisees own the stores, make the pizzas and deliver them. Domino’s Pizza runs the online channels, across PC’s, smartphones and red buttons, makes and delivers the ingredients to the stores and controls the national brand marketing. Store owners make big money per store which encourages a high quality of franchisee.

It's been a virtuous circle, with a great product, brought to the customer by class-leading technology, at a price that makes high profit margins. Domino’s has thrown off cash, because the franchisees make most of the capital investments. The company has little debt as a result, despite the business expanding sales every year this century.

Domino’s cash generation has allowed significant growth in the dividend in recent years, with the company recently announcing an increase of 16% in the full year dividend for FY16.

Description

Playtech provides software and services that allow gambling companies to lower their cost of recruiting new customers and maximise their value over the life of the relationship.

Why we hold it

Playtech provides the “back end” of a bookie; all the systems and programmes that allow the bookmaker to operate efficiently and keep the punters punting for longer. They’ve been remarkably successful and now act for a vast number of well-known operators.

They support online operations, provide the systems that allow a punter’s account to operate both in the bookie’s shops and online and the software that supports the gaming machines and self-service terminals in the shops.

Their financials division offers spread-betting on shares, currencies and indices across Europe and shares many of the characteristics of online gaming.

They have gone from a start-up to being the dominant player in their space. By enabling the gaming industry to operate efficiently online, Playtech have carved a niche all of their own. Now they are back-filling products into the retail chains of the bookies, recognising that areas like betting terminals are the key must-have features for profitable shops these days.

Revenues have risen from token levels in 2004 to an expected £600m+ this year. Margins are good, having been over 20% every year since listing, with over 30% expected this year and next, on rapidly increasing turnover. There aren’t many businesses that have transformed a major industry as radically as Playtech has, and currently there seems no sign of the group slowing down.

Analysts are forecasting double-digit compound growth in Playtech’s dividend over the next three financial years.

Description

One of the world’s largest consumer goods companies, with 19 Powerbrands for Health, Hygiene and Home including Scholl, Finish, Vanish and Cillit BANG.

Why we hold it

Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), when designed well and marketed effectively, are a great source of predictable growth.

The company has a sharp focus on innovation, adding new variants to an existing brand to extend its reach and keep it fresh with the consumer. RB puts huge weight behind its brands each year, with a marketing budget (or Brand Equity Investment as RB describe it) of over a billion pounds a year.

Over the last twenty years, RB has done a series of deals to bring new brands into the portfolio, adding Scholl footcare, Strepsils, Nurofen, whilst also creating brands like Cillit BANG from scratch. A pharmaceuticals business was sold a year or two ago, leaving the group totally focused on FMCG products.

The results have been impressive, with underlying growth in pretty much all environments since the start of the century. Margins are strong, over 25% and RB has thrown off cash allowing it to do deals when the opportunities arise, without becoming over stretched.

Reckitt has an ongoing thorn in its side, which is currently proving costly. A business acquired in Korea made a humidifier sanitising fluid, the use of which has been linked to respiratory deaths and illnesses. So far this issue has cost the company over £300m, a large sum but affordable in the context of a wider group that generated around £1.8bn of cash last year.

The recent acquisition of Mead Johnson Nutrition is a bold step into the infant formula milk market, with strong exposures to the US and China. Consumer health and nutrition is now the core focus of the group’s portfolio. The deal is large and not without risk. MJN has struggled in recent years and Reckitt’s need to improve its performance. In the meantime, substantial debts have been taken on, partially recouped through selling the French’s Mustard and Frank’s Red Hot Sauce brands for $4.2bn.

Recent management changes have seen the head of marketing leave, perhaps in response to a botched Scholl footcare product launch that has held back sales this year. The company also fell victim to a cyber attack in June that impacted a number of production sites. The next few months will be important as a result. Reckitt needs to show it has fully restored its manufacturing sites, improved its marketing performance and begun the successful integration and rejuvenation of MJN, whilst generating cash to pay down its debts.

Description

Professional publisher, providing high quality technical information and networking to demanding users.

Why we hold it

Relx’s scientific, medical and technical journals, like The Lancet provide forums for top academics, clinicians and scientists to review the latest research, after peers have reviewed it to assure the quality of the work.

Relx's Exhibitions division brings buyers and sellers from 43 industries together. Over 7m people a year attend Relx Exhibition events, ranging from SinoCorrugated (not one for the casual visitor) to The London Book Fair.

Their Risk and Business Analytics division provides specialist information to insurers and others, helping them to understand the risks they face and to price their policies accordingly. In the legal business, LexisNexis has a suite of products ranging from practise management software to databases enabling lawyers to research their cases better.

Relx provides information and enables the exchange of information between professionals. No factories, no heavy machinery. Just capital-lite publishing and events activities that throw off cash at high margins, often from dominant global positions in Relx’s chosen niches.

Analysts are forecasting double digit annual earnings growth over the next few years and with its relatively defensive profile, Relx looks attractive to us.

Relx’s reliable cash flows should support continuing growth in the dividend. For the last financial year, Relx increased dividends to UK investors by 21% and analysts forecast continuing growth out to 2019.

Description

Produces accountancy software that helps small and medium sized firms manage their finances.

Why we hold it

In recent years, Sage has moved its products and services increasingly online, and sold on a subscription basis. Renewal rates are high; once Sage is installed, it’s a lot of effort to move to an alternative provider’s product. So Sage’s revenues tend to repeat, year after year. Cash flow is a key strength of the business; once a product is designed, it costs Sage very little to sell another copy.

Management are focused on increasing the numbers of products each customer takes. This has been boosting organic sales growth, for very little additional risk. The balance sheet is solid, with debts of about one year’s cash flow, so easily serviced with plenty of scope to carry on investing for growth.

Analysts are forecasting continued growth in Sage’s dividend, continuing a trend that has so far lasted for over two decades.

Description

One of the world’s leading Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) companies, the Anglo-Dutch group’s products fill yard after yard of supermarket shelf space across the world. From Indian tea to soap from Port Sunlight on the Wirral, the Unilever portfolio is vast. Brands include Domestos and Dove, Knorr and Hellmans, Magnum and of course, Marmite, surely the world’s greatest product.

Why we hold it

As if making Marmite were not enough, the numbers stack up too. First off, the business is spread far and wide across the planet, with a high exposure to faster growing emerging markets, not least because of a huge Indian subsidiary, dating back to the days of plantations and Empire. So no one economy is likely to derail Unilever, and with much less than even a quarter of sales earned in the UK, the business should be largely immune to the challenges of Brexit.

Operating profits have grown steadily, from £1.5bn in the late 1980’s to almost £8.0bn in 2017. Unilever rarely delivers giant strides in profits, it just edges ahead on a pretty consistent basis, with the dividend following along behind. It’s a get rich slowly sort of situation. Not too much debt, just over 1x EBITDA, which is unlikely to be troublesome for a business that makes items that people buy week in, week out.

Over time, the business has delivered great returns, and it generated free cash flow of over £5bn last year, leaving plenty of scope to reinvest back into growing the business. This cash generation attracted the attention of a potential suitor in 2017, when Kraft Heinz, backed by Warren Buffet made a tentative approach, quickly rebuffed by Unilever’s board. This was followed by an announcement of a restructuring programme designed to boost profit margins over the next few years.

Unilever also announced a shift up in the rate of dividends at that point. If only the dividends could be paid in Marmite.

Description

The world’s largest media and advertising agency, with over 200,000 employees in a group of businesses spanning everything from creative campaigns to media buying and market research.

Why we hold it

By operating as a collection of smaller, independently managed media and advertising businesses, WPP combines the benefits of scale with local decision making. Administrative tasks such as budgeting, planning and tax affairs are handled by the parent company, freeing up the individual companies to get on with what they do best; while still benefitting from WPP’s enormous buying power. It’s a tried and tested strategy that has seen operating profits grow more than ten-fold over the last couple of decades.

WPP’s excellent track record stems in large part from its prolific cash generation. This has funded a growing dividend, earnings-enhancing share buybacks and acquisitions, with recent deal-making focused on raising exposure to digital media and faster growing nations.

Marketing budgets are often the first to be cut in a recession, so we would expect WPP to suffer in a global economic downturn. But the group’s tremendous cash flow should enable it to weather any bouts of economic weakness, while capitalising on more favourable conditions; and we still see a long runway of growth ahead.

Description

An Exchange Traded Fund (ETF), which can be bought and sold in large quantities, which aims to track the performance of the FTSE100 index.

Why we hold it

We hold this ETF tracker as a source of dry powder, rather than build up large cash positions in the fund. Stock markets have risen over the long term, so we believe holding cash in this fund is more likely to end up acting as a drag on performance. Once we have identified a company we want to buy, we will sell down the ETF and allocate the proceeds accordingly.

Description

Global leader in alcoholic beverages with a collection of iconic brands, including Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff and Guinness. Its products are sold in more than 180 countries around the world.

Why we hold it

We like businesses that own strong brands, which keep their customers coming back again and again. In our view, Diageo falls firmly into this category. Brands like Johnnie Walker have immense aspirational appeal, not only in developed nations, but increasingly in developing regions, where demand is being supported by rising disposable incomes.

Turning water into wine (or spirits), and charging consumers a princely sum, earns the group huge margins, and means the business throws off cash. This has enabled Diageo to raise the dividend every year since at least 1999 though there is no guarantee this will continue.

Despite its many strengths, Diageo’s progress has been relatively uninspiring in recent years, partly due to economic and currency pressures, but also, we suspect, due to weak execution. Recent management changes have resulted in improvements to the distribution model, more emphasis on volume growth and productivity; and increased focus on free cash flow. These changes now seem to be bearing fruit. The fall in sterling provides an additional tailwind, underpinning our confidence in the group’s ability to grow sales and profit margins; whilst continuing to return cash to shareholders.

Description

Operates a national retail network across 40,000 convenience stores in the UK and Romania, enabling customers to make energy meter prepayments, bill payments, mobile phone top-ups, and more. The group also offers parcel collection and return through its Collect+ joint venture, as well as a range of services to retailers such as card payments and till systems.

Why we hold it

Paypoint has an unrivalled installed base of terminals in convenience outlets, providing basic payments services. Every time a customer makes a payment in store, using one of Paypoint’s terminals, the group gets a small slice of the sale. These payments are made little and often, so the vast majority of Paypoint’s revenues are recurring. Because it’s the shop-keeper and not Paypoint that’s actually serving the customer, the business has modest expenses and few capital requirements, so enjoys high margins and strong cash flows.

The challenge Paypoint faces is driving growth from its retail network, in an increasingly digital world. Mobile phone top-ups are in long-term decline, while the roll-out of smart meters will open up alternative payment options for Paypoint’s pre-pay energy customers, which could reduce cash-based top-ups in store.

We do not expect demand for Paypoint’s cash-based services to evaporate overnight. Many of the group’s end-customers still rely very heavily on cash having experienced bad debt problems in the past. Some don’t even have a bank account.

In addition, a number of Paypoint’s services, like card payments and click & collect, look well placed to thrive in an increasingly digital world. These ‘Retail Services’ now account for almost a third of net revenues. The group has rolled out its next generation terminal, which combines the core Paypoint terminal with additional services to help retailers to manage their store operations to over 9,000 customers so far, adding hundreds of additional sites per month currently. This should open up further revenue streams over the coming years.

Paypoint has a highly attractive dividend policy, underpinned by its prodigious cash flows and net cash on the balance sheet. The group aims to grow the ordinary dividend, while paying an additional special dividend of £25m each financial year until 2021 – in FY Mar 19 we expect it to return around £56m to shareholders.

Description

PHP is a Real Estate Investment Trust that owns a portfolio of specialist buildings that are leased to healthcare operators, typically GP practices, dentists and pharmacies.

Why we hold it

Despite the often lurid headlines, the NHS (and its Irish equivalent) are not disappearing any time soon. PHP has built a business through providing the buildings that healthcare practices need as they evolve to meet modern medical needs.

The NHS has little desire to tie up capital in real estate, so leasing new facilities, rather than buying land and building them makes sense. The nature of healthcare and the NHS makes PHP’s tenants relatively blue chip, with their rents often backed by the Department of Health and their leases long term.

PHP makes its money by funding these developments and then collecting the rents. So far it has assembled a portfolio of almost 300 primary healthcare properties, last valued at £1.2bn and financed by a mix of equity and debt. The group is currently eyeing up additional properties in the UK and Ireland that could add around 10% to the size of the portfolio.

The group has taken a fairly conservative approach to financing its portfolio and this has paid off by allowing it to increase its dividends to shareholders every year for 20 years consecutively. It might not be the most exciting business; it is rarely, if indeed ever, linked to stories of corporate swashbuckling. But for sheer consistency of delivery, there are few stocks out there that can match PHP, which is why we have made space for it in the portfolio.

Description

Tritax owns a £1.9bn portfolio of "Big Box" distribution centres in strategic locations around the country, leased to a mixture of mainly blue-chip tenants.

Why we hold it

Big Boxes line our motorways and trunk roads and form a fundamental part of modern retail and distribution activities. Retailers and distributors fill the boxes with massive amounts of automated stock handling systems, often spending many times the value of the building on this kit. Having made such a big commitment, the tenant is likely to want a very long lease to protect their investment.

Often, the tenant will use the big box to house their e-commerce operations, and Tritax’s tenant roster includes M&S’s online business at Castle Donington and Ocado at Erith. E-commerce growth is far outstripping traditional retail sector growth, helping to keep big box demand buoyant.

Tritax have an average unexpired lease term of 15 years, with the portfolio 100% let, making their income quite secure. Rents can be open market, inflation-linked or fixed-uplifts. The robust state of demand is supporting solid rental growth when leases come up for renewal.

With yields of 5-6% available from these properties, Tritax is able to enhance earnings through acquiring new sites. Supply of new projects is fairly tight, and Tritax, as a big box specialist, often get the first call from developers when new assets are being planned. Most of their recent transactions have been conducted off-market, with sellers who value Tritax’s expertise and commitment to the niche.

Tritax offers an attractive prospective yield with visible growth potential. We see little prospect of e-commerce fading away, and we expect the UK to continue to import a lot of the goods sold in shops. That will maintain demand for high quality distribution assets so we think the prospects for Tritax are strong.

Description

Runs world class Exhibitions and Festivals, such as Spring Fair and Cannes Lions which draw vast crowds to Birmingham and the Riviera, respectively. Also provides Information Services, mainly to businesses.

Why we hold it

As well as the events division, Ascential owns unique service businesses like WGSN, which forecasts global fashion trends to help retailers and designers get their ranges right for market, or Groundsure, that provides environmental data, like flooding risks, to enable property transactions to proceed.

The Consumer Magazines and radio stations that were a millstone around the former EMAP’s neck are long gone, and where Ascential has trade press titles like Nursing Times, or Retail Week, these are largely online. Print advertising revenues are a tiny proportion of the group’s income, and fading fast toward the vanishing point.

Ascential's businesses are relatively capital-lite and two thirds are the market leader in their category globally. Acquisitions have taken them further into e-commerce, with One Click Retail adding data analytics that help brands optimise their sales through Amazon and other online channels.

We like the quality of Ascential's portfolio and its growing exposure to serving online markets. Class-leading events tend to be more resilient than the average. Debt is a shade higher than we would like, but with profit margins of around 25% and limited capital expenditure needs, cash flow should quickly reduce these.

Ascential aims to pay out around a third of its earnings as dividends, which makes it one of the lower yielding stocks we own. However, analysts are expecting the dividend to grow strongly over the next few years.

Description

Owns and operates the UK and Europe’s largest used-vehicle marketplace. Almost four in five cars in the UK that go to auction pass through one of BCA’s auction lots. Cars come from dealers, fleets, leasing companies and even We Buy Any Car, which BCA also owns.

Why we hold it

New car auction facilities are rare events, for councils don’t like them. They take up lots of land, create loads of traffic and employ next to no-one.

But they generate cash prodigiously. After all, once you’ve built the thing, cars turn up, get sold and driven off, leaving the auction fee behind. The auctioneer is paid for providing a liquid market, and with 78% market share, no-one else can match BCA for liquidity. So the fees keep rolling in, with not much needing to be spent to keep the process rolling along. In the UK, BCA make about £69 of cash earnings per car sold, a little less than this in their European operations and almost £100 each time WeBuyAnyCar.com buys and sells.

BCA are steadily expanding their services; they can often add value to a slightly scruffy car with a few minor repairs and a deep valet. BCA knows the value of cars and offers finance to dealers, allowing them to expand without having to find the cost of their inventory. BCA can charge a high rate, which is worthwhile to the dealer, because they earn far higher by shifting the inventory multiple times a year. Software packages can help dealers keep their stock priced correctly.

The group can distribute most of its earnings, because it has little need for cash. With volumes going through the auctions currently strong (last reported 8% growth in the UK) the prospects for the business look good, in our view.

Description

Financial services software provider covering the whole life cycle of the trading process, from trading to settlement, compliance and risk management.

Why we hold it

Fidessa has accepted a takeover offer from Ion Capital and the shares will soon be delisted. The fund realised a substantial gain from its investment in Fidessa.

Fidessa has built up a very strong global market position, with customers ranging from the largest investment banks to boutique hedge funds and smaller brokers. In each of Fidessa’s geographies there are some regional players that compete but very few can match Fidessa’s scale, expertise or market positioning.

Fidessa charges for its solutions primarily on a rental and subscription basis resulting in a high level of recurring revenue (c. 86% of sales) and strong cash generation. Once a customer has signed up it is very difficult and costly for them to switch to another provider. This is because the group’s software solutions are deeply embedded into applications, requiring long deployment times, customisation and integration into a customer's trading IT infrastructure.

While the trading environment remains difficult for many of Fidessa’s customers, the group believes it is entering a period where opportunity is returning to the market. Recently introduced MiFID 2 regulations, which place increased reporting burdens onto investment firms could drive increased demand for Fidessa’s solutions, while the company is investing heavily to extend the range of asset classes it supports, and expand its regional coverage further.

Fidessa has not been shy of returning cash to shareholders. The group has paid a special dividend every year since 2009, and has held or grown the pay-out every year since listing; although remember dividends are variable and not guaranteed.

Description

Britvic has the exclusive long term licence to bottle Pepsi products in the UK and also owns a portfolio of its own brands, including Britvic juices and mixers, Robinson’s squashes and barley waters, Fruit Shoot and R Whites lemonade. The group also owns non-alcoholic beverage companies in France, Ireland and Brazil.

Why we hold it

Once a bottling plant is built, it throws off cash like billy-o, because adding a bit of concentrate, maybe some bubbles too, into water does not cost much, but branded drinks sell for good prices, even to supermarkets.

Britvic has a unique position in the UK on-trade. The British Vitamin Company was a fruit juice producer in the post-war era and over the years it ended up under the joint control of Bass Brewers, Whitbread and Allied Domecq who eventually listed it in 2005. Along the way, Britvic were chosen by Pepsi to be their UK bottler and Britvic found its way to becoming the default provider of the soda gun in the UK’s pubs, not least because its owners were hardly likely to use Coca Cola in their own establishments.

The group’s brands are sold across the off-trade too, and Britvic is the clear number two player in the UK soft beverage market, after Coca-Cola Schweppes Beverages. The Pepsi licence has been in place for decades and was renewed for a further ten years in 2016.

The cash generation of a bottling business allows it to support a good dividend to shareholders, whilst funding expansion. Britvic has moved beyond the UK in recent years, establishing footprints in Europe and more recently, Latin America. These should provide growth opportunities over and above those that the rather mature domestic market can offer.

The shares offer a healthy yield, and analysts predict earnings and dividends will grow at a mid-single digit pace, though of course, these are forecasts and not guaranteed. The total return could be attractive.

Description

One of the world’s leading banking groups, with a focus on Asia. HSBC is London based, but its roots lie in Hong Kong and China, where it was founded over a hundred and fifty years ago. The business is particularly strong in retail and commercial banking, with an emphasis on trade finance.

Why we hold it

HSBC is currently engaged in a major restructuring exercise that has already seen around $5bn a year in cost reductions, as it pivots its operations back toward its historic roots in Asia. Originally known as the Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation, HSBC has long been a major force in the financing of cross-border trade.

The business got a little lost through the nineties and noughties, acquiring businesses across the developed world, including the UK’s Midland Bank. That deal might have worked, but not all did, especially an ill-timed deal to buy a US sub-prime lender, just before the wheels fell off that wagon.

The result was a bank with insufficient focus on its core activities and too thinly spread across the globe. More recently, the bank has been returning to its roots, exiting from weaker positions and reinvesting the capital it frees up back into Asia.

The vision is to become the premier bank for facilitating business between China and the rest of the world. Investment is being poured into China’s Pearl River delta region and early signs are encouraging. The vast expansion of Chinese infrastructure and industrial capacity seen in recent decades bodes well for the region’s future growth and HSBC should be well placed to benefit.

Capital ratios are strong and the group has long been known for taking a conservative approach to financing its balance sheet, with deposits significantly outweighing loans. Costs are under tight control and returns on the banks assets have begun to improve. At the time of writing (Nov 2017) the stock offers a yield of over 5%.

Description

The world’s leading contract caterer, operating staff canteens, hospital and school kitchens, using Compass’s own brands, or franchised brands such as Costa or Burger King.

Why we hold it

Where Compass operate on a customer’s premises, the kitchen and canteen is normally fitted out by the customer; Compass provide the staff and prepare the food. They may charge the diners, or the employer might pick up all or part of the cost. Either way relatively little capital is required, making the business very cash generative. That recently enabled them to buy-back £1bn of shares.

Compass estimate that only around half of their market is already outsourced. That should leave plenty of growth potential still in front of them. Compass buy food on a colossal scale, serving millions of meals every day, which gives them buying power. They are also ruthlessly focussed on cost management, with a series of permanent programmes to identify best practices in every aspect of the business and spread them across all of their operations.

The combination of increased outsourcing and focus on costs makes their margins relatively resilient. They are not as high as the margins of most of the companies we back, but there is only so much value anyone can add to a sandwich. But by using their scale to good effect, Compass have been able to double revenues while profits and dividends have more than tripled since 2007. Of course the future will be different and this pattern may not repeat.

Description

Allows the public to order food online for takeaway or delivery from businesses that would otherwise still depend on the telephone or walk-ins.

Why we hold it

Small scale food producers are rarely technology experts, so Just Eat squares the circle, offering takeaway owners the chance to reach customers via ecommerce.

Just Eat dominates the mass-market takeaway space, whilst rivals like Deliveroo focus on providing the delivery service for a more upmarket slate of outlets. A series of deals have brought Just Eat strong positions in a portfolio of markets around the world. Like many online businesses, Just Eat benefits from the tendency for a dominant player to emerge.

Hectic lifestyles mean more meals are bought-in rather than cooked at home, which keeps underlying demand firm. Customers are fast adopting online ordering as their default order route and Just Eat has been growing order numbers and revenues at a fast clip. Like all good online operations, Just Eat throws off cash.

Description

Owns the leading online auto marketplace in the UK and Ireland.

Why we hold it

The management of Auto Trader and Rightmove have been a bit interchangeable over the years, so perhaps it’s no surprise that both companies came to be dominant in their chosen sectors. Most of Auto Trader’s revenue comes from forecourt owners, rather than private sellers. The business charges according to the number of vehicles for sale and the precise type of listings selected, with advertisers able to pay for greater prominence.

Auto Trader can also provide dealers with data management tools to help them price their stock and give guidance on when and how prices need to be adjusted to get vehicles to roll off the forecourt toward a customer’s driveway.

The business is wholly online these days, and has little need to spend money on physical assets. For traditional businesses, capital expenditure sees assets bought, valued on the balance sheet and depreciated over time. But an online publisher like Auto Trader has little need for capital expenditure. Instead, they spend money on IT staff and software, most of which is just expensed from day to day. So profits convert strongly into cash flow.

When Auto Trader first came to market, debts, left over from private equity ownership, were higher than we like to see. But so strong has been their cash generation that the balance sheet now looks very healthy, whilst analysts forecast strong profit growth ahead.

Description

Where Britain goes to check out what the neighbour’s house is selling for.

Why we hold it

Who goes to look in Estate agents windows anymore? Nowadays, almost all agents list their stock of houses for sale on Rightmove, making it the clear market leader. Rival Zoopla recently received a takeover approach from a technology investment fund for a large premium, whilst the relatively new entrant, OnTheMarket.com looks to be OnLifeSupport.com, so Rightmove’s position seems secure.

A web-based publisher has little need for capital spending, and market leadership gives Rightmove a lot of pricing power. So it throws off cash and pays pretty much all of it back to investors. Regular price increases help revenues tick along, and the group sells added-value data services to agents and premium listings slots on the site to further boost revenues.

It’s been a huge success. The arrival of Purplebricks et al may complicate the picture. If home sellers desert traditional agents, and online players become very large, Rightmove’s bargaining power could be impacted. But on balance, we think they hold the whip. No-one can currently afford not to be on Rightmove, whether they sell houses from an office or an app. There is still an awful lot of property print advertising and over time, we expect to see that spending by agents move toward Rightmove, driving growth for some time to come.

Description

A market minnow that we think could become a bit of a whale. GB Group’s software products allow businesses to verify their customers’ identities. GB Group can pinpoint the ID of about four billion people, to the standards required for anti-money laundering legislation.

Why we hold it

In a world where e-commerce is expanding fast, the ability to provide verification that a customer is bona fide is a vital enabler. GB have stolen a march on big rivals, who specialise in credit data, rather than ID verification, and look set to grow strongly.

Often, GB's services are embedded deep into their customers' work flows, making the revenues recurring and the predictability of cash flows strong. That’s a big, big tick for us.

This company is riskier than most of the stocks we hold, for it is small, and has been a deal-maker along the way. But it has cash in the bank and occupies a very sweet spot in the global economy and we think it is well worth the extra risk.