Dominic Rowles, Investment Analyst, reports on our view of Witan Investment Trust following its recently released annual results for the year to 31 December 2016.
- NAV total return of 22.9% in line with the benchmark return of 23.0%
- Share price total return of 18.4%
- Total annual dividend of 19p per share; the 42nd consecutive yearly increase
- Trust offers diversified exposure to global markets and a variety of investment styles
Witan Investment Trust offers diversified exposure to global equity markets. The trust primarily invests in other funds run by managers with different yet complimentary investment styles, which could help smooth out some of the volatility associated with investing with a single manager. Andrew Bell and his team at Witan also invest a small portion of the trust’s assets into private equity funds and other investment trusts.
This trust could appeal to investors seeking a diversified portfolio of global managers. The multi-manager approach could be preferred by those who want to leave the research and day-to-day portfolio management to an experienced investor.
The team at Witan has achieved good long-term performance. An investment of £10,000 made when Andrew Bell assumed responsibility for the trust in January 2010 would now be worth £25,116* with dividends reinvested, although past performance is no guide to future returns. We continue to view Witan as a core global investment trust and would expect it to deliver decent long-term returns for investors, although there are no guarantees.
|Annual Percentage Growth|
| Feb 12 -
| Feb 13 -
| Feb 14 -
| Feb 15 -
| Feb 16 -
|Witan Investment Trust plc||23.7||18.1||18.2||-5.4||32.2|
Past performance is not a guide to the future. Source: *Lipper IM to 28/02/2017
The trust delivered strong returns in 2016, although its NAV marginally trailed the benchmark and a widening discount caused a drag on total shareholder returns.
Some of the trust’s underlying funds struggled to outperform their benchmarks in 2016. Derek Stuart at Artemis, for example, runs a portfolio of UK shares, which underperformed the broader UK market. His bias towards medium-sized and higher-risk smaller companies hurt performance, particularly in the aftermath of the EU referendum when larger companies outperformed.
In contrast, the trust’s directly held private equity funds and investment trusts performed well. This section comprises 10.2% of the trust and returned 34.4% in 2016. The standout performer was BlackRock World Mining Trust which delivered a total return of almost 100% last year, buoyed by recovering oil prices. Please remember past performance is not a guide to the future.
The trust made a number of changes to its benchmark including the introduction of a 5% weighting towards higher-risk emerging markets. North America’s weighting also rose from 20% to 25% while the UK’s weighting reduced from 40% to 30%. These changes took effect from 1 January 2017.
As a long-term investor Andrew Bell makes infrequent changes to the trust. That said, during the course of the year he reviewed emerging markets exposure and sold the Trilogy Emerging Markets Fund in favour of the Somerset Emerging Markets Small Cap Fund. The manager also invested 3% of the trust’s assets into emerging markets index futures. These, along with other higher-risk derivative products, offer exposure to areas he believes could be due a bounce in the shorter term. He took profits towards the end of 2016 following periods of strength in the emerging markets sector.
Finally, Andrew Bell increased his holding of Aberforth Geared Income Trust at a reduced price when demand for UK small and medium-sized companies fell and investors favoured the safety of their larger counterparts in the latter half of 2016.
Gearing (borrowing to invest) can be used by the trust which adds risk and in certain situations performance fees can be applied. Potential investors should refer to the latest annual reports and accounts for further details of the risks and charges.