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FP Argonaut European Alpha Fund research update

Investments can go down as well as up so there is always a danger that you could get back less than you invest. Nothing here is personalised advice, if unsure you should seek advice.

Europe's economic environment remains challenging and its problems continue to dominate news headlines. Sluggish economic growth and concerns over Greece reaching agreement with the rest of Europe over terms of its bailout has revived investor uncertainty. Despite the continent's economic malaise, there are grounds for optimism - a falling oil price and the weakness of the euro could be good news for many European firms.

In a weak economic environment, investors have tended to favour higher-quality, defensive businesses; many with a global reach. This type of company performed better in 2014 than those in the more economically-sensitive sectors.

The mantra of Barry Norris, manager of the FP Argonaut European Alpha Fund, has been: invest in European companies rather than the European economy. As such, he has tended to avoid higher-quality businesses and he has favoured more economically-sensitive firms with a domestic focus. He views the latter as more attractively-valued compared with internationally-exposed peers. Even with this bias, the manager outperformed the broader European stock market and his peer group in 2014 - our analysis suggests Barry Norris' stock picking skill has helped drive this outperformance.

The manager's contrarian style leads him to invest in unloved areas of the market. Towards the end of 2013, Barry Norris invested in a number of Greek banks, believing there could be a recovery in corporate profitability on the horizon. The fund profited from these positions, which were eventually sold in late 2014.

Elsewhere, the manager continues to hold a number of banks located in southern European countries, including Intesa Sanpaolo based in Italy. He is encouraged by a number of domestic banks that are working to reduce debt levels and where lending is beginning to pick up.

Ryanair is another current favoured holding. The airline currently represents 12% of the European aviation industry, and has the potential to increase market share. According to the manager, the company has a strong balance sheet and is one of the lowest cost producers in the industry. It is also likely to be a beneficiary of lower oil prices.

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Our view on this fund

Barry Norris is a truly active manager who takes a different approach to many of his peers. His flexible style has earned him a strong track record; since launch in May 2005, the fund has returned 187.3% against 119.4% for the benchmark and 109.7% for the average fund in the sector, though please remember this serves as no guide to future performance.

Annual percentage growth
Feb 10 -
Feb 11
Feb 11 -
Feb 12
Feb 12 -
Feb 13
Feb 13 -
Feb 14
Feb 14 -
Feb 15
FP Argonaut European Alpha 16.4% -6.0% 15.7% 20.1% 5.2%
MSCI Europe ex UK 14.6% -11.7% 23.5% 9.0% 8.5%
IA Europe ex UK 14.7% -11.4% 23.3% 12.1% 5.1%

Past performance is not a guide to future returns. Source: Lipper IM* to 02/02/2015

Our research indicates the manager has added value over the long term through a combination of good stock selection and by positioning the fund towards the right sectors and geographical areas. The fund is concentrated which allows each holding to have a significant impact on returns although this is a higher risk approach. Our work also suggests Barry Norris is prepared to take strong views and actively change the positioning of the fund based on where he views the best opportunities. This means the portfolio could behave quite differently to others in the sector, though it is an approach that has proven favourable over the long term.

We continue to view the fund as an excellent European candidate for the Wealth 150 list of our favourite funds across the major sectors.

Find out more about this fund including how to invest

Please read the key features/key investor information document in addition to the information above.

The value of investments can go down as well as up, this means you could get back less than you invested. Therefore all investments should be regarded with a long term view. No news or research item is a personal recommendation to deal. If you are unsure about the suitability of an investment please contact us for advice.
Important information - Please remember the value of investments, and any income from them, can fall as well as rise so you could get back less than you invest. This article is provided to help you make your own investment decisions, it is not advice. If you are unsure of the suitability of an investment for your circumstances please seek advice. No news or research item is a personal recommendation to deal.

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