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VALUE OF THE PORTFOLIO
INVESTMENT PORTFOLIO RETURN (LOCAL CURRENCY)
INVESTMENT PORTFOLIO RETURN (STERLING)
Robust Portfolio performance
This has been an extraordinary six-month period, with the COVID-19 pandemic impacting all of our lives and having a far-reaching impact on global economies. Against this backdrop, the benefit of our long-standing investment approach of investing with well-established managers, in resilient sectors with defensive growth characteristics has been evident. Over the first half of the financial year the Portfolio generated a +0.1% gain in Sterling, or an underlying decline of -3.6%, significantly outperforming the FTSE-All Share over the same period.
On a quarter by quarter basis, the period February to April 2020 (Q1), saw the sharpest decline in the value of the Portfolio being the period of the greatest market uncertainty. In this period, we saw a -7.0% underlying local currency decline and had anticipated that the impact from COVID-19 would continue to weigh on company valuations in the second quarter. However, as public markets stabilised and company earnings rebounded, performance recovered and it is therefore encouraging to report an underlying local currency gain of 3.7% in the second quarter.
Our Portfolio is constructed with a focus on defensive growth and companies with non-cyclical growth drivers, such as demographics, increasing regulation and the shift towards Software-as-a-Service. The defensive growth theme has contributed significantly to the resilience of the Portfolio during this period.
The strength of our performance in the first half was driven by some noteworthy contributors from our high conviction portfolio and US investments. This included the performance of Chewy (the listed portion of the leading US pet retailer PetSmart) within our high conviction portfolio. As an online retailer and market leader in its space, the company benefited significantly from a migration of demand towards online retail channels amid the pandemic. This was evidenced by a 98% increase in its listed share price during the period.
Outside of our high conviction portfolio, another notable contributor to performance was Leaf Home Solutions. The business is a branded direct to consumer platform focused on providing guttering protection and other home safety solutions. It is part of the Gridiron III portfolio. Throughout the period the company experienced minimal disruption to trading and continued to deliver consistent growth. Leaf Home Solutions is now the fifth largest company in the Portfolio.
Realisation activity has continued in the first half of the year generating, £94m of proceeds of which £39m related to sales from our underlying managers. We also executed several selective secondary sales including the partial disposal of our sizeable holding in Graphite VIII. These secondary transactions reduced the concentration of our portfolio and expand our capacity to make new investments aligned to our strategic goals.