Norman started his career in investments in 1988 and has worked as an investment analyst and portfolio manager in asset management divisions. He has been actively involved in setting up investment processes and held the position of Chief Investment Officer in a previous company. Norman joined RMB Asset Management in 2000.
Momentum Industrial comment - Jun 14
Global economic conditions appear to be on the mend, but risks to the outlook remain. In support of the pedestrian global recovery, key central banks have kept ultra-low monetary policy rates in place, which have, in turn, fuelled record stock market highs. Going forward, global equities are likely to be supported by accelerated earnings momentum, low inflation and fair to cheap valuations. Global fixed-income returns are expected to remain constrained as a result of quantitative easing tapering in the US during 2014 and the ultimate increase in interest rates likely starting next year. South African (SA) equity valuations, which are not supported by underlying developed-market fundamentals, look expensive, which is likely to cause some underperformance.
While we expect more consistent growth in key developed regions, we see downside risks to the emerging market (EM) outlook given sluggish global trade activity and relatively benign domestic demand conditions. In the run-up to higher rates in the US, tighter financial conditions could further become a problem for countries, including SA, that remain highly dependent on foreign capital to fund their large external deficits.
Domestic labour unrest poses further risks to SA's economic outlook. Whereas significant growth downgrades are likely preventing a steeper interest rate profile at this stage, the need to anchor inflation expectations at a lower level and unusually-low real policy rates will likely force further rate increases. We expect a 50 basis point hike in July, to be followed by a further 25 basis points in November and March, downwardly biased on growth concerns.
The Industrial Index had another phenomenal quarter, with a 9% total return. This brings the total return for the Industrial Index to 30.5% for the 12 months ended June 2014. The Momentum Industrial Fund delivered a 29.8% return in this period, in line with the Industrial Index. Following five phenomenal years for industrial shares, many valuations are elevated and alpha opportunities are relatively scarce.
Most sectors had a very strong quarter, especially the rand hedges, which increased 11%. The weakest sector was construction, bringing up the rear with a 1.56% return. The retail sector remained generally weak (5.89%), although Mr Price was a notable exception (14.9%). The largest contributor to performance over the quarter was our overweight position in Steinhoff, which increased by 16%. Steinhoff is now up 146% for the full 12 months and we continue to hold the stock. Steinhoff still has some vertical integration benefits to harvest and is also well placed for a gradual European recovery. The primary listing in Frankfort should also unlock value in the medium term. Our overweight positions in Netcare (up 23% for the quarter), Datatec (10%) and Tiger Brands (14%) also contributed significantly. Our recent acquisition of Omnia (up 9%) and Remgro (up 13%) also paid off. Underweights in Shoprite (down 3%) and the retailers were positive contributors as these stocks underperformed. Detractors from performance included our overweight positions in Bidvest (up only 3%) and Aveng.
We took profits in SABMiller, which had a very strong quarter, up some 17%. We used the proceeds to buy Sun International, which we consider to be a compelling turnaround story, especially now that the Western Cape license position has become clearer. We bought into the recent weakness in Aspen, a stock we have had on our radar for a very long time. We also increased our holdings in Mondi and Omnia.
We maintain our defensive position in the portfolio, primarily through large positions in British American Tobacco and Bidvest. Rand hedge exposure remains high as we feel the rand will remain weaker for longer. We maintain our underweight in the retailers, as both a weak consumer and weak rand have yet to be reflected in the numbers. We are, however, watching the sector closely for attractive entry levels.
We have taken advantage of some select stock picking opportunities, but, most importantly, believe the shares we are holding trade at discounts to their intrinsic value, with measured downside risk given the potential upside to intrinsic value.
The fund's objective is to maximise equity portfolio returns over the FTSE/JSE Industrial index. The performance of the fund relative to this index is a function of the weightings given to individual securities within this sector.