SIM Financial comment - Mar 16
Market review This quarter saw a sharp rebound of the JSE, with a total return of 6% for the Swix, led by a snapback of beaten-up resources stocks, which were up 18% and financials up 6%. This has been a global phenomenon led by emerging market bonds (up 11%). SA government bonds were up almost 12% in dollars, followed by a partial recovery of emerging market currencies and equities. Once again we see the phenomenon whereby extreme risk aversion is followed by a normalisation in prices, but in order to benefit from this one needs to remain stoic when the chips are down and focus on valuation first and foremost. Investors who heavily sold financial stocks after the announcement that the Minister of Finance would be replaced unexpectedly in December changed course. Within the financial universe, Short-term Insurers, led by Santam after posting good numbers, was the leading component, up 27% during the quarter. Banks, which in December suffered their heaviest daily sell-off since the Rubicon speech, rebounded some 13%. Life Insurers also did well (up 6%) but they were not as heavily impacted by the December events as the banks due to greater diversification of revenues. Listed property returned 10% in the period, also rebounding after selling off as badly as the banks in December. The current economic and political uncertainty has certainly fuelled some capital allocation decisions from corporate South Africa. We have seen a continuous trickle of offshore expansions, focused mainly on developed markets with FirstRand recently stating that they would scale up in the UK. On the other hand, we are likely to see some local divestitures. The most notable ones are Barclays plc, which announced that they would be disposing of close to 40% of ABSA, and Old Mutual plc, which decided to relinquish control of Nedbank and break up the group to unlock value.
What SIM did The SIM Financials Fund returned a total of 5.2% for Q1'16, benefitting from the strong rebound in SA banks mentioned above, which comprised over 30% of the fund. In the course of the quarter, we diversified somewhat out of SA banks and SA life insurers, which had a combined weighting in the fund of more than 60%. We achieved this mainly by selling completely out of Discovery, which we considered the most expensive SA life insurer, and Nedbank given that we already own a material weight on a see-through basis given the fund's weighting in Old Mutual. We used some of these proceeds to add to Reinet, an investment holding company which trades at a 25% NAV discount and diversifies the fund into what is predominantly a defensive tobacco asset. We initiated a significant allocation to listed property as these also sold off in December and again in January. This includes local listed property such as Growthpoint and additions to UK listed property as these had sold off dramatically on Brexit fears (Britain exiting the EU) so we had an opportunity to buy these at sharp discounts to NAV. We also added to offshore asset managers and insurers trading at sharp discounts to book value and/or high dividend yields. Overall, we estimate that the fund now has a 12% exposure to foreign businesses with hard currency exposure (not counting hybrids like OML and Investec which have SA and foreign exposures; in this case the see-through foreign exposure is closer to 20%).
Outlook South Africa faces some further specific issues, namely stagflation and a potential credit downgrade with policy makers scrambling to re-establish credibility after the December cabinet reshuffle. This has undermined consumer confidence, which is at 15-year lows and the current account deficit at 5% of GDP is taking longer than expected to respond to the weak rand. South Africans are also bracing themselves for the impact of the crippling drought, which will require close to 0.5% of GDP in maize imports and will catapult food inflation into the double digits. The key issue now remains when Moody's, which has South Africa's sovereign rating two notches above junk, will downgrade us by one notch in line with the other rating agencies. Over the longer term, South African businesses are likely to continue to focus on the African continent as a vector for growth, especially in financial services. A more positive story remains Sanlam's $375m acquisition of North African operator Saham, which will provide it with access to new African markets. Africa will become increasingly important in the lives of a streamlined Old Mutual, an ABSA sans- Barclays and a reinvigorated Standard Bank.
This is a specialist fund that offers investors an opportunity of investing in the financial services industry. The fund aims to achieve superior returns over the medium to long-term through well researched superior stock selection.
The fund is suitable for clients requiring greater exposure to financial shares as part of a balanced portfolio.
Why Choose This Fund?
* An investment in this type of fund is indicated when markets are strong, interest rates are stable or declining, and the rand shows some signs of weakness. This fund is currently suitable for use as one of the satellite funds if the investor intends following a core/satellite approach.
* International exposure adds diversity and higher growth potential.
* Banks earnings set to benefit from strong advances growth and lower bad debts (attributable to low interest rate environment).
* Life assurance earnings set to benefit from improved investment markets.
* Valuation levels attractive on a longer term view.
Additional Fund Information
* The fund manager may borrow up to 10% of the market value of the portfolio to bridge insufficient liquidity.
* Fluctuations or movements in exchange rates may cause the value of underlying international investments to go up or down.
* This fund is also available via certain LISPs (Linked Investment Services Providers), who levy their own fees.
* Total Expense Ratio (TER): This fund (retail class) has a TER of 1.70%. For the period from 1 January 2007 to 31 March 2007 1.70% of the average net asset value of the portfolio were incurred as charges, levies and fees related to the management of the portfolio. The ratio does not include the cost of acquiring assets. A higher TER does not necessarily imply a poor return, nor does a low TER imply a good return. The current TER can not be regarded as an indication of future TERs.