Bankers Investment Trust (The) — Most regional portfolios outperformed in H123

Bankers Investment Trust (The) (LSE: BNKR)

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Bankers Investment Trust (The) — Most regional portfolios outperformed in H123

The Bankers Investment Trust (BNKR) posted an 8.1% net asset value (NAV) per share total return (TR) in H123 (period ending 30 April 2023). Most of its regional sub-portfolios (sleeves) outperformed their benchmarks, highlighting the respective managers’ strong stock-selection capabilities. Dividend income across the portfolio was up 10% in H123 and BNKR declared a second interim dividend of 0.62p (with the ytd payout up c 10% y-o-y). Moreover, Alex Crooke (BNKR’s lead manager) now expects FY23 dividend growth of at least 7% versus 5% earlier, which he believes should allow BNKR (after high inflation in FY22) to resume its track record of delivering dividend growth ahead of UK inflation.

Written by

Michal Mordel

Analyst, Investment trusts

Investment Companies

The Bankers Investment Trust

Most regional portfolios outperformed in H123

Investment trusts
Global equities

11 August 2023

Price

98.6p

Market cap

£1,238m

Total assets

£1,598m

NAV*

111.7p

Discount to NAV

11.7%

*Including income. At 10 August 2023.

Dividend yield

2.5%

Shares in issue

1,261.5m

Code/ISIN

BNKR/GB00BN4NDR39

Primary exchange

LSE

AIC sector

Global

Financial year end

31 October

52-week high/low

108.2p

93.0p

116.4p

102.8p

*Including income.

Gearing

Net gearing (at 30 June 2023)

7%

Fund objective

The Bankers Investment Trust (BNKR) aims, over the longer term, to achieve capital growth in excess of a global developed markets index and annual dividend growth greater than UK CPI inflation, by investing in companies listed throughout the world. BNKR has one of the longest records of year-on-year dividend growth for an investment trust. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange with a secondary listing in New Zealand.

Bull points

Six geographic sleeves harness the best ideas from regional specialists.

Very commendable dividend track record – 56 consecutive years of higher annual payments.

Competitive, tiered fee structure.

Bear points

Structural underweight US exposure has contributed to underperformance versus the benchmark.

Persistently high inflation could mean that high stock market volatility continues.

High number of portfolio holdings, which means successful smaller positions do not move BNKR’s performance needle.

Analysts

Michal Mordel

+44 (0)20 3077 5700

Mel Jenner

+44 (0)20 3077 5700

The Bankers Investment Trust is a research client of Edison Investment Research Limited

The Bankers Investment Trust (BNKR) posted an 8.1% net asset value (NAV) per share total return (TR) in H123 (period ending 30 April 2023). Most of its regional sub-portfolios (sleeves) outperformed their benchmarks, highlighting the respective managers’ strong stock-selection capabilities. Dividend income across the portfolio was up 10% in H123 and BNKR declared a second interim dividend of 0.62p (with the ytd payout up c 10% y-o-y). Moreover, Alex Crooke (BNKR’s lead manager) now expects FY23 dividend growth of at least 7% versus 5% earlier, which he believes should allow BNKR (after high inflation in FY22) to resume its track record of delivering dividend growth ahead of UK inflation.

BNKR’s dividend growth consistently exceeds UK inflation*

Source: Refinitiv, Edison Investment Research. Note: *Dividends paid from BNKR’s fiscal year profits (ending October), CPI for calendar years. **Manager’s expectations.

BNKR’s investment thesis

Crooke focuses on cash-generative businesses with sufficiently robust balance sheets to continue distributing dividends even in a slowing economy. He also favours Asian markets over the US, as he believes that the US Federal Reserve will continue to tighten its monetary policy to curb inflation, while Asia should benefit from China’s reopening. Given BNKR’s balanced regional exposures and the focus on both growth and income, its NAV TR has not fully captured the rally in US stocks in recent years, with its three-year NAV TR to end-June 2023 at 6.4% pa versus the benchmark TR of 10.9%. Crooke believes that US stocks are now overpriced compared with their earnings trends and the real yields available to investors.

Balanced exposure to global equity markets

BNKR can be viewed as a ‘one-stop shop’ for global equity exposure. Its portfolio consists of six geographic sleeves, managed by Janus Henderson Investors’ (JHI’s) regional specialists. It is an interesting proposition for investors seeking a global equities portfolio that is balanced geographically, large-cap biased and style-neutral, providing both exposure to growth stocks and growing income. We note that Crooke has recently increased the trust’s exposure to more defensive businesses, while avoiding the most popular technology stocks. The manager acknowledges the ongoing disruption caused by the implementation of AI, but focuses on more diverse companies that should benefit from the trend, such as Microsoft and Accenture, rather than pure-play AI businesses.

Performance in line with the plan

BNKR’s interim results to end-April 2023 showed a strong six-month NAV TR performance of 8.1%, ahead of the benchmark’s 3.5% TR. It outperformed most of its regional benchmarks, returning to its long-term trend, after a more challenging FY21–22 (see Exhibit 1), highlighting the respective management teams’ stock-picking expertise. During H123, the strongest outperformance was in the UK (+3.1pp) and continental Europe (+1.3pp), and four out of five of the trust’s top performance contributors were from these markets (see Exhibit 2). On the other hand, BNKR’s investments in China and Pacific ex-Japan underperformed their respective benchmarks. Crooke highlights that the China sleeve is positioned for a revival in consumer goods demand, which has lagged the recovery of the Chinese economy following its early-2023 reopening. The manager remains confident that consumer stocks will perform well, although later than previously expected. Following recent changes in senior positions at JHI, Crooke will now dedicate himself fully to the management of BNKR and the Global Equity Income strategy, as his role of head of EMEA and Asia Pacific was assumed by Lucas Klein.

Exhibit 1: Relative performance of BNKR’s regional sleeves versus respective regional benchmarks (pp)

FY19

FY20

FY21

FY22

H123

Cumulative

UK

0.1

0.1

(4.7)

(3.3)

3.1

(5.1)

Continental Europe

4.1

7.8

(6.2)

(0.9)

1.3

10.5

North America

0.6

10.1

1.3

(6.0)

1.1

8.8

Japan

2.9

10.5

(0.9)

(1.8)

1.0

13.4

Pacific ex-Japan

0.8

(16.1)

17.1

4.7

(4.0)

1.5

China 'A' shares

17.7

19.6

(6.3)

(6.1)

(8.6)

7.2

Source: BNKR, Edison Investment Research. Note: Highlighted periods of relative outperformance.

The best performing stock in BNKR’s portfolio in H123 was Microsoft, which is at the forefront of AI implementation in IT services. Crooke highlights that while he acknowledges the potential benefits of AI, the North American manager (Jeremiah Buckley) avoids pure-play AI technology stocks as he views them as overpriced and too risky. Crooke currently favours traditional financial holdings, providing more interest rate and less transaction-based exposure, which proved effective, as highlighted by UniCredit being the second-best performing stock in the portfolio in H123.

Exhibit 2: BNKR’s top performance contributors in H123

Company

Region

Sector

Contribution (pp)

Microsoft

North America

IT

0.56

UniCredit

Continental Europe

Banking

0.37

3i Group

UK

Private equity

0.31

Hermes International

Continental Europe

Luxury goods

0.30

Moncler

Continental Europe

Luxury goods

0.29

Source: BNKR

In H123, BNKR’s performance was supported by the strong UK stock market, while the North American stock markets were broadly flat during the period. To end-June 2023, however, BNKR underperformed its global benchmark across all analysed periods (see Exhibit 4). The benchmark is heavily skewed towards North America (66.7% of the index weight at end-May 2023), which has been a major contributor to global equities indices’ returns, as highlighted by the US S&P 500 Index’s outperformance across all periods shown. As a balanced, style-neutral global fund, BNKR has a significant underweight exposure to North America (27.6pp below the benchmark weight at end-May 2023, see Exhibit 3).

Exhibit 3: Geographical split of BNKR’s portfolio versus the benchmark

% unless stated

End-June 2023

End-June 2022

Change

Relative* (pp)

North America

39.1

35.8

3.3

(27.6)

Continental Europe

16.7

16.6

0.1

3.2

UK

16.5

19.7

(3.2)

12.3

Japan

13.6

11.8

1.8

6.8

Other

14.0

16.1

(2.1)

10.1

Source: BNKR, benchmark’s factsheet. Note: *Compared to benchmark’s most recent available data (May 2023).

Exhibit 4: BNKR’s performance versus the benchmark (to end-June 2023)

% unless stated

One month

Three months

Six months

One year

Three years

Five years

BNKR NAV TR

1.7

(0.1)

3.8

6.8

20.3

39.2

Benchmark TR

3.1

3.7

8.6

12.9

36.4

57.6

Difference (pp)

(1.5)

(3.8)

(4.8)

(6.0)

(16.0)

(18.5)

S&P 500 TR

3.9

5.8

10.6

14.2

46.3

85.5

Source: Refinitiv, Edison Investment Research

Crooke highlights that there are plenty of indicators showing that the US market is overpriced and unlikely to continue its outperformance versus other regions. We believe that BNKR may be an appealing stock for investors sharing this view.

Exhibit 5: US versus world (performance versus earnings growth)

Exhibit 6: US stocks valuation versus real yields

Source: BNKR, as at 21 June 2023

Source: BNKR, as at 21 June 2023

Exhibit 5: US versus world (performance versus earnings growth)

Source: BNKR, as at 21 June 2023

Exhibit 6: US stocks valuation versus real yields

Source: BNKR, as at 21 June 2023

The manager highlights that the US economy is slowing, while core inflation remains above the US Federal Reserve’s 2.0% target, which will likely prompt it to further tighten its monetary policy. Also, the savings boom that has helped to support the US market is mostly exhausted. US stock prices have outpaced US earnings growth; on this basis, other regions of the world look more reasonably valued. The US market also appears unattractive when compared to real yields on US 10-year government bonds (see Exhibit 6).

Recently declared interim dividend brings ytd DPS increase to c 10% y-o-y

BNKR's focus on cash-generating companies saw dividend income increase by 10% y-o-y in H123. Crooke has raised his dividend growth forecast to 7.0% in FY23 (from 5.0%) and expects it to beat UK inflation, which he forecasts at c 6% (versus 7.9% in May 2023 and the IMF forecasts of 6.8% for 2023 and 3.0% for 2024). This was assisted by BNKR’s recent North American portfolio repositioning (following the change in manager) to more cash-generating businesses with the ability to pay dividends even during periods of economic weakness (see details in our previous note).

Crooke believes that, although inflation continues to be persistent, corporate earnings and balance sheets are strong and many supply chain bottlenecks have been removed, assisting the consumer. That said, he still expects global earnings to decline in 2023 and thinks this expectation is likely to be shared by the broad market given current global valuation levels. He remains sceptical with respect to the broader market’s enthusiasm for US stocks on the back of hopes that the Federal Reserve has reached the peak of its interest rate tightening cycle.

Maintaining a defensive tilt, still overweight China

BNKR focuses on companies with high cash generation, and Crooke currently favours more defensive businesses. Compared with its benchmark, the trust has a significantly lower exposure to technology stocks, which made up 15.5% of the portfolio at end-June 2023, versus 25.2% in the benchmark portfolio (at end-May 2023). The North American manager is avoiding the most popular and highly valued names like NVIDIA (1.6% of the benchmark and currently trading on a forward P/E multiple of 48.0x according to Refinitiv consensus estimates), which explains part of the underweighting and underperformance. BNKR is also overweight financial stocks, which represented 17.2% of the portfolio (versus the 13.0% combined sector weighting of banks, financial services and insurance in the benchmark), although BNKR’s exposure has recently moved away from credit cards payments towards more traditional financial institutions.

Exhibit 7: BNKR’s exposure to defensive* sectors

Source: Morningstar. Note: *Morningstar’s defensive super sector, which contains defensive healthcare, utilities and consumer companies.

In terms of the trust’s geographical exposure, the relatively low US weighting is offset by overweight positions in China, Japan and the UK compared with global equity indices. Crooke believes that China (as well as other Asian markets) will continue to benefit from the reopening of the Chinese economy despite the challenging macroeconomic environment and should post strong 4–5% GDP growth in 2023 (the IMF forecast is 5.2%). The manager also sees Asian markets, including Japan, as providing a good counterbalance to Western economies, where interest rates are rising.

Peer group comparison

We compare BNKR’s performance to other funds in the AIC Global sector, which includes 13 funds with a broad variety of investment mandates. BNKR is style neutral with a balanced exposure to value and growth stocks (although the regional sleeves employ different investment approaches) and a bias towards larger-cap companies (see Exhibits 8 and 9). We therefore consider Alliance Trust and F&C Investment Trust its closest peers, but also view Brunner Investment Trust (despite its smaller size and higher portfolio concentration) and Witan (despite its lower bias to large caps) as relevant peers.

Exhibit 8: BNKR’s portfolio by style versus peers

Source: Morningstar. Note: *Core represent companies whose value and growth scores are not substantially different; see Morningstar’s Style Box for details.

Exhibit 9: BNKR’s portfolio by market cap* versus peers

Source: Morningstar. Note: *Morningstar methodology: large caps – the largest companies, which make up 70% of the capitalisation of a given market; mid caps – the next 20%; and small caps – the remaining 10%.

BNKR’s current more balanced regional exposures are yet to be fully reflected in its long-term NAV TR, which over the last 10 years was somewhat below Alliance Trust and F&C Investment Trust (though broadly in line with the average including Witan and Brunner, see Exhibit 11). This underperformance may be at least partially explained by BNKR’s high historical weighting to UK equities (poorly performing relative to US and continental Europe), which the manager has gradually reduced in recent years (see Exhibit 10). More recently, its lower US weighting versus some peers (c 39% currently versus 50–60% for Alliance Trust and F&C Investment Trust) has affected its performance, as discussed above.

Exhibit 10: BNKR’s share of UK equities versus peers

Source: Morningstar. Note: *BNKR’s 2015–17 figures are as at end-March of the respective years. Brunner’s 2014 figure is as at end-March, and Alliance Trust’s and F&C Investment Trust’s figures are as at January 2017 and December 2016, respectively.

BNKR is currently trading at an 11.7% discount to its NAV, which is slightly wider than the peer average. The company seized the opportunity to buy back 24.1m shares at an average discount of 9% in the six months to end-April 2023. At the same time, the trust’s dividend yield currently stands at 2.5%, slightly above sector average. BNKR has maintained moderate gearing, broadly in line with its peers.

Exhibit 11: AIC Global sector at 11 August 2023*

% unless stated

Market
cap £m

NAV TR
1 year

NAV TR
3 year

NAV TR
5 year

NAV TR
10 year

Discount
(cum-fair)

Ongoing charge

Perf.
fee

Net gearing

Dividend yield

Bankers Trust

1,238.3

1.1

19.5

33.7

149.1

(12.1)

0.5

No

109

2.5

Alliance Trust

2,958.3

7.8

36.3

44.1

162.6

(5.7)

0.6

No

105

2.3

F&C Investment Trust

4,462.3

3.0

34.7

42.7

177.1

(10.8)

0.5

No

109

1.6

Witan

1,486.6

5.2

35.2

23.5

127.0

(9.4)

0.8

Yes

116

2.5

Brunner Investment Trust

458.9

7.7

45.7

51.5

160.5

(12.3)

0.6

No

105

2.1

Peer average (close peers)

2,341.6

5.9

38.0

40.4

156.8

(9.6)

0.6

-

109

2.1

AVI Global Trust

917.2

6.5

45.6

42.1

135.0

(11.2)

0.9

No

106

1.7

Keystone Positive Change

133.2

0.2

(15.4)

(29.6)

(1.8)

(14.3)

0.9

No

109

5.2

Lindsell Train

191.0

(4.2)

5.4

48.8

333.6

(4.5)

0.9

Yes

100

5.4

Manchester & London

176.8

15.8

(3.6)

17.8

124.5

(18.3)

0.7

Yes

100

3.2

Martin Currie Global Portfolio

253.2

4.4

7.3

35.7

144.6

(0.8)

0.7

No

111

1.2

Mid Wynd Int’l Investment Trust

412.3

0.1

19.4

45.6

198.3

(2.3)

0.6

No

100

1.0

Monks Investment Trust

2,260.5

(0.1)

5.9

35.0

171.9

(12.5)

0.4

No

106

0.3

Scottish Mortgage

9,681.3

(8.1)

(2.0)

59.3

381.6

(18.6)

0.3

No

113

0.6

Peer average (13 funds)

1,894.6

3.0

18.0

34.6

174.2

(10.2)

0.7

-

107

2.3

BNKR rank

6

8

6

10

8

8

3

-

4

5

Source: Morningstar, Edison Investment Research. Note: *Performance to 9 August 2023. Based on cum-fair NAV. TR, total return. Net gearing is total assets less cash and equivalents as a percentage of net assets, 100=ungeared.

Exhibit 12: Five-year discrete performance data

12 months ending

Share price
(%)

NAV
(%)

MSCI World
(%)

CBOE UK All companies (%)

Benchmark
(%)

30/06/19

9.7

8.9

10.9

0.3

9.8

30/06/20

8.3

6.2

6.5

(13.6)

5.3

30/06/21

17.3

20.4

24.9

21.1

24.9

30/06/22

(11.6)

(6.5)

(2.1)

2.2

(3.3)

30/06/23

1.5

6.8

13.8

8.3

12.9

Source: Refinitiv. Note: All % on a total return basis in pounds sterling.

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This report has been commissioned by The Bankers Investment Trust and prepared and issued by Edison, in consideration of a fee payable by The Bankers Investment Trust. Edison Investment Research standard fees are £60,000 pa for the production and broad dissemination of a detailed note (Outlook) following by regular (typically quarterly) update notes. Fees are paid upfront in cash without recourse. Edison may seek additional fees for the provision of roadshows and related IR services for the client but does not get remunerated for any investment banking services. We never take payment in stock, options or warrants for any of our services.

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General disclaimer and copyright

This report has been commissioned by The Bankers Investment Trust and prepared and issued by Edison, in consideration of a fee payable by The Bankers Investment Trust. Edison Investment Research standard fees are £60,000 pa for the production and broad dissemination of a detailed note (Outlook) following by regular (typically quarterly) update notes. Fees are paid upfront in cash without recourse. Edison may seek additional fees for the provision of roadshows and related IR services for the client but does not get remunerated for any investment banking services. We never take payment in stock, options or warrants for any of our services.

Accuracy of content: All information used in the publication of this report has been compiled from publicly available sources that are believed to be reliable, however we do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this report and have not sought for this information to be independently verified. Opinions contained in this report represent those of the research department of Edison at the time of publication. Forward-looking information or statements in this report contain information that is based on assumptions, forecasts of future results, estimates of amounts not yet determinable, and therefore involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors which may cause the actual results, performance or achievements of their subject matter to be materially different from current expectations.

Exclusion of Liability: To the fullest extent allowed by law, Edison shall not be liable for any direct, indirect or consequential losses, loss of profits, damages, costs or expenses incurred or suffered by you arising out or in connection with the access to, use of or reliance on any information contained on this note.

No personalised advice: The information that we provide should not be construed in any manner whatsoever as, personalised advice. Also, the information provided by us should not be construed by any subscriber or prospective subscriber as Edison’s solicitation to effect, or attempt to effect, any transaction in a security. The securities described in the report may not be eligible for sale in all jurisdictions or to certain categories of investors.

Investment in securities mentioned: Edison has a restrictive policy relating to personal dealing and conflicts of interest. Edison Group does not conduct any investment business and, accordingly, does not itself hold any positions in the securities mentioned in this report. However, the respective directors, officers, employees and contractors of Edison may have a position in any or related securities mentioned in this report, subject to Edison's policies on personal dealing and conflicts of interest.

Copyright: Copyright 2023 Edison Investment Research Limited (Edison).

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Edison Investment Research Pty Ltd (Edison AU) is the Australian subsidiary of Edison. Edison AU is a Corporate Authorised Representative (1252501) of Crown Wealth Group Pty Ltd who holds an Australian Financial Services Licence (Number: 494274). This research is issued in Australia by Edison AU and any access to it, is intended only for "wholesale clients" within the meaning of the Corporations Act 2001 of Australia. Any advice given by Edison AU is general advice only and does not take into account your personal circumstances, needs or objectives. You should, before acting on this advice, consider the appropriateness of the advice, having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs. If our advice relates to the acquisition, or possible acquisition, of a particular financial product you should read any relevant Product Disclosure Statement or like instrument.

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The research in this document is intended for New Zealand resident professional financial advisers or brokers (for use in their roles as financial advisers or brokers) and habitual investors who are “wholesale clients” for the purpose of the Financial Advisers Act 2008 (FAA) (as described in sections 5(c) (1)(a), (b) and (c) of the FAA). This is not a solicitation or inducement to buy, sell, subscribe, or underwrite any securities mentioned or in the topic of this document. For the purpose of the FAA, the content of this report is of a general nature, is intended as a source of general information only and is not intended to constitute a recommendation or opinion in relation to acquiring or disposing (including refraining from acquiring or disposing) of securities. The distribution of this document is not a “personalised service” and, to the extent that it contains any financial advice, is intended only as a “class service” provided by Edison within the meaning of the FAA (i.e. without taking into account the particular financial situation or goals of any person). As such, it should not be relied upon in making an investment decision.

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United Kingdom

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Research: Healthcare

Ondine Biomedical — Steriwave initiates UK pilot study with NHS

Ondine Biomedical has announced the initiation of its first NHS pilot study for Steriwave, the company’s lead product for nasal photodisinfection. The pilot is based at the Mid Yorkshire Teaching NHS Trust and will assess the effectiveness of Ondine’s technology in preventing surgical site infections (SSIs). The study will have a duration of six months and involve 500 hip and knee surgery patients using Steriwave for nasal decolonisation prior to surgery. With hospital-associated infections (HAIs) having an annual cost of around £2.1bn for the NHS, we believe there may be a significant opportunity for Steriwave in the UK and, therefore, the outcome of this pilot could represent an important catalyst Ondine.

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