EquitiesMay 28 2013

Don’t write me off, says Neptune’s Rob Burnett

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Neptune’s Rob Burnett has urged investors not to write him off in a bullish defence of his £668.6m European Opportunities fund, after it was dismissed as a ‘sell’ in a critical broker note last week.

The manager told Investment Adviser, “I would encourage investors to buy as I am very confident”, adding that he was “personally buying the fund now”.

The remarks come after Bestinvest research slapped the fund with the firm’s one-star rating, saying the manager had “struggled to adapt” to the changing market environment and the fund was characterised by “significant drawdowns”.

The fund gained 6.9 per cent in the past five years versus an IMA Europe excluding UK sector average gain of 15.5 per cent, according to FE Analytics.

Mr Burnett said: “We were quite negative on the European sovereign crisis from 2009, through to 2010 and into 2011 which is why we beat the index in those years.

“The one thing that helped us in those years was off-benchmark positions in the US, but these hindered us last year. We don’t hold these now.

“By the end of this year we will be ahead of the index and 2012 will have been just one bad year in a few reasonably good ones.”

He said in the current European equity market he believed that eurozone banks were offering a “once-in-a-decade opportunity”.

“The window will be open for a little while but it will shut soon,” he said.

“When you get to a turning point you get shake-outs, such as with the flare up in Cyprus, but that is designed to make people nervous and make them change what is the right fundamental decision.

“It makes it tough to stick to your guns but it will play out and we will have a good year. I would encourage investors to buy as I am very confident.”

The manager added that investors should view European Opportunities as a recovery fund, as he said he was ploughing his own cash into the product.

Mr Burnett said his 2012 performance had “done a lot of the damage” to his long-term performance figures, which put him in the bottom quartile of the IMA Europe excluding UK sector in one, three and five years.

“The core of what we are doing is good but we held on to positions in the S&P 500 for longer than we should have done but we don’t have those now,” he added.

Bestinvest’s research note was highly critical, recommending BlackRock’s Alister Hibbert as an alternative.