Monk's Plowden backs emerging markets over US

Monk's Plowden backs emerging markets over US

Charles Plowden, who runs the £1.6bn Monks Investment Trust, has said over-optimistic valuations have prompted him to cut back on his US investments.

Instead he has been buying emerging market shares.

The comments are contained in the half-year results statement for the trust.

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In the six months to 31 October, the trust returned 13.6 per cent in net asset value (NAV) terms, compared with just over 7 per cent for the average trust in the AIC Global sector in the same time period.

For the year to 28 November, the trust has returned 43 per cent, compared with 26 per cent for the average trust in the sector.

Mr Plowden said he reduced the weightings of a number of our US exposed cyclical companies.

These included Martin Marietta (construction aggregates and cement), Lincoln Electric (welding equipment and consumables), CarMax (second hand autos) and TD Ameritrade (online broking).

"Whilst the managers remain upbeat on US economic expansion, they feel that in some cases share prices are now more fully reflective of their own optimism for these businesses,” the update stated.

The fund manager also reduced his holding in Amazon for the same reason.

Emerging market equities are now 21 per cent of the capital of the trust.

Mr Plowden said the growth prospects of the Asian economies are key to the reasons for his increased emerging market exposure.

The fund manager said over the past six months there were additions to two Indian financial holdings, ICICI Bank and HDFC.

After visiting Brazil earlier in the year, the managers also took a holding in Banco Bradesco, one of the leading private sector banks.

Elsewhere, they purchased the Chinese online company which specialises in classified advertising for small businesses and individuals.

The trust also added to its holdings in AP Moller-Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping company, on the grounds it "should benefit from a rebound in trade originating in emerging markets, as well as better industry capital discipline".

"After a period of weak demand container shipping scrappage rates are at all time highs and the returns on the vessels that remain should rise in the medium term," the update noted.

During the six months covered by these results, the management fee for the trust fell. The first £750m of assets continue to carry a fee of 0.45 per cent, with the remainder of capital carrying a fee of 0.35 per cent.

The trust trades at a premium to net assets of 2.9 per cent.

Tony Yousefian, adviser at Probus Financial and consultant for research house Fund Calibre, said: "The managers have only been in situ since March 2015, so not enough of a track record for us to consider for Fundcalibre yet (min 3 years required), but it looks as though they have done a pretty good job so far. 

"The managers have produced excellent outperformance of the sector over the last 2 years, with plenty of alpha - only slight underperformance in 2015 (taking beta into account) but in absolute terms outperforming sector average."