Investments  

Alliance Trust simplification 'almost complete'

Alliance Trust simplification 'almost complete'

Alliance Trust has said the simplification of its business is "almost complete" as the £2.4bn trust underperformed its benchmark during 2018.

The trust's equity portfolio lost 4.2 per cent last year, while its benchmark, the MSCI All Country World Index, lost 3.3 per cent.

But Alliance Trust highlighted that since it moved to a new investment approach in April 2017, with several external managers each running a part of the portfolio, the trust's performance was ahead of its benchmark, returning 5.1 per cent while the MSCI ACWI returned 4.1 per cent.

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Lord Smith of Kelvin, Alliance Trust's chairman, said the final part of the company's simplification - the sale of Alliance Trust Savings to Interactive Investor - was still a work in progress and was subject to regulatory approval.

He said: "Our strategy of appointing a number of managers with different styles and approaches to select their best stocks means we will never have a very concentrated exposure to one segment of the market.

"By investing more broadly across companies, countries and sectors, we should avoid the short-term performance highs and lows driven by particular market factors.

"The rationalisation of our holdings will enable us to focus on global equities which at year-end represented over 97 per cent of our assets. We are clear on the direction of the trust and that it will continue to prove a wise choice as a core investment for the long term."

Willis Towers Watson was appointed to manage the trust in April 2017.

Previously the investment portfolio had been run in-house, but after a period of underperformance the activist investment firm Elliot Investors took a substantial shareholding and the management changed. Elliot's shareholding has since been sold.

The trust also increased its total ordinary dividend for 2018 by 3 per cent to 13.55p, marking the 52nd consecutive annual dividend increase.

Alliance Trust said it is expecting the remaining "non-core" parts of its business to be sold this year.

These include North American mineral rights valued at £12.9m and an agreement has been entered into to sell half of these, with further sales expected during 2019.

damian.fantato@ft.com