Nick Train has said he is not complacent about the future of his fund management firm as he acknowledged it could be facing its worst period of performance in 20 years.
All of the funds managed by Train, whose style is to focus on resilient, high quality businesses often at the expense of tech firms, have seen bottom quartile returns over the past year.
But in the half year results for the Lindsell Train Investment Trust, released today (December 7), Train said protecting the long-term value of savings, after the effects of inflation and tax, was "no trivial challenge".
“It is indeed a battle and although taking some risk in battle is unavoidable, you better not take frivolous risks or indulge in what you know is long-term losing behaviour.
“Because if you do, you run the risk of defeat.”
Train added: “I will not make flippant or complacent predictions about prospects for Lindsell Train, as we experience arguably the worst period of relative investment performance in our 20-year history.
“We assure you, we remain disciplined and serious in our efforts to invest in assets with the potential of protecting or enhancing the real, after-tax purchasing power of your savings."
He said the trust invests in three types of stocks, those “blessed with intellectual property”, such as Nintendo and PayPal, those that own brands that consumers love or trust such as Heineken and Laurent-Perrier, and “stock market proxies”, or firms that do well when the stock market does well. These are often asset managers, he said, such as Schroders.
Last month Train warned that investors' nerves are going to be tested as big technology stocks become increasingly volatile.
The Lindsell Train trust’s total return for the six months to September 30 was 5.9 per cent, lagging behind the firm’s benchmark, the MSCI World index, which saw a 10.2 per cent rise.
It has also been one of the worst performers in its sector, the AIC Global, over the past six months.
Julian Cazalet, the trust's chairman, said its underperformance was due to a lack of exposure to software and platform technology, as well as capital intensive manufacturing.
Cazalet said he would not expect the trust to invest in the latter, as it would be “contrary to its investment approach”, but said Train might see more investments in the former if opportunities arose at a "favourable entry point".
He added: “In parallel, a number of shares in the company’s portfolio that had been excellent performers in the past have not done well recently.”
These included the London Stock Exchange, Unilever, Heineken Holdings, AG Barr and Nintendo, whose shares had all fallen by 20 per cent or more from peak prices, he said.
“The investment manager believes the reasons for this weak performance to be short term, related either to disruptions caused by the pandemic or for more company specific reasons.
“Either way the concerns should unwind over time.”