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Black Rock investment trust

Blackrock Smaller Companies Trust NAV per share rose by 5.3% in August

Blackrock Smaller Companies Trust plc (LON:BRSC) has provided the following portfolio update:

All information is at 31 August 2020 and unaudited.
Performance at month end is calculated on a capital only basis

One month
%
Three months
%
One
 year
%
Three
 years
%
Five
 years
%
Net asset value*5.34.9-1.90.339.5
Share price*0.8-4.2-12.8-0.832.9
Numis ex Inv Companies + AIM Index6.19.3-2.3-12.57.6

*performance calculations based on a capital only NAV with debt at par, without income reinvested. Share price performance calculations exclude income reinvestment.

Sources:  BlackRock and Datastream

At month end
Net asset value Capital only (debt at par value):1,431.48p
Net asset value Capital only (debt at fair value):1,414.47p
Net asset value incl. Income (debt at par value)1:1,436.09p
Net asset value incl. Income (debt at fair value)1:1,419.08p
Share price1,230.00p
Discount to Cum Income NAV (debt at par value):14.4%
Discount to Cum Income NAV (debt at fair value):13.3%
Net yield2:2.6%
Gross assets3:£770.8m
Gearing range as a % of net assets:0-15%
Net gearing including income (debt at par):4.1%
Ongoing charges ratio4:0.7%
Ordinary shares in issue5:48,829,792
  1. Includes net revenue of 4.61p.
  2. Yield calculations are based on dividends announced in the last 12 months as at the date of release of this announcement, and comprise the first interim dividend of 12.80 pence per share (announced on 5 November 2019, ex-dividend on 14 November 2019) and the second interim dividend of 19.70 pence per share (announced on 3 June 2020, ex-dividend on 11 June 2020).
  3. includes current year revenue.
  4. As reported in the Annual Financial Report for the year ended 29 February 2020 the Ongoing Charges Ratio (OCR) was 0.7%. The OCR is calculated as a percentage of net assets and using operating expenses, excluding performance fees, finance costs and taxation.
  5. excludes 1,163,731 shares held in treasury.
Sector Weightings% of portfolio
Industrials28.3
Financials20.6
Consumer Services16.5
Consumer Goods10.8
Technology9.0
Basic Materials5.5
Health Care5.1
Oil & Gas1.9
Materials1.2
Telecommunications1.1
—–
Total100.0
=====
Country Weightings% of portfolio
United Kingdom98.0
United States0.9
Singapore0.6
Ireland0.5
—–
Total100.0
=====

Ten Largest Equity Investments

Company% of portfolio
YouGov2.9
Avon Rubber2.1
Breedon2.0
IntegraFin1.9
Games Workshop1.8
Impax Asset Management1.8
Watches of Switzerland1.7
Treatt1.7
Stock Spirits Group1.6
Pets at Home1.6

Commenting on the markets, Roland Arnold, representing the Investment Manager noted:

During August the Company’s NAV per share rose by 5.3%1 to 1,431.48p, underperforming our benchmark index which returned 6.1%1; for comparison the FTSE 100 Index rose by just 1.1%1 (all calculations are on a capital only basis).

Markets around the world rose during August as expectations for further US fiscal stimulus, improving US/China trade developments and hopes for a COVID-19 vaccine helped drive investor risk appetite. Despite flare-ups of virus cases throughout Europe, and high levels of cases in a number of US states, economic activity across the globe has shown signs of improving. However, the re-imposed lockdowns in various countries, including Spain, Italy and Greece serve as a reminder that the situation remains highly vulnerable to setbacks if cases of the virus are not contained. Dollar weakness during the month resulted in small & mid-cap companies outperforming large cap companies as a result of the currency’s impact on overseas earners.

Despite some positive updates from a number of our core holdings, the portfolio failed to keep pace with the market rally during the month. While we can attribute some of this relative underperformance to company specifics, we would also highlight a number of benchmark positions that we do not own which saw their shares perform very strongly during the month to help drive the benchmark higher, for example William Hill and Plus500. The largest stock specific detractor came from our holding in Serco. Despite reporting strong profit growth in the first half of the year, Serco fell in response to a more cautious outlook where the company reminded investors that uncertainty in its business is likely to persist well into 2021. 4imprint, a long-term core holding in the portfolio, fell after the company reported a 99% fall in profits in the first half of the year as COVID-19 had resulted in a collapse in customer demand. This is a business that has been a strong contributor to relative performance over a number of years, having consistently delivered strong revenue growth through taking share in its highly fragmented end markets. While there remain challenges to the business as a result of COVID-19 uncertainties, we remain confident that the company’s leading market position and flexible, capital light business model will ensure that the business will successfully navigate the current environment and emerge from the pandemic in a stronger position relative to its peers.

The largest positive contributor was YouGov, the research and data analytics business. The shares have been strong since the company provided a positive trading update at the end of July, which confirmed continued growth in profits and revenues despite ongoing economic uncertainty. Shares in luxury watch retailer, Watches of Switzerland rallied in response to a strong trading update, with revenue growth ahead of management’s expectations, resulting in broker upgrades. Pre-lockdown trading was extremely strong; however, the company’s ability to adapt to the challenges brought on by COVID-19 ensured that ecommerce channels also experienced a strong uplift in sales since retail stores closed. Shares in cell-based therapy developer, Maxcyte, rose in response the announced extension of a cancer treatment trial following encouraging preliminary results in May.

The current environment continues to present a number of challenges as the outlook remains highly uncertain and investors are inconsistent on how they are pricing coronavirus risks. The smaller end of the market remains very narrow and, in our opinion, continues to inconsistently value risk. This can be seen in valuations of the winners which have continued to stretch, while the losers compress. This has also been evident in a number of cases where share prices have become completely detached from fundamentals, and we can point to a number of examples where investment cases are playing out, but the share price is telling a different story.  This disconnect certainly cannot last forever. We must all remind ourselves that in the short-term share prices are driven by supply and demand (investor sentiment), however, in the long-term it is company earnings that will drive share prices.

We therefore remain confident in our strategy on a medium-term view. Market volatility presents us with a fantastic investment opportunity. The Company’s investment strategy is focussed on quality growth investments in smaller companies, a style that has demonstrably worked for the long-term, and historically periods of sudden underperformance, such as this, have proven to be excellent investment opportunities.

1Source: BlackRock as at 31 August 2020

16 September 2020

To learn more about the BlackRock Smaller Companies Trust plc please follow this link: blackrock.com/uk/brsc

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Disclaimer: Statements in this article should not be considered investment advice, which is best sought directly from a qualified professional.