Investing predominantly in small cap UK equities, Strategic Equity Capital (SEC) is not constrained by market indices and aims to maximise returns for investors over the medium term. Run by Jeff Harris and Adam Khanbhai since the start of 2017, the trust is extremely concentrated (18 stocks), focusing on undervalued growth companies.
Prior to this, Stuart Widdowson headed the team, with Jeff Harris as his deputy. Stuart ran the portfolio since 2014, but left to form a new fund management business backed by investment trust veteran Christopher Mills. During his tenure at the helm, Stuart was successful in utilising private equity techniques to invest in smaller companies, delivering returns of 40.6%, almost double that of the FTSE Small Cap (01.01.14 – 31.12.16).
2018 has brought a more challenging period for the trust, with the UK market remaining out of favour and concerns over a normalisation of monetary policy, not to mention the prospect of trade war. Since the start of the year, the trust has underperformed the benchmark by 3.4%, with NAV losses of -2.4%. Nevertheless, the managers remain optimistic and believe that the reporting from their companies and the derating of the broader UK market supports their investment theses.
Pessimism towards the UK, as well as possibly uncertainty about the new lead manager arrangements, has meant the trust has gone from trading on a premium of around 10% three years ago to a discount as wide as 20% this year. Currently, on a discount of 16.3% the trust is close to double the average discount in the UK Smaller companies sector, and is trading at the 4th widest discount of the 21 trusts in its sector.
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