Impax Environmental Markets (IEM) seeks to invest in companies which will benefit from the ever- increasing need for resource efficiency, focusing on companies which operate in the water, energy, waste management and food / agriculture sectors.
IEM’s manager, Impax Asset Management celebrated its 20-year anniversary in 2018, and IEM was launched fairly early on in the company’s history. With global populations rising, Impax was founded on the thesis that companies which help humanity achieve more with less will benefit from a long-term secular tailwind. Impax aims to “anticipate the second bounce of the ball”, and enable clients to benefit from superior earnings growth, but also a re-rating from being early into specialist small and mid-cap companies located all around the world.
IEM’s portfolio companies must have at least 50% of their revenues exposed to what the Impax team view as “environmental markets”. Current themes in the portfolio include connectivity within manufacturing processes (aka Internet of Things) and Biochemicals. Another emerging trend that is rapidly becoming mainstream is that of electric vehicles (EV). Many generalist investors aim to play this theme, but in many cases use rather “blunt” instruments – such as Tesla shares – which the Impax team view as too expensive for their valuation driven investment methodology. For Impax, this is part of a much larger electronics theme which they have been investing in for three years through electronic controls, and energy efficiency.
Impax Asset Management’s thesis is reflected in the numbers. According to Impax their “Environmental Stocks” universe have grown earnings over the past five years by 7.9% pa, compared to average earnings growth for the MSCI ACWI of 3.3% pa. Moreover, forecast 12-month earnings growth for the IEM portfolio is 11.3%, against MSCI ACWI growth of 5% (Source: IEM Factset 31st Dec 2018).
Underpinned by strong fundamentals, NAV total return performance over the last 15 years has been very strong. Within this, there have been several distinct periods of outperformance, in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
The trust currently trades on a premium of 1.2% (21st March 2019). IEM has seen a significant improvement in demand for shares, such that the board have felt able to bring in their discount target from 10% to an expectation that they will seek to maintain the share price at or close to NAV (in normal market conditions). With cash of c 2%, the current level of net gearing is 4%, according to Morningstar, reflecting the manager’s positive outlook on prospects, underpinned by their expectation of strong earnings growth from the underlying portfolio companies.