Gavin was a founder of Kagiso Asset Management in 2001 and has headed up the investment team since inception. He also serves as executive director. Previously he was an investment analyst with Coronation Fund Managers.Kagiso Asset ManagementKagiso Asset Management was established in 2001 as a (51%:49%) joint venture between the Kagiso Group and Coronation Fund Managers. In 2005 Coronation Fund Managers exited our business and Kagiso Asset Management and staff bought 30%. Independent administration and infrastructure was installed in 2006 and full operational independence from Coronation was established.On 1 October 2010, Kagiso launched its own unit trust management company, Kagiso Collective Investments Limited. Kagiso Collective Investments Limited is a subsidiary of Kagiso Asset Management. The Kagiso unit trust range is offered by Kagiso Collective Investments Limited.In 2011, management and staff increased their shareholding in Kagiso Asset Management to 49.9%.
Kagiso Equity Alpha Fund comment - Dec 2020
The fund was up 17.4% this quarter, meaningfully outperforming other general equity funds (up 9.7% on average) and is up 3.5% over 1 year (outperforming the 2.2% competitor average). This followed a very sharp fall in the first quarter amid the market crash as the unexpected COVID-19 crisis stalled economic activity across the world. The fund has returned 6.8% pa over the last three years, ahead of the peer group average (up 0.1% pa). Over the last ten years, the fund has returned 9.2% pa and is ranked second since inception in 2004, having delivered 15.6% pa over that time.
After falling further than the general market in the market crash of last year, mid-cap stocks have generally lagged larger, liquid stocks in the sharp subsequent recovery. Many of these stocks are still trading in thin volumes and at very depressed prices, amid high uncertainty regarding the lasting damage they are suffering from the current crisis. More realistic market prices are likely to emerge as these companies report results and reaffirm their prospects, which should boost fund performance given the relatively high weighting in such stocks.
A severe COVID-19 resurgence has necessitated renewed partial lockdowns across the world, which is delaying economic recovery. The successful development of vaccines has shielded the world from more negative global health and economic scenarios, but the timing of the economic recovery in different regions and the extent of further scarring (particularly in services sectors like leisure and tourism) depends critically on the effectiveness of the vaccine rollout. In addition, the immense increase in global government debt due to aggressive fiscal stimulus will retard future, long-term growth. On the whole, uncertainty remains very high.
Positively, the global economy entered the crisis in a strong position, with healthy consumer dynamics in most developed markets and a moderating, but still strongly growing, Chinese economy. Developed market consumer and corporate health appears to have been largely preserved through extensive fiscal and monetary support. Consumer indications (discretionary retail sales, vehicle purchases and housing activity) have fared better than initially expected and increased cumulative savings (from less spend under lockdowns) bodes well for future consumption under more normal conditions. Nevertheless, economic conditions will be put to the test only when fiscal support and monetary stimulus tapers off and the reality of permanent job losses manifests.
Following a rapid resumption of economic activity back to pre-crisis levels, the Chinese economy is now growing strongly. This is largely due to the successful early containment of the pandemic, government stimulus (which boosted infrastructure investment in particular) and surprisingly strong exports and manufacturing (buoyed by temporary COVID-19 related goods demand) - despite weak consumer confidence and spending. However, pre-crisis risks remain: a disruptive moderation and rebalancing of economic growth (away from fixed asset investments and towards consumption) and potential further deterioration in geopolitical relations.
The local economy is being negatively impacted by the strong resurgence of COVID-19 and will require an effective vaccine rollout to resume its recovery. The economy shows signs of permanent damage (scarring) from years of mismanagement (particularly, a very depressed labour market, unstable electricity supply and chronically low business confidence and investment) and the combined restrictions of the lockdowns. While economic revival plans are well articulated, they still rely too heavily on policy implementation from weakened state institutions and do not draw sufficiently from private sector cooperation. Economic prospects, under more normal medium-term conditions (household consumption in particular), have weakened substantially from before the crisis. It is clear that our post-crisis economic recovery will take meaningfully longer than the rest of the world due to the inherent structural weaknesses of the South African economy, with increased risk due to unsustainably high sovereign debt.
Positively, high commodity prices (in particular platinum group metals and iron ore) are significantly supporting economic outcomes and the agricultural sector is having a few good seasons.
The medium-term outlook for emerging economies is extremely varied at present, with differing exposures to volatile energy prices (importers vs exporters), the decimated tourism industry and differing impacts from the management of the pandemic and efficacy of vaccine rollouts.
Global markets were strong again this quarter (up 14.1% in US dollars), with Japan up 21.2%, France up 20.7% and the UK up 17.2%. Within emerging markets (up 19.8% in dollar terms), South Korea (up 35.0%) and Brazil (up 36.6%) outperformed. 2020 has been a very strong year for global equity markets (up 16.5% overall).
In rand terms, the local equity market was up 9.8% this quarter, with mid-caps (up 13.7% for the quarter versus large-caps up 8.9%) still significantly underperforming this year (down 14.2% for the year versus large-caps up 10.0%). Financials outperformed (up 20.1%), with listed property (up 22.2%) and banks (up 25.8%) outperforming life insurance (up 14.1%). Fortress B (up 100.7%), Redefine (up 27.2%), Capitec (up 38.1%) and Absa (up 34.2%) outperformed, while Momentum (up 1.7%), Fortress A (up 4.6%) and Santam (up 4.8%) underperformed.
Within the resources sector (up 7.9%), PGM miners (up 29.1%) outperformed, while gold miners (down 24.8%) lagged. Standout performers included Impala Platinum (up 38.8%) and African Rainbow Minerals (up 35.4%).
Industrials (up 6.8%) lagged - primarily due to heavyweights Naspers (up 2.2%) and British American Tobacco (down 6.0%). Standout positive performers included Barloworld (up 48.2%) and MultiChoice (up 38.3%). Retailers were again mixed, with Mr. Price (up 30.9%) and The Foschini Group (up 24.8%) outperforming, while Shoprite (up 2.5%) and Spar (up 3.4%) underperformed. The hospital sector underperformed, with Mediclinic and Netcare down 7.4% and 3.3% respectively.
The local market was positive for the year (up 7.0%), with divergent sectoral performances. Resources were up 21.1%, industrials were up 14.3%, but financials underperformed (down 14.2%).
Governments in developed countries responded to the health care crisis and the resultant pausing of large parts of their economies with aggressive fiscal stimulus packages. Together with a dramatic easing of monetary policy (rate cuts, increased quantitative easing and other unconventional measures), this has tempered economic scarring from the COVID-19 crisis. The interventions, which are being sustained into the recovery phase, are providing a powerful buffer for financial markets and have led to dramatic increases in general asset prices. We expect increased volatility when fiscal stimulus inevitably wanes, if inflation emerges at last and when interest rates rise from their extremely low levels.
Fund performance and positioning
Material contributors this quarter included Omnia, Altron, our PGM miner holdings (Northam Platinum and Anglo Platinum), Anglo American and Adcorp Holdings. Detractors (there were not many) included Libstar and Master Drilling.
Our global equity holdings contributed positively to performance, with standouts being Aroundtown, Bodycote, Timken, Spire Healthcare and Prudential plc. Detractors included Bayer, Inpex and Ontex.
We believe that companies with stronger balance sheets, better business models and flexible, more adaptable management teams will outperform - especially in the weaker economy in the years ahead. We are maintaining exposure to such companies, at the right price.
Our portfolios contain a diverse selection of local mid-cap holdings offering very attractive upside.
Following a change of management in 2015, Afrox adopted a new strategy that focused on resetting the cost base and shifting capital spend towards building capacity for its growth markets. Management has executed this strategy well - delivering a 14% per annum growth in earnings over the last five years. The company has excellent financial metrics with high margins, good cash conversion and consistent high returns on capital. Furthermore, Afrox has many underappreciated fundamental strengths, several material near-term growth opportunities and significant pricing power, which should support near-term earnings amid continued economic uncertainty. The Linde Group, who are aware of these attractions, recently made an attractive offer for all Afrox shares it doesn’t currently own. Our clients benefitted materially from this value unlocking transaction this quarter.
Within equities, we maintain our high exposure to low-cost, growing PGM miners. We expect an acute shortage in PGM metals when global economic activity normalizes, due to structural supply impediments, demand from tightened emission regulations, increased jewellery demand and a rapidly growing hydrogen energy sector. Current share prices offer extremely attractive near-term free cash flow yields, even if commodity prices were much lower.
We maintain a very high weighting in Naspers, where the group balance sheet is strong and the underlying exposure to online Chinese economic activity (via Tencent) has a bright, long-term future. The company is thriving in the current crisis, as evidenced by recent results.
The fund aims to be fully invested in equities on a consistent basis, with limited application of asset allocation between equities and cash. The fund utilises the best ideas from the Kagiso Asset Management investment research process, emanating from detailed fundamental research into company intrinsic valuations and leading-edge statistical research. Active portfolio management is incorporated in search of an optimal risk/reward balance and consistent positive alpha.
The fund aims to consistently be in the top quartile of the SA Equity General Funds category.