2015 in review: 3i Infrastructure and Mercantile lead way for trust tips

3i Infrastructure

It was not easy to make money over the 12 months to 1 December, with the FTSE All-Share index barely holding its own over the period and the MSCI World index only 4 per cent ahead.

To perform well, trusts needed to avoid the weaker parts of the market, venture down the market capitalisation spectrum, or focus on specialist areas enjoying a strong run.

Happily, a number of the trusts selected in January 2015 by our panel of experts did just that. The tips focus on a range of investment targets, from immediate income to speculative growth.

Meanwhile, you can also find out how our experts' investment fund tips performed over the course of 2015.

INCOME TRUSTS: WINNERS AND LOSERS

In the immediate income category 3i Infrastructure performed exceptionally well, thanks largely to the January sale of its very substantial stake in Eversholt Rail at a 57 per cent uplift to its carrying value.

Investment trust tips 2015Selected for us by Andrew McHattie of the eponymous McHattie Group, it paid out a special dividend of 17p in July in addition to regular dividends of 7p. Infrastructure trust INPP looked pedestrian in comparison, but fulfilled its commitment to raise dividends by 2.5 per cent a year.

The only selection to beat 3i Infrastructure over the full 12 months was Mercantile Investment Trust, which was the star of the balanced income category.

Chosen by John Newlands of Brewin Dolphin, it is the giant of the UK mid-cap sector, and has seen a welcome return to form since Guy Anderson joined its management team three years ago.

Mercantile's net asset value (NAV) total return was well ahead of the 14.2 per cent gain in the FTSE mid cap index, which has been one of the most rewarding parts of the UK stock market for the past decade or more.

Neither of the other selections did well, with McHattie's selection of JPMorgan Global Convertible Income proving particularly disappointing despite its managers' claim that rising convertible issuance was providing attractive investment opportunities.

Henderson Global Trust, which John Newlands nominated for growing income, has not performed as strongly as hoped since Wouter Volckaert became manager in February 2014, despite having over half its assets in US companies.

Happily, Troy Income & Growth, selected by Jean Matterson of Rossie House Investment Management, was one of the stronger performers in the UK growth & income sector, pulling well ahead of the both the FTSE All-Share and the FTSE 350 High Yield indices.

Francis Brooke has been lead manager since August 2009 and his cautious approach worked well last year.

Mark Barnett, who has managed Perpetual Income & Growth (PIGIT) since 1999, has also been wary about the investment outlook for some time, but has nonetheless produced consistently above-average capital and income growth, with total dividends up 3.6 per cent in 2015.

PIGIT was nominated for this category by Peter Hewitt of F&C Asset Management.

GROWTH TRUSTS: WINNERS AND LOSERS

Hewitt's selection of Finsbury Growth & Income took the honours in the solid growth category, followed by PIGIT, nominated here by Tim Cockerill of Rowan Dartington.

Nick Train, who manages the former, has achieved exceptionally successful 10-year returns from a concentrated portfolio of 25 long-term holdings.

Monks Investment Trust, which was nominated by Cockerill, was rerated following a welcome change in management in March, while Caledonia Investments, nominated by Matterson, performed in line with the MSCI World index.

The higher risk growth category offered the biggest gains, with Cockerill's selection of Fidelity China Special Situations achieving a 33.9 per cent gain before the midsummer rout in Chinese shares.

Biotech Growth, which was selected by Peter Hewitt, soared 27.4 per cent, before both its NAV and its rating were undermined by fears that biotech shares had become overvalued.

However, its NAV is still usefully ahead over 12 months, and the wider discount arguably presents a buying opportunity.

Strategic Equity Capital, which has a concentrated portfolio of very small growth companies, was 27.9 per cent up at its peak during the year, and 18 per cent ahead at the year end. This made it the third-best performer overall, and another successful tip for Jean Matterson.

The biggest failure in the higher-risk sector was Artemis Alpha, which suffered another disappointing year. It was nominated by McHattie, who arguably made up for it by making Biotech Growth his speculative growth selection, where it proved much the best performer.

Hansa Trust has not yet responded as Jean Matterson hoped to management changes, Dunedin Enterprise had a disappointingly dull year for Newland, and JPMorgan Russian Securities, nominated by Cockerill, was clobbered by Russia's continuing interference in Ukraine as well as ongoing weakness in commodity prices.


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