Christopher Vellacott http://blogs.reuters.com/christopher-vellacott Christopher Vellacott's Profile Fri, 09 Sep 2011 10:24:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.5 Equity fund slump spreads to Germany in August http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/09/lipper-story-idUSL5E7K837A20110909?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11563 http://blogs.reuters.com/christopher-vellacott/2011/09/09/equity-fund-slump-spreads-to-germany-in-august/#comments Fri, 09 Sep 2011 10:24:07 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/christopher-vellacott/2011/09/09/equity-fund-slump-spreads-to-germany-in-august/ LONDON, Sept 9 (Reuters) –
A sharp sell-off in European equities last month extended to
funds invested in Germany, the continent’s economic powerhouse
and often seen as a relative safe haven, with German funds
propping up the bottom of the table, Lipper data showed.

Worries Germany may have to pick up the tab for the euro
zone debt crisis, alongside selling of the country’s many
cyclical stocks, meant three of the 10 worst-performers were
German funds, according to the data, which tracks 3,000-plus
equity funds registered for sale in Britain.

Jyske Invest’s German Equities fund fell 19.66 percent,
while the MainFirst — Germany Fund dropped 18.85 and Fidelity
Funds — Germany lost 18.22 percent.

Reflecting the broad nature of the slump in European stock
markets in August, the two worst performers were the RBC Global
Continental Europe fund, down 22.40 percent, and GLG’s UK Select
Equity Fund, narrowly ahead with a 22.23 percent drop.

“Car companies, chemical companies and finance. That is
basically the German market and if you look at the sector
returns they will be the worst sectors in August. So, the market
is hurting a bit because of that,” Per Kongsgaard, manager of
the Jyske Invest fund, told Reuters.

“If there is continued trouble in southern Europe,
eventually the bill will go to Germany… and (it) will have to
make cutbacks,” Kongsgaard said.

The DAX FDXc1 has dropped around 24 percent in 2011, in
line with a 25 percent drop in the pan-European Euro STOXX 50
STXEc1.

While funds invested in southern Europe have been hit hard
for much of 2011 as the region grapples with a debt crisis,
public spending cuts and anaemic growth, some European managers
had hoped their portfolios would benefit from exposure to the
perceived safety of northern Europe.

German exporters who sell to Asia are often viewed as
companies with less to lose from Europe’s debt crisis.

Oliver Maslowski, portfolio manager for the Julius Baer EF
German Value Fund, which fell 16.11 percent in August, said the
sell-off in German stocks was overdone and company earnings
revisions had so far been small.

“People drew the conclusion that this situation looks
exactly like 2008 … We are pricing in a recession scenario but
up until now most of the companies I talk to do not see such a
scenario,” he said, adding no investors redeemed money from his
funds in August.

“If you believe in the Asian growth story but do not want
direct exposure to the Asian markets you should buy Germany
because you are buying Asia with a discount.”

GOLD FUNDS BOUNCE BACK

In a tough month for most equity fund sectors, those focused
on precious metal companies stood out as strong performers as an
investor flight to safety sent the gold price to a record high.

Nine of the 10 best-performing funds in August invested in
gold and precious metal equities, according to the Lipper data.

The RBS Market Access NYSE Arca Gold BUGS Index Fund was the
biggest gainer, putting on 9.90 percent, while the Investec GSF
Global Gold fund rose 7.60 percent and BlackRock’s World Gold
Fund, run by star manager Evy Hambro, grew 7.42 percent.

(Reporting by Tommy Wilkes and Chris Vellacott; Editing by Dan
Lalor)

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Allianz separates PIMCO in asset management revamp http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/06/allianz-pimco-idUSL5E7K61UF20110906?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11563 http://blogs.reuters.com/christopher-vellacott/2011/09/06/allianz-separates-pimco-in-asset-management-revamp/#comments Tue, 06 Sep 2011 12:47:25 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/christopher-vellacott/2011/09/06/allianz-separates-pimco-in-asset-management-revamp/ FRANKFURT/LONDON, Sept 6 (Reuters) – German insurer Allianz
has reorganised its 1.4 trillion euro ($2 trillion)
asset management arm, a move seen as a coup for its
PIMCO unit, which will secure greater autonomy and potentially
more lucrative terms.

Allianz said the reorganisation involves consolidation of
much of its asset management operations as Allianz Global
Investors, while PIMCO (Pacific Investment Management) will be
granted full control of global distribution of its products.

A spokesman at Allianz said the reshuffle was not a
precursor to spinning off PIMCO. Both divisions will sit within
a holding company called Allianz Asset Management.

“PIMCO gaining greater autonomy potentially means (it)
either pays itself more or can invest and spend more, so the
cash returns to Allianz may shrink a little,” said a
London-based financials analyst.

PIMCO is led by co-founder and co-CIO Bill Gross and Mohamed
El-Erian, who is CEO and co-CIO, overseeing $1.2 trillion in
assets.

Gross is also at the helm of the world’s largest bond fund,
the $243 billion PIMCO Total Return Fund .

Jay Ralph, the incoming head of Allianz Asset Management,
told Reuters in an interview on Monday that he expected Bill
Gross to carry on working for some time at PIMCO.

El-Erian said in a statement distributed by Allianz that the
greater independence granted to PIMCO, which the German insurer
bought 11 years ago, reflects “mutual respect” between the two.

“Entrusting us with this additional operational autonomy
reflects the strength of the relationship with Allianz and the
mutual respect that exists,” he said.

The changes follow the separation of the distribution of
PIMCO and Allianz Global Investors products, initiated last year
in the United States.

Elizabeth Corley will be chief executive of Allianz Global
Investors, while Andreas Utermann will be chief investment
officer.
($1 = 0.709 euro)

(Additional reporting by Jonathan Gould in Frankfurt; Editing
by Dan Lalor and Will Waterman)

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Hargreaves Lansdown luring funds from rivals http://uk.reuters.com/article/2011/09/01/uk-hargreaves-lansdowne-idUKLNE78000T20110901?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11708 http://blogs.reuters.com/christopher-vellacott/2011/09/01/hargreaves-lansdown-luring-funds-from-rivals/#comments Thu, 01 Sep 2011 08:37:12 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/christopher-vellacott/2011/09/01/hargreaves-lansdown-luring-funds-from-rivals/ LONDON (Reuters) – Investment firm Hargreaves Lansdown Plc attracted a surge of new business during July and August which its founder attributed to a ready supply of disgruntled clients who lost money with rivals during the summer market volatility.

The company said on Thursday that while markets had proved weak since its fiscal year-end in June, net new business inflows in July and August were up more than 30 percent on a year earlier.

“Volatility is quite good for business … I think a lot of people become very disillusioned with where they are investing,” Peter Hargreaves, co founder and the firm’s largest shareholder, said in an interview.

The company said its assets under administration expanded 41 percent to 24.6 billion pounds in the year through June, outpacing a forecast of 37 percent growth by analysts at brokerage Collins Stewart

Hargreaves Lansdown (HRGV.L: Quote, Profile, Research) shares, which had slumped to an 11-month low of 392 pence in late August, jumped 13 percent to 487-1/2 pence by 0819 GMT, also helped by a special dividend.

The stock was pummelled last month after Britain’s financial regulator had said it may clamp down on lucrative incentive payments paid to financial product distributors such as Hargreaves by fund management companies.

“We are confident that we will be able to adapt as a business to meet any regulatory requirements … There is substantial water to go under the bridge in this debate,” the company said.

Hargreaves Lansdown’s full-year revenue rose 31 percent to 207.9 million pounds, in line with a Collins Stewart forecast.

The company said it is increasing its final dividend, paying an ordinary dividend of 8.41 pence and a special dividend of 5.96 pence. The total dividend for the year, at 18.87 pence per share, is up 59 percent on 2010, Hargreaves Lansdown said.

(Reporting by Chris Vellacott)

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Investors go on defensive in August – Reuters poll http://uk.reuters.com/article/2011/08/31/uk-funds-asset-uk-idUKTRE77U2LB20110831?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11708 http://blogs.reuters.com/christopher-vellacott/2011/08/31/investors-go-on-defensive-in-august-reuters-poll/#comments Wed, 31 Aug 2011 13:10:44 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/christopher-vellacott/2011/08/31/investors-go-on-defensive-in-august-reuters-poll/ LONDON (Reuters) – Investors moved their portfolios onto a defensive footing during August’s market volatility, cutting exposure to stocks and boosting bonds and cash, a Reuters survey shows.

A monthly poll of investment managers, in which 15 took part during August, showed they cut allocations to equities by more than two percentage points on average in balanced portfolios, to 50.4 percent. The average allocation in July was 52.6 percent.

The realignment of investment portfolios benefited bonds, which saw the average allocation climb to 24.4 percent from 23.5 percent, a month earlier.

However, cash saw the biggest boost from the flight to safety in spite of worries about the damaging effects of inflation, climbing to 5.4 percent from 3.7 percent.

Investors blamed the drop in confidence on fears about how much damage will come out of the euro zone debt crisis, and “political brinkmanship” in the United States over raising its debt ceiling.

“In the short term, corporate profitability should be okay, but if the absence of confidence persists, the economic slowdown could turn into something more serious,” said Chris Paine, associate director for asset allocation at Henderson Global Investors (HGGH.L: Quote, Profile, Research).

Some respondents said the extent of macroeconomic weakness had caught markets unawares.

“While we had been expecting a ‘soft patch’ in terms of economic data during the summer months, the weakness evident in many macroeconomic releases has proven to be greater than many market participants had predicted,” said Paul Amer, investment manager at Insight Investment.

But while most respondents conceded the economic outlook has darkened, the market falls earlier this month may have gone further than the fundamentals merited, they said.

“Economic fundamentals do justify a fall in share prices, but as ever financial markets may well be pricing in too much bad news,” said Andrew Milligan, head of global strategy at Standard Life Investments (SL.L: Quote, Profile, Research).

“On balance our view is that markets had over-shot, that it was not right to price in recession although it is necessary to price in slow growth in coming years.”

Other managers argued that as well as over-reacting to the possibility of slow, or negative, economic growth, market fears of another systemic crisis akin to the fallout from Lehman Brothers collapse in 2008 were also overdone.

“The system is less highly leveraged than 2008 and expectations lower. (This) implies that markets have over- reacted to news of slower economic growth,” said David Millar, partner at Cheviot Asset Management.

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UK investors go on defensive – Reuters poll http://uk.reuters.com/article/2011/08/31/uk-poll-investors-britain-idUKLNE77U04F20110831?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11708 http://blogs.reuters.com/christopher-vellacott/2011/08/31/uk-investors-go-on-defensive-reuters-poll/#comments Wed, 31 Aug 2011 12:49:55 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/christopher-vellacott/2011/08/31/uk-investors-go-on-defensive-reuters-poll/ LONDON (Reuters) – British investors moved their portfolios onto a defensive footing during August’s market volatility, cutting exposure to stocks and boosting bonds and cash, a Reuters survey shows.

A monthly poll of investment mangers, in which 15 took part during August, showed they cut allocations to equities by more than two percentage points on average in balanced portfolios, to 50.4 percent. The average allocation in July was 52.6 percent.

The realignment of investment portfolios benefited bonds, which saw the average allocation climb to 24.4 percent from 23.5 percent, a month earlier.

However, cash saw the biggest boost from the flight to safety in spite of worries about the damaging effects of inflation, climbing to 5.4 percent from 3.7 percent.

Investors blamed the drop in confidence on fears about how much damage will come out of the euro zone debt crisis, and “political brinkmanship” in the United States over raising its debt ceiling.

“In the short term, corporate profitability should be okay, but if the absence of confidence persists, the economic slowdown could turn into something more serious,” said Chris Paine, associate director for asset allocation at Henderson Global Investors (HGGH.L: Quote, Profile, Research).

Some respondents said the extent of macroeconomic weakness had caught markets unawares.

“While we had been expecting a ‘soft patch’ in terms of economic data during the summer months, the weakness evident in many macroeconomic releases has proven to be greater than many market participants had predicted,” said Paul Amer, investment manager at Insight Investment.

But while most respondents conceded the economic outlook has darkened, the market falls earlier this month may have gone further than the fundamentals merited, they said.

“Economic fundamentals do justify a fall in share prices, but as ever financial markets may well be pricing in too much bad news,” said Andrew Milligan, head of global strategy at Standard Life Investments (SL.L: Quote, Profile, Research).

“On balance our view is that markets had over-shot, that it was not right to price in recession although it is necessary to price in slow growth in coming years.”

Other managers argued that as well as over-reacting to the possibility of slow, or negative, economic growth, market fears of another systemic crisis akin to the fallout from Lehman Brothers collapse in 2008 were also overdone.

“The system is less highly leveraged than 2008 and expectations lower. (This) implies that markets have over- reacted to news of slower economic growth,” said David Millar, partner at Cheviot Asset Management.

12:00 28Jul11 -POLL-UK investors head for home market safety

By Christopher Vellacott

LONDON, Jul 27 (Reuters) – British fund managers are heading to domestic stocks and bonds as mounting worries about sovereign debt in the euro zone and United States add to the UK’s allure as a safe haven in a volatile world, a Reuters poll shows.

A monthly survey of 14 investment managers found the average allocation in global equity portfolios to the UK increased 3 percentage points to 15.6 percent in July from a month earlier.

Allocations to the euro zone and the United States, where fears of possible defaults on creaking sovereign debt burdens have rattled markets, both fell during the month.

The average exposure to U.S. equities slid to 41.3 percent, from 42.1 percent, while euro zone allocations were at 14.9 percent, from 16.3 percent a month earlier.

Performance figures from Lipper earlier this month showed macro-economic shocks — from the euro zone debt crisis to May’s commodities sell-off — had helped lift the performance of domestically focused funds during the first half of 2011.

An annual survey published this week by British funds lobby group the IMA shows equity allocations to the UK have been declining steadily in recent years, from around 59 percent in 2006 to 42.6 percent in 2010.

Several of the managers and chief investment officers surveyed by Reuters said a recent deal to make private investors shoulder some of the burden of bailing out Greece to stop contagion is unlikely to resolve the crisis conclusively.

“Crises, packages and tactical rallies will follow — ultimately radical, comprehensive, broad scale solutions will be needed in large size,” said Andrew Milligan, head of global strategy at Standard Life Investments (SL.L: Quote, Profile, Research).

“Remain moderately light in the euro and certain peripheral bonds, buy export orientated equities, but in particular prepare portfolios for considerable future volatility.”

Shares in British companies, which aggressively cut costs in readiness for the economic downturn, have emerged as an unlikely safe haven in recent weeks on account of strong balance sheets and resilient earnings.

But UK fixed income is also popular, the poll shows, with allocations to Britain in global bond portfolios rising to 37.1 percent from 34.4 percent a month earlier.

The poll echoes sentiment on currency markets in which Britain’s growing appeal as an island of relative fiscal health in spite of a still sluggish economy has driven sterling to six week highs against the dollar.

Meanwhile, allocations in balanced portfolios by asset class remained broadly unchanged from a month earlier with average exposure to equities at 52.6 percent and bonds at 23.5 percent. Cash holdings were at 3.7 percent with 2.6 percent in property and 17.6 percent in alternative investments.

“This is not a time for the faint of heart, but bravery will be rewarded,” said Lee Robertson, Chief Executive of Investment Quorum, a wealth manager based in London.

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Crisis-weary rich held nerve in market sell-off http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/23/us-financial-investors-idUSTRE77M1V520110823?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11563 http://blogs.reuters.com/christopher-vellacott/2011/08/23/crisis-weary-rich-held-nerve-in-market-sell-off/#comments Tue, 23 Aug 2011 09:01:14 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/christopher-vellacott/2011/08/23/crisis-weary-rich-held-nerve-in-market-sell-off/ LONDON (Reuters) – Memories of the panic that engulfed the world after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 have hardened rich investors who have held their nerve and resisted the impulse to dash for cash during August’s market falls, private bankers said.

Bankers and financial advisers to clients whose wealth is measured in millions say most are sticking to their investments through the turmoil in which major stock indexes have suffered double-digit percentage drops.

Some have even started to seek opportunities to pick up assets on the cheap, in bold moves that contrast sharply with the dumping of investments that characterized the last round of financial crisis in 2008.

“While there was a lot of running around in complete panic last time, I think this time … I’ve had more buyers than sellers,” said Julian Lamden, a client partner at Coutts, the private banking arm of Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc (RBS.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), whose portfolio includes some of the bank’s richest clients.

Lamden said only one of his clients had significantly sold up — to the tune of about 5 million pounds ($8.2 million) — and headed for cash and other safe assets in the latest round of market volatility.

In contrast, he said, 2008 was a “nightmare.”

After the Lehman collapse, “every client call was a panicked call,” he said.

Most of the private bankers contacted by Reuters reported many of their clients viewing the market slump as short-lived with the most aggressive of them eager to start buying up stocks on the cheap.

“There’s been very little panic selling. There’s been more wait and see and tactically choosing when to go into the market again,” said Daniel Ellis, head of the investment team at HSBC (HSBA.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) Private Bank in the UK.

Much of the resilience reflects the fact that at least for now, the crisis remains less acute than the near systemic collapse prompted by the Lehman debacle in 2008, bankers said.

In spite of mounting concerns about the possible consequences of the eurozone’s sovereign debt problems, the banking system is better capitalized and has greater access to liquidity than at the start of the 2009 recession.

BATTLE HARDENED

“If you go back to the financial crisis of 2008/09, credit markets seized up and banks couldn’t get funding for love nor money,” said Richard Cookson, global chief investment officer at Citigroup Inc’s (C.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) private banking arm in a research note to clients.

“Not this time. It’s true that credit spreads have widened, but nothing like as much.”

Private bankers also point to a battle-hardened sentiment among their clients who recall the last crash and saw the subsequent, though gradual, recovery.

“The lessons learned in the aftermath of Lehman are sufficiently fresh that people remember even in a very poor environment (that) number one, there was a recovery, and number two, there was opportunity for the patient and the smart. That is fresh enough to cause people not to lose faith just yet,” said Johannes Jooste of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, part of Bank of America Corp (BAC.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz).

Jooste also noted many investors’ portfolios were still structured defensively, as a legacy of the last crisis, at the onset of the more recent volatility.

Clients have diversified their wealth across many asset classes, currencies and sectors since 2009 to guard against possible aftershocks and will have consequently weathered the recent rout better than the previous crash.

Before 2008, many rich investors were more exposed to certain risk assets such as equities or illiquid investments such as hedge funds and private equity vehicles, which proved complex and hard to exit.

“They are far less pervasively held than they were before. Those (investments) got people into deep trouble and they certainly helped precipitate cycles of panic selling. We’ve seen a whole lot less of that this time round,” Jooste said.

Stefanie Drews, head of the ultra high net worth client business for the UK, Europe, Africa and the Middle East at Barclays Wealth, part of Barclays Plc (BARC.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), also said the rich now had a better grasp of the different strands of the crisis than they had in the run-up to Lehman’s demise.

“The major concerns for the market — a slowdown in global growth, the European debt crises and the recent U.S. debt downgrade — are generally better understood by our client base in comparison to the issues we faced in 2008,” Drews said.

($1 = 0.608 British Pounds)

(Editing by Sinead Cruise and David Holmes)

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Super rich still making money in crisis http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/19/rich-investors-idUSL5E7JI3R920110819?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11563 http://blogs.reuters.com/christopher-vellacott/2011/08/19/super-rich-still-making-money-in-crisis/#comments Fri, 19 Aug 2011 09:13:47 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/christopher-vellacott/2011/08/19/super-rich-still-making-money-in-crisis/ LONDON, Aug 19 (Reuters) – Financial advisers to the world’s
richest people report some of their top clients have continued
to make money throughout recent market turmoil by harnessing
sophisticated investments out of reach to mainstream punters.

With equity markets plunging, most investors have suffered
losses to their pension funds and portfolios, but those able to
meet the multi-million dollar investment thresholds of private
equity and some hedge funds are coming out ahead.

“You’ve got so many investment opportunities that are open
only to very rich people,” said one London-based financial
adviser specialising in ultra rich investors.

“The super rich are doing very well. They’re getting good
advice, they’re getting access to stuff that other people don’t
have access to,” he said.

Certain investment vehicles, such as hedge funds, can thrive
at times of market stress because they are able to use risk
management tools such as derivatives and make short-selling
sales that make money when an asset price falls.

Some big name hedge funds such as Brevan Howard, Man Group’s
AHL and Winton have continued to make gains for their
investors during recent market volatility.

However, because some of the trades made by the funds can
involve higher risks, and in the case of short selling
theoretically infinite potential losses, regulators often place
them off limits to small investors.

“There seems to be a moral argument against shorting, but
from a purely practical point of view it leaves (hedge funds) in
a better position to manage volatility,” said portfolio
strategist Johannes Jooste of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management,
part of Bank of America Corp .

“It still remains the domain of the kind of client that can
write a million dollar ticket or more … From a regulatory
point of view, the industry is not allowed to put the
intermediate or the novice client into a hedge fund.”

The fact that the super rich can write cheques for millions
of dollars also means they have exclusive access to the few real
estate assets where prices are still rising, such as the central
London residential property market.

While property prices around the world drop or stagnate,
according to upmarket property consultant Savills , house
prices in the smartest areas of central London are set to be up
8 percent this year.

“London is driven by the international buyer. They are after
the trophy assets. Once you get out of the top end, it’s a
little more tricky, because people are dependent on mortgages
and borrowing,” said Philip Selway, head of the global property
wealth team at broker Knight Frank.

Selway added that a couple buying a London property earlier
this year were the first British clients he had seen for three
years.

London commercial property is also proving a popular
investment with the ultra wealthy. British private bank Coutts,
owned by Royal Bank of Scotland , plans to launch a
commercial property fund in October open only to clients worth
10 million pounds or more.

“A lot of clients like the idea of being invested in high
quality West End assets,” said Julian Lamden, a client partner
in Coutts’s private office division, which caters to the bank’s
richest clients.

Earlier this year Citigroup raised 330 million pounds
via its private bank for a commercial property fund managed by
Threadneedle, mainly from tycoons and rich families in Europe,
the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

(Editing by Sinead Cruise and Will Waterman)

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Company value creation? Could do better http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/29/us-shareholders-cash-idUSTRE76S2B920110729?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11563 http://blogs.reuters.com/christopher-vellacott/2011/07/29/company-value-creation-could-do-better/#comments Fri, 29 Jul 2011 11:26:31 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/christopher-vellacott/2011/07/29/company-value-creation-could-do-better/ LONDON (Reuters) – Long-term investors are losing patience with companies that fail to maximize value as the slowing recovery whittles away returns, with some calling for greater financial rewards for loyalty or takeovers that put growth targets back on course.

The current earnings season — expected to reveal a number of companies missing forecasts because of the still stuttering economy — could be the catalyst for more investors to demand changes that will push up the share prices in the groups they own.

Bankers say shareholder activism is a resurgent theme in Europe that will affect companies where investors perceive weak performance, acquisition or divestment opportunities, or surplus cash sitting on the balance sheet.

“Corporates have had an easy time because the rate of recovery was rapid until recently,” said Wilhelm Schulz, head of European M&A at Citigroup (C.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz).

“With the slowdown, many companies may not hit second- quarter earnings targets and there could be more pressure from shareholders to return cash or put money to work through M&A in the third and fourth quarter because (companies may) have not delivered operationally.”

Investors put up hefty cash sums for the bumper rights issues that steered European companies though the downturn, and then lost out when firms cut dividends. Some are therefore increasingly looking for signs their money will be spent well.

“I expect we’ll be having more conversations with management teams about how they intend to use cash building up on the balance sheet; what the investment opportunities are, to either expand operations or other ways to employ that cash, said Richard Black, manager of Legal & General Investment Management’s UK Equity Income fund.

“We’re not asking companies to take on significant financial risk, but at the same time, cash sitting on your balance sheet earning basically nothing, can be put to work more effectively.” he said.

Investors will be encouraged by two prominent examples of companies already returning cash on Friday.

BSkyB (BSY.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) said on Friday it will hand out 1 billion pounds to placate investors after failure of the News Corp bid NWSA.N.

Vodafone also opted to give investors 2 billion pounds ($3.3 billion) following a windfall dividend from a co-owned U.S. unit.

ACQUISITIONS

Others are going further, targeting stakes in companies they view as acquisition targets in the hope of collecting a windfall when a deal emerges.

“It’s a very good time to be owning companies you think could be potential acquisition targets,” said Alex Wright, manager of the Fidelity UK Opportunities Fund.

“Prospects for organic growth are not particularly good across the whole of Europe and the UK. If the top line growth is not that good what else can (companies) do to create value?”

Wright was a shareholder in Sportingbet, (SBT.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) which received an approach in June by bookmaker Ladbrokes (LAD.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz).

Other managers are reviewing positions in Charter International (CHTR.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), the British engineering firm fending off the attentions of industrial turnaround specialist Melrose MYN.L.

Aviva Investors took the unusual step of breaking cover this week, calling on Charter — in which it holds a 5.2 percent stake — to open its books to an 840 pence or 1.4 billion offer from Melrose.

Melrose said it might be willing to raise the offer, which Aviva described as a “compelling proposition” in a recent press report, if due diligence showed that it had undervalued its reluctant target.

Long-only investors wary of the spotlight have the option of standing behind activist funds well used to implementing attack themes in the glare of the media. While not yet back to the pre-crisis heyday — when hedge fund TCI’s attack on ABN AMRO in 2007 helped trigger the bank’s sale — investor Edward Bramson’s recent move on F&C and Elliott Advisors’ call for the sale of Actelion (ATLN.VX: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) imply growing confidence among activists.

Bramson’s vehicle Sherborne Investors (SIAGS.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz)ousted F&C Asset Management’s (FCAM.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) chairman and was backed from an early stage by Aviva Investors (AV.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), F&C’s third largest shareholder.

“Long-only investors tend to make their thoughts known to management in private. They generally don’t act as the public catalyst for change, but if they feel they are not being listened to they may get behind an activist that fulfills that role,” said Andrew Cowper, a managing director in M&A at UBS.

(Editing by Sinead Cruise)

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UK investors head for home market safety – Reuters poll http://uk.reuters.com/article/2011/07/29/uk-investors-poll-uk-idUKLNE76S03A20110729?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11708 http://blogs.reuters.com/christopher-vellacott/2011/07/29/uk-investors-head-for-home-market-safety-reuters-poll/#comments Fri, 29 Jul 2011 10:36:52 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/christopher-vellacott/2011/07/29/uk-investors-head-for-home-market-safety-reuters-poll/ LONDON (Reuters) – British fund managers are heading to domestic stocks and bonds as mounting worries about sovereign debt in the euro zone and United States add to the UK’s allure as a safe haven in a volatile world, a Reuters poll shows.

A monthly survey of 14 investment managers found the average allocation in global equity portfolios to the UK increased 3 percentage points to 15.6 percent in July from a month earlier.

Allocations to the euro zone and the United States, where fears of possible defaults on creaking sovereign debt burdens have rattled markets, both fell during the month.

The average exposure to U.S. equities slid to 41.3 percent, from 42.1 percent, while euro zone allocations were at 14.9 percent, from 16.3 percent a month earlier.

Performance figures from Lipper earlier this month showed macro-economic shocks — from the euro zone debt crisis to May’s commodities sell-off — had helped lift the performance of domestically focused funds during the first half of 2011.

An annual survey published this week by British funds lobby group the IMA shows equity allocations to the UK have been declining steadily in recent years, from around 59 percent in 2006 to 42.6 percent in 2010.

Several of the managers and chief investment officers surveyed by Reuters said a recent deal to make private investors shoulder some of the burden of bailing out Greece to stop contagion is unlikely to resolve the crisis conclusively.

“Crises, packages and tactical rallies will follow — ultimately radical, comprehensive, broad scale solutions will be needed in large size,” said Andrew Milligan, head of global strategy at Standard Life Investments (SL.L: Quote, Profile, Research).

“Remain moderately light in the euro and certain peripheral bonds, buy export orientated equities, but in particular prepare portfolios for considerable future volatility.”

Shares in British companies, which aggressively cut costs in readiness for the economic downturn, have emerged as an unlikely safe haven in recent weeks on account of strong balance sheets and resilient earnings.

But UK fixed income is also popular, the poll shows, with allocations to Britain in global bond portfolios rising to 37.1 percent from 34.4 percent a month earlier.

The poll echoes sentiment on currency markets in which Britain’s growing appeal as an island of relative fiscal health in spite of a still sluggish economy has driven sterling to six week highs against the dollar.

Meanwhile, allocations in balanced portfolios by asset class remained broadly unchanged from a month earlier with average exposure to equities at 52.6 percent and bonds at 23.5 percent. Cash holdings were at 3.7 percent with 2.6 percent in property and 17.6 percent in alternative investments.

“This is not a time for the faint of heart, but bravery will be rewarded,” said Lee Robertson, Chief Executive of Investment Quorum, a wealth manager based in London.

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St James’s Place strikes upbeat note amid turmoil http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/28/stjames-idUSL6E7IS0C820110728?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11563 http://blogs.reuters.com/christopher-vellacott/2011/07/28/st-jamess-place-strikes-upbeat-note-amid-turmoil/#comments Thu, 28 Jul 2011 08:59:10 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/christopher-vellacott/2011/07/28/st-jamess-place-strikes-upbeat-note-amid-turmoil/ LONDON, July 28 (Reuters) – British wealth manager St
James’s Place Plc unveiled a 58 percent hike in its
interim dividend on Thursday and posted a 15 percent increase in
sales during the first half of 2011 as investors continued to
buy into its fund products.

The firm struck an upbeat tone in first-half earnings that
comfortably matched market forecasts, with Chief Executive David
Bellamy saying: “Despite the continued economic and market
uncertainty, our business is in great shape.”

In an interview Bellamy told Reuters the company, which
contracts out management of its funds, would broaden its product
range by launching a new global equity fund in September and
adding three new managers.

The company’s most closely watched measure of new business
— a combination of regular and single premiums — grew to 335.6
million pounds from 292.6 milliona year earlier, St James’s
Place said.

Analysts at JP Morgan Cazenove had forecast first-half sales
up 12 percent year on year at 328 million pounds.

St James’s Place, which is majority owned by Lloyds Banking
Group , also posted a net inflow of funds of 1.7 billion
pounds, up 13 percent, leaving funds under management 8 percent
higher since the start of the year at 29.1 billion.

“(First half) results highlights that SJP is not dependent
on financial markets for growth, that operating performance
remains positive, and that it is capable of translating this
into improved cash returns for shareholders,” said Deutsche Bank
analysts in a note to clients.

St James’s Place shares were trading 1 percent lower at 0815
GMT.

(Editing by Sinead Cruise and David Holmes)

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