Weak pound lifts Baillie Gifford flagship fund

Tom Slater (left) & James Anderson (middle) are the fund managers of Scottish Mortgage, while John Scott is chairman

Baillie Gifford’s flagship £4.7 billion equity closed-end fund — the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust — said both its net asset value (NAV) and share price rose 25% on a total return basis in the six months to September 30, compared to the 18% rise in the FTSE All World Index over the same period.

“All three of these figures were favourably influenced by the falls in the pound against other currencies over the period, raising the sterling value of overseas assets,” said Scottish Mortgage chairman John Scott.

“The managers reiterate previous comments that six months is too short a period over which to judge the investment approach taken and that the long term performance figures are more representative of the success or otherwise of the strategy.

“Over the last five years, the total return for the NAV was 165%, and 183% for the share price. The total return from the Index was 105% over the same period.”

About 48.7% of the Edinburgh-based fund’s investments were in North America at September 30, 24.2% in mainland Europe and 21.8% in Asia. Only 4.4% of the fund’s investments were in the UK.

It’s 10 biggest investments were: Amazon.com, biotechnology equipment firm Illumina, clothing retailer Inditex, internet services firm Tencent Holdings, online retailer Alibaba Group, seach engine Baidu, Tesla Motors, Facebook, Alphabet and travel agent Ctrip.com.

Scottish Mortgage, managed by James Anderson and Tom Slater, said it remains the largest conventional investment trust listed on the London Stock Exchange.

At September 30, the fund had investments in 67 companies, with the 30 largest holdings accounting for 83% of the fund’s assets.

Earnings per share were 0.80p over the six months to September 30, 2016, compared with 1.23p for the same period last year — a fall of 35%.

“This is a continuation of the trend of lower earnings, which has been highlighted repeatedly in the company’s reports in recent years,” said Scott.

“The fall is due to the large number of companies in the portfolio reinvesting for their future growth, rather than paying out cash to shareholders.

“As growth investors, disciplined long term focused capital allocation is precisely what the managers seek in a company.

“The board and the managers believe that it is important to approach investment from a total return perspective over a period of at least five years.

“Whilst anticipating that capital appreciation will be the foremost reason for shareholders’ investment in Scottish Mortgage, the board is nevertheless conscious that many shareholders also value the dividends paid, which have grown consistently, if slowly, over a long period.

“The intention remains to continue with the stated dividend policy, as set out in the chairman’s statement in the 2016 Annual Report.

“To this end, a modestly increased interim dividend of 1.39p per share will be paid, representing a rise of 0.7% over the previous year’s figure of 1.38p.”