Abrdn private equity fund tops £1bn in record year

Alan Gauld

Standard Life Private Equity Trust plc — soon to be renamed Abrdn Private Equity Opportunities Trust plc — has reported a record annual share price and net asset value (NAV) performance for the year to September 30, 2021.

Net assets of the listed fund exceeded £1 billion for the first time, closing at £1.036 billion, up from £770.3 million a year earlier.

Net asset value per share total return for the year was 37.9% and the share price total return was 60.6%, exceeding the 27.9% total return from the fund’s comparator index the FTSE All-Share Index.

Shares of the trust rose about 4% on Thursday to £5.40 to give the closed-end fund a stock market value of about £830 million. The trust’s share price has risen 40% over the past 12 months.

Standard Life Private Equity Trust investment manager Alan Gauld wrote: “SLPET turned 20 years old during 2021 and marked this milestone with the strongest annual performance in its history.

“It delivered NAV Total Return of 37.9% during the year, ahead of the previous high of 36.9%.

“We believe this shows the value in the company’s conviction approach, backing a relatively small group of differentiated private equity managers who can thrive in different market conditions.

“Furthermore, SLPET’s strategic exposure to more resilient sectors, namely Technology, Healthcare and Consumer Staples, positioned the company well throughout the global pandemic, with these sectors helping to drive performance.

“On a combined basis these sectors now equate to more than 50% of the portfolio as at 30 September 2021.

“A number of full exits and IPOs have underpinned the uplifts in valuation during the year.

“Notable exits include Colisee (Nordic-based care services), Questel (provider of IP information and management software) and Itiviti (electronic trading software).

“Prominent IPOs in the portfolio include Moonpig (UK-based online gifting business), Dr Martens (leading consumer footwear brand), Nordnet (Nordic savings and investments platform) and Inpost (self-service lockers for ecommerce consumers).

“On the new investment side, we have seen a number of interesting new underlying companies enter the portfolio, with a strong bias toward Healthcare and Technology.

“We are particularly pleased with co-investment activity, with ten new co-investments closed during the year ended 30 September 2021.

“The company also committed to eight new primary funds during the 12 month period.

“These funds helped to increase the company’s exposure to the lower mid-market, growth capital and sector specialist strategies.

“Lastly, two secondary transactions were completed, one being an opportunistic purchase of two funds focused on the German buyout market and the other comprising a large, diversified portfolio of funds with exposures across North American and European funds and assets.

“In terms of cashflows, the aforementioned exit and IPO activity has helped drive strong distribution activity.

“Total distributions received for the year ended 30 September 2021 were £198.7 million, which is the highest amount that SLPET has ever received in a single year.

“This strong exit activity is continuing the trend in the prior financial year, which itself was the third highest annual total since inception (£140.7 million).

“As a result, the balance sheet is in a robust position with £29.7 million of cash and an undrawn £200.0 million revolving credit facility providing the company with ample firepower for new investments in the months and years ahead.”