Marben's Misc Bits

Monday, Apr 02 2012 by

Well, I've finally moved into the 21st century and have started tweeting @marben100 .

Seems like a great medium for exchanging brief investment notes. However, it's not so good where things need more explanation or tweets need to be discussed... So, I've created this thread as a place to post more detail that doesn't conveniently fit into another thread - e.g. economic/political topics and brief posts on non UK companies that S'pedia can't yet support.

If anyone wants to discuss my tweets,or ask questions about them, this would be a good place to do so.

Filed Under: Investment Strategies,


The author may hold shares in this company, all opinions are his own and you should check any statements that appear factual and not rely on them before making an investment decision. The author is NOT a qualified analyst nor authorised to give investment advice. Whilst the author is a director of ShareSoc, all views expressed are entirely his own and not necessarily those of ShareSoc.

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155 Posts on this Thread show/hide all

marben100 16th Aug '13 137 of 155

As a footnote to the above, I note that Lord R has appointed his daughter, Hannah to the Board.

I guess his son, Nat (who was on the Board a few years ago), might be in the dog-house for a few years, after his disastrous foray into Bumi (LON:BUMI) :0). I am sure Nat will have learnt a few painful lessons from that adventure, which should serve him well in the future.

Good to see that Hannah is up to speed technologically, and I am now following her on twitter @jazzybaroness


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nybor 16th Aug '13 138 of 155

I'm glad to see you generally positive on RCP, Mark. For me too it is a significant holding, though by no means my largest. Yes, the NAV performance YTD has been strong. But it needed to be after a very disappointing run throughout 2011 and 2012. Likewise today's SP is barely above its September 2008 level. I have held since 2006 and my annualised return is a mere 3.8%.

RCP has rewarded those (no doubt like you) who have made good entries and exits, but for LTBH slowcoaches like me, it has barely achieved its stated aim of capital preservation. Let us hope its return to form this year can be sustained. Certainly Lord R's statement today suggests they are comfortable with their recent reading of markets, unlike some of his statements in recent years when he said fairly plainly that market conditions at the time were not for them.

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marben100 17th Aug '13 139 of 155

Hi nybor,

Likewise today's SP is barely above its September 2008 level. I have held since 2006 and my annualised return is a mere 3.8%. 

Thanks for making that point. At the end of September 2008 NAV stood at 992p, whereas it is 1,378p now. So in NAV terms, annualised return is a reasonable 6.8% + dividends. However, the SP stood at 1119p then vs just 1220p now, explaining the poor return you actually achieved.

This is an excellent illustration of why the company really should implement a more proactive discount/premium control policy. If the company issued shares when they stand at a significant premium to NAV, as they did at the end of September 2008 and bought them back when the discount is significant, as it is now, shareholder returns would much better reflect the underlying NAV performance and that NAV/share performance would be enhanced through selling shares at above intrinsic value and buying them below intrinsic value.

Unfortunately, I am unlikely to be able to attend next year's AGM and make this point in person. If you possibly can, I would recommend that you do so. Either way, I will try to make sure that another member of ShareSoc does. May also be a good idea to write to Lord R. concerning this point.


RCP has rewarded those (no doubt like you) who have made good entries and exits, but for LTBH slowcoaches like me, it has barely achieved its stated aim of capital preservation.

I have held the shares since 2002, but have traded them quite actively, depending on my view of the market and my estimate of discount to NAV. I sold out altogether early in 2008 @ 1075p and started re-entering in early 2009 @ 896p, adding some 12 tranches from 780p to 960p. I subsequently sold out again (in a series of tranches) in late 2010 with the last tranche being sold at @ 1205p, when I estimated that the shares stood at a consideable premium to NAV (which proved correct).

That premium disappeared quite rapidly and I have been rebuilding my holding since later that year, with it now standing close to a high water mark (in terms of value) again.

As you say, this absence of discount control allows those, like me, who trade the shares to take advantage of the market, effectively at the expense of LTBH holders who buy & sell at "the wrong time". I'd prefer just to LTBH myself.



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nybor 17th Aug '13 140 of 155

Thank you, Mark, for those interesting comments. Undoubtedly your approach has been the smart way to play RCP since 2006 (whereas from 2003 to 2006 and indeed from 1995 to 2000, LTBH would have been all that was needed).

If the company adopted the measures you advocate to manage the discount/premium to NAV, it might do your trading strategy a disservice!

Best regards

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nybor 17th Aug '13 140 of 155

Sorry- double post because of connectivity glitch, now deleted

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marben100 19th Aug '13 141 of 155

In reply to nybor, post #140

I'm delighted to see that the company has today announced that it did buy back some of its shares on Friday! Perhaps the Board is listening after all. The only thing is that I see that it cancelled the shares, rather than placing them in treasury. I'd prefer to see them placed in treasury so that they could be reissued if and when the shares trade at a premium to NAV again, making it cheaper for those that want to buy to do so at such times and smoothing the fluctuation in the discount/premium.



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marben100 19th Aug '13 142 of 155

Sold the initial tranche of Kentz (LON:KENZ) that I acxquired just 10 days ago, at around a 30% profit @ 590p. Disappointed that an approach has come so quickly, as I'd been hoping to build a larger position at a more opportune time. However even though there are two bidders, I do feel there is no certainty that any bid will be confirmed, so I'll leave it to the M&A arbs to see whether they can squeeze any more out in the short-term. Of course, if the bids are called off, I'd be keen to reinvest.

With a larger shareholding in Amec (LON:AMEC) , I hope/expect that they will keep to their word and not overpay to acquire Kentz.




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marben100 22nd Aug '13 143 of 155

Been a busy day, with RNSs from Premier Oil (LON:PMO), Nighthawk Energy (LON:HAWK) and HgCapital Trust (LON:HGT) .

I regard Premier's interims as "steady as she goes". Some minor disappointments but the medium term picture looks good to me (barring an oil price collapse), with plenty of new projects in the pipeline to boost production.

The "biggie" for me is HGT's report whch was more than a little disappointing, with some writedowns leading to a fall in NAV in the first half. The market had well overcooked the share price prior to the announcement and I tried to sell some of my pretty large holding early doors, but the price fell too rapidly, so at the current price level, which reflects a zero preimum/discount to NAV, I'm happy to hang on for the long-term, for the reasons explained below.

One, three and five year NAV performance has been poor, underperforming the FTSE all-share, but there has been strong outperformance at the seven and ten year levels. I suspect that recent underperformance will turn into outperformance in the coming years.

Firstly, I do not expect the reported writedowns to repeat. They are largely due to the extreme weakness of the European consumer affecting a small number of investee companies. Their other business are growing nicely and I expect profits growth to accelerate in due course, to match revenue growth ("due course" might mean 2-3 years, however).

Secondly, the trust is still very much in the "investment phase", having held a significant proportion of cash for a while. It has deployed some of that cash post- the period end and is actively pursuing further opportunities, forecasting full investment in the near future.

Thirdly, NAV should get a boost from realisations as HGT6 starts to mature.

So, all in all, I feel that the prospects for a return to outperformance are good. Nevertheless, I might consider a tactical trim, in the light of the unusually low discount and general market risks (which I tweeted about earlier today).



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marben100 27th Aug '13 144 of 155

Added back some of the  Baker Steel Resources Trust (LON:BSRT) that I trimmed at the start of the month at 60p, for 52.5p now.

Since then, BSRT's underlying investments have been improving on the back of rising copper and gold prices. I estimate the discount to NAV now at around 30%, vs 13.5% when I sold. IMO there is a strong possibility of both gains on underlying investments and a discount unwind, in due course.

BSRT released its interim results on Friday, and I have taken the new declared holdings and their current share prices into account in estimating the current NAV (73.2p). The chief listed holdings are Ivanplats (TSX:IVP), Metals Exploration (LON:MTL) and China Polymetallic (HK:2133).



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marben100 27th Aug '13 145 of 155

Some sharp price moves today offer an opportunity for a bit of rejigging of my high-yield sub-portfolio:

  • Trimmed Halfords (LON:HFD) to a pretty small holding now: seems a lot of "hope value" in the price, prospective yield not v attractive. Keeping some for monitoring pruposes.
  • Added some more Direct Line Insurance (LON:DLG) : v attractive yield at this price
  • Also added back some ICAP (LON:IAP) previously trimmed @ 400p at 367p now, with a better yield on offer.


Prior to this was rather underweight my desired size in higher yielding stocks, so today has offered an opportunity to increase my weight a bit. Still scope to add more if more attractive prices become available, or a new high-yield opportunity presents.

My complete high yield portfolio now comprises:

Stock Yield Proportion of total porty
Interserve (LON:IRV) 3.6% 1.8%*
Halfords (LON:HFD) 3.7% 0.7%
Braemar Shipping Services (LON:BMS) 5.7%


Vodafone (LON:VOD) 5.3%


AstraZeneca (LON:AZN) 5.5%




Vianet (LON:VNET) 8.3%


Direct Line Insurance (LON:DLG) 5.7%


Doric Nimrod Air Two (LON:DNA2) 7.3%


Doric Nimrod Air Three (LON:DNA3) 7.6%





*Interserve can't really be described as high-yield any more (it was when I bought it at around 200p!) but still looks an attractively priced growth stock. So, whilst I've topsliced more than my original investment, I'm still retaining a decent holding.



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marben100 6th Jan 146 of 155

Added a "new" natural resources stock today: International Ferro Metals (LON:IFL) . IFL is a South African Ferrochrome producer.

I was previously invested there in 2008/9 but the company suffered badly in the financial crisis & I sold out: the ferrochrome price slumped, production fell short of expectations (teething troubles with new plant) and costs exceeded expectations.

Now, however, we may be past those problems. According to the last IMS/prodution report:

  • Production is rising
  • Costs are falling (ZAR6.43/lb)
  • The company benefits from the weak ZAR. Those costs translate to USc 60.1/lb
  • FeCr prices have been rising (over USc120/lb now)
  • Recent director buys


After several years of losses, an EPS of ZARc 25.1 is forecast for Y/E 30th June 2014 and ZARc44.8 for the subsequent FY, putting the firm on a current year P/E of 6.9 and a 2015 P/E of 3.9.

The December quarter production report is expected later this month & interims next month.




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AlanJenkins2 6th Jan 147 of 155

That one's not for widows and orphans !

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marben100 6th Jan 148 of 155

In reply to AlanJenkins2, post #147

Very true! Distinctly speculative.

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marben100 15th Jan 149 of 155

Attended Fenner (LON:FENR) 's AGM today. I expect the AGM presentation will be availale on the company's website in due course, but it's not there yet. No time for a full write up, I'm afraid, but here are a few things I picked up:

  • Some 85% of Fenner revenues from the conveyor (ECS) division are from aftermarket service (mainly belt replacement). Hence this arises out of miners' OPEX budgets, rather than CAPEX. The company feels that this is poorly understood by the investment community, which presumes that Fenner's fortunes are linked to the evolution of miner CAPEX. Nick Hobson went on to explain that in the early stages of commodity price falls, miners sought to cut all costs (e.g. deferring belt replacement). Such deferent, however, leads to more breakdowns/interuptions, resulting in a higher cost/tonne for the miner, ultimately. As the commodity market progressed, however, miners would seek to improve their costs/tonne, which belt replacement would assist.
  • Their AEP division (via Mandals) is the market leadr in seals for fraccing operations. These seals are replaced every 1-2 weeks, whilst fraccing is underway.


So, my view is that Fenner is a sound business, that I seek to invest in long-term. Nevertheless today's statement appears to suggest that interim results will be poor. Management's optyimism about the second half remains to be seen. Therefore I was pleased to be able to cut my holding in Fenner i half @ 454p this afternoon, banking some profits. I expect I'll be able to buy that half back at a lower price, following the interims (should I still wish to do so then). By that time, there should also be some more clarity on commodity prices and the behaviour of the mining industry.





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marben100 22nd Jan 150 of 155

I have held shares in the Qatar Investment Closed Fund (LON:QIF) (an investment trust) for some time. Their recent tender offer @ US$1.2674, however was too good to refuse, with the shares trading at well below $1.20, so I tendered my entire holding. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that all my tendered shares had been accepted. Nevertheless, I still like the trust (as Qatar's prospects look strong and the market is on quite a low rating) so wish to hold some. QIF announced their NAV as $1.3193 yesterday, so I was pleased to pick up an initial tranche @ $1.172 this morning. Will be looking to buy more if the SP drifts or NAV (announced weekly) rises.



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marben100 24th Mar 151 of 155

loglorry has enquired what's in my high-yield subportfolio. Here's a table setting it out:

Company EPIC Share Price Historic Yield Propor-tion of total Comments
Interserve IRV 668.50 3.2% 2.0% Was high yielding when purchased below 200p!
Braemar Shipping BMS 524.00 5.0% 1.8%  
AstraZeneca AZN 3866.00 4.6% 2.0%  
ICAP IAP 386.80 5.7% 2.1%  
Direct Line DLG 242.50 8.5% 2.6% Yield includes special divvies. Still attractive without those.
DNA2 DNA2 226.50 7.9% 1.8% The DNA funds are fixed-income like but with NAV growth potential, so I've classified as high-yield rather than pure fixed interest.
DNA3 DNA3 106.30 7.8% 1.6%  
Begbies BEG 43.00 5.1% 1.3%  
GLIF GLIF 58.20 8.6% 1.3%  


I see that I posted about in previously in #145 above. Main changes are disposal of Vodafone (LON:VOD) when the VZW sale was announced, disposal of Vianet (LON:VNET) - luckily only a small holding: I'm concerned about risks from regulation and the impact this may have on revenues. Also disposed of Halfords, after some strong recent gains and big fall in yield with lower divvy: not high-yielding anymore and (unlike Interserve) growth is priced in, raising risk. I topsliced ICAP since my earlier post, at a high price, if it continues falling might add some back. Added a small position in Begbies, which should benefit if the UK economy normalises and banks start crystallising some losses, instead of allowing zombie companies to hobble on. V recently added GLIF, whose change of direction looks interesting and which offers an exceptional yield, which that change in direction should support. Its shares are depressed for historic reasons IMO.



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marben100 25th Mar 152 of 155

I've now had a good look through the Admission Document (AD) for Manx Telecom (LON:MANX) (MT) , and decided to add a small number to my high yield porty.

The prospective yield of just over 6% is attractive, but there are quite a few risks Here are some that caught my eye:

  • I observe that during the period of Hg Capital's stewardship the business was transformed from a loss-making one (which is undoubtedly why the previous owners, Telefonica, sold) into a business generating decent profits. From Hg's annual reports, it appears that management were strengthened & better financial controls put in place to effect this turnaround. That indicates to me both upside and downside risks: if management can continue improving the business (and by improving the scope of the service offering, I believe they're doing the right things). On the downside, this improvement could be temporary and the business could slide back.
  • Regulatory risk: the AD points out that the increased transparency of being a public company may highlight profitability to the Manx regulator, tempting them to try to force greater competition, to MT's detriment. I'm not generally keen on highly regulated businesses.
  • Significant revenues/growth are obtained from the Isle of Man based eGaming sector. I have noted that this sector will be affected by the new POC Tax (H/T to CantEatValue for highlighting this issue to me). So, some potential threat to revenues here - but management are mitigating by broadening their the offering, including offering services onshore UK.
  • There is a signfiicant pension liability, but it appears to be manageable relative to market cap. & profits, with a gross liability of £67.8m and a net deficit of £3.3m as at 30 June 2013. The scheme is currently in surplus, but the company is contributing £2.3m p.a. (net of employee contributions), which needs to be deducted from profits to to get a more realistic view


On the positive side, a progressive dividend policy is promised, subject to business performance. So on balance, I felt it was worth having a few in my HY porty, which I'm trying to build up, and I don't find very many new attractive opportuntiies to do so, at present.

Results are due on 15th April, and I shall study both 2013 performance and the outlook statement carefully.



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marben100 30th Apr 153 of 155

Nice to see that 3 of my holdings have moved right to the top of the screen-of-screens:


I was debating whether I should trim AMEC back, as in my ShareSoc AGM report (accessible to ShareSoc members) on the company I'd identified that its Price:FCF was not great and the price has continued rising since, so might be looking a bit pricey now, but Stockopedia's more comprehensive quant analysis persuades me to stick with it! Let's see whether the quant. approach works on this one (though as quant. analysis is statistical, picking a single instance isn't exactly a fair test).



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marben100 1st May 154 of 155

One inetersting snippet in BG (LON:BG.) Q1 results:

In March, the Sunbird-1 exploration well intersected a gross hydrocarbon column of 44 metres in the Miocene reef, at 1 584 metres subsea, in a water depth of 723 metres, offshore Kenya. Oil and gas samples have been recovered to surface and are being analysed

Perhaps some read-across for Ophir Energy (LON:OPHR) offshore Kenya wells?

Is this the first possible oil discovery offshore southern east Africa? [recoverability/commerciality still TBC, however]



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emptyend 1st May 155 of 155

In reply to marben100, post #154

Hi Mark,

Is this the first possible oil discovery offshore southern east Africa? [recoverability/commerciality still TBC, however]

No it isn't. Ironclad was. However, as you say, commerciality is a completely different matter. Note that the oil in Mozambique was in the cretaceous.

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