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Witan Inv Tst PLC (WTAN)

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Thursday 12 March, 2020

Witan Inv Tst PLC

Final Results

RNS Number : 8449F
Witan Investment Trust PLC
12 March 2020
 

Page 1 of 30

WITAN INVESTMENT TRUST PLC

 

This announcement contains regulated information

 

  Annual Financial Report for the year ended 31 December 2019

 

Chairman's Report

 

HIGHLIGHTS

· NAV total return of 21.3%, outperforming the benchmark's return of 20.3% by 1.0%

· Five-year NAV total return of 73.0%, compared with 64.9% for the benchmark

· Share price discount to NAV 0.7% at year-end (2018: 1.3%)

· Dividend increased by 13.8% to 5.35 pence, more than double that paid in 2009 and an unbroken run of increases since 1974

· Benchmark simplified and made more global from 2020

· Increased emphasis on sustainability; Witan is a signatory to the UN-supported Principles for Responsible Investment.

 

Witan has invested with a multi-manager approach since 2004. Over this period, we have beaten the returns on our equity benchmark and raised the dividend significantly faster than the rate of inflation.

 

In 2019 US growth was resilient and at a higher level than other developed markets, where expectations continued to be downgraded. With evidence of weakening corporate confidence, there were concerns mid-year that the US trade dispute with China would spin out of control and precipitate a more pronounced slowdown, or even a recession. In Europe and the UK, sentiment was held back by the unpredictability of the Brexit process and by Germany's exposure to a weakening Chinese economy and a stalling car sector. The global slowdown was ultimately arrested by policy changes (renewed monetary easing by the US Federal Reserve and other central banks and a shift towards looser fiscal policy) and positive political developments (a tentative US trade deal with China and an unexpectedly clear-cut resolution of the UK's domestic political impasse).

 

Despite the various crosswinds, equity markets delivered strong gains in 2019. One reason was the weak starting point. 2018 ended with a sharp equity correction, which discounted some of the risks that became more evident in 2019. This fall was quickly reversed in the early months of 2019, followed by a period of consolidation during the middle of the year, when fears of a possible recession took hold. Markets gained further towards the year end due to reduced political risks and improving hopes for growth in 2020.

 

Witan shareholders enjoyed exceptionally strong returns in 2019, which were ahead of our benchmark, although patience was required. For much of the year, Witan's gains were behind those of our benchmark, owing to relatively high weightings in the UK and exposure to more lowly-valued but out of favour stocks. However, both these factors proved beneficial towards the end of the year, resulting in a net asset value ('NAV') total return of 21.3%, 1.0% ahead of our benchmark's total return of 20.3%. The share price total return was 22.1%.

 

Taking a longer perspective, over the past five years Witan has achieved a NAV total return of 73.0%, compared with the benchmark's 64.9% return over this period. During the ten years to the end of 2019, shareholders have had a NAV total return of 192.0%, compared with the benchmark's return of 154.7%.

 

 

Page 2 of 30

WITAN INVESTMENT TRUST PLC

  Annual Financial Report for the year ended 31 December 2019

 

Chairman's Report (continued)

 

2019 DIVIDEND

A fourth interim dividend of 1.825 pence was declared in February 2020, payable on 3 April 2020. As a result, the dividend for the year increased by 13.8% to 5.35 pence per share (2018: 4.7 pence), well ahead of the 1.3% rate of UK inflation at the year end. The dividend is fully covered by revenue earnings, with £6.1m added to revenue reserves. We have increased the dividend every year for the last 45 years, with the latest dividend being two and a half times that paid in 2009. A chart on page 13 of the Annual Report shows the dividend's growth over the past ten years, compared with inflation.

 

SUSTAINABILITY

Good governance has long been recognised as a key part of successful investing - badly-managed companies, even without actual wrongdoing, are rarely sound investments. In order to prosper, businesses also need to operate with the acceptance of society, which goes beyond simply operating within the law. The increasing focus on environmental sustainability is a particularly acute example of how a changing political and regulatory backdrop can have profound effects on the prospects for individual businesses and industrial sectors. From a risk management viewpoint, as well as in weighing the investment case for individual holdings, managing these issues is a hard-headed necessity, as well as good citizenship. For this reason, Witan has intensified its commitments in this area by becoming a signatory to the UN-supported Principles for Responsible Investment ('PRI'), seen as a code of best practice on Environmental, Social and Governance ('ESG') issues, and by increasing the scrutiny of our managers' policies in these areas. Further details of our approach are set out on page 24 and 25 of the Annual Report.

 

SAVINGS SCHEMES

As announced in January 2019, Witan closed its Witan Wisdom and Jump Savings Plans in May 2019, with investors mostly transferring their holdings to the Hargreaves Lansdown platform or to a different destination if they preferred. Witan waived all transfer charges in relation to the change.  I should like to thank all parties involved for their hard work in implementing the changes as efficiently as possible and for account holders' patience at the time.

 

The investment management of the Witan shares transferred is, of course, unchanged by this move, which simply changed the place where the shares are held.

 

BOARD CHANGES

Andrew Ross was appointed as a director and Chairman-designate in May 2019, following a review of the required skills and a formal externally-facilitated search process. Following a further search process, we welcomed Gabrielle Boyle to the Board, adding further fund management experience to the range of skills represented on the Board. There are short interviews with both Gabrielle and Andrew in the Annual Report.

 

Richard Oldfield will be standing down at this AGM, after nine years on the Board, serving as Chairman of the Remuneration and Nomination Committee since 2018. His investment and managerial experience and advice have been of great value to the Company and will be sorely missed. As part of the Company's succession plans, our Senior Independent Director Tony Watson is expected to stand down at the AGM in 2021.

 

 

Page 3 of 30

WITAN INVESTMENT TRUST PLC

  Annual Financial Report for the year ended 31 December 2019

 

Chairman's Report (continued)

 

A search for a further director was initiated early in 2020, taking account of the need to replace the skills of the retiring directors and of diversity considerations. An announcement will be made when this search has been completed.

 

I shall be standing down as a director of the Company at the AGM in April after over 30 years on the Board, including 17 as Chairman. It has been a pleasure and an honour to have served shareholders' interests during a period when the investment world has experienced such unimaginable change.  I should like to thank most sincerely all those, whether they be directors, employees or service providers for their work on behalf of shareholders over this exciting and sometimes challenging time. I am pleased to be handing over the Chairmanship to Andrew Ross. As a shareholder I shall be cheering from the sidelines.

 

AGM

Our Annual General Meeting will be held at Merchant Taylors' Hall on Wednesday 29 April 2020 at 2.30 pm. Formal notice of the meeting will be sent to shareholders when the Annual Report is published. We look forward to the opportunity to meet you then for the Company's 112th AGM.

 

 

Harry Henderson

Chairman

11 March 2020

 

 

 

 

Page 4 of 30

WITAN INVESTMENT TRUST PLC

  Annual Financial Report for the year ended 31 December 2019

 

CEO's review of the year

 

MARKETS ROSE, HOPING FOR BETTER ECONOMIC GROWTH IN 2020

Equity markets delivered strong returns during 2019, led by the US with a total return of 26% in sterling terms. The UK lagged with a return of 19% but outperformed towards the year end, as the political uncertainty associated with Brexit reduced, particularly following the general election. Europe rose by 21%, while lesser returns in Japan 15%, Asia 15% and Emerging Markets 16% were nonetheless strongly positive.

 

Although the equity return outcome was a positive contrast with the latter part of 2018, it proved similarly trying for much of the year for active managers, as performance was dominated for most of the year by a narrow range of technology stocks and companies seen as offering predictable results immune to the economic cycle. In the fourth quarter, a combination of relative cheapness and a more reassuring cyclical outlook led to a better performance by 'value' stocks as the market recovery broadened out. Gearing provided a boost to returns, adding to modest outperformance by our portfolio managers. As a result, our net asset value total return of 21.3% was ahead of our benchmark by 1.0% in 2019.

 

Although markets were in positive territory all year, investors were troubled by fears that central banks were expected to tighten monetary policy, despite signs of a slowdown in many industrial sectors. This fuelled a 'policy error, recession in 2020' narrative and a plunge in bond yields during the summer which only decisively turned after the US Federal Reserve changed tack and cut interest rates three times, having been expected at the start of the year to raise them twice.

 

THE ECONOMIC BACKDROP

With a general shift to easier policy, hopes rebuilt in late 2019 for a resumption of the low-octane growth seen since 2009. Taken together with the steps taken to defuse the US-Chinese trade dispute, investors were encouraged to view their glass as half full rather than half empty.

 

A further potential boost to confidence is the resolution of the UK's parliamentary impasse over Brexit and a general election result that dispels the risk of an anti-enterprise government taking power. Difficult matters of detail remain to be negotiated but putting the first stage of Brexit to bed and restoring the Government's ability to function are steps towards improving the prospects for the UK's economy and the investment case for its equity market.

 

Corporate earnings growth in many markets has been weak and, in some sectors, earnings have fallen, so valuations ended 2019 higher than a year ago. Although valuations (outside the US) were not unduly stretched given the low level of interest rates, a key assumption is that investors expected corporate earnings to be sustained, since equities would be likely to attract a lower rating in an environment where investors expect earnings to fall, such as during a recession.

 

The US market has been exceptional, both for the outsize 28% return delivered over 2018-19 and because it is more highly rated. The US market's leadership, in terms of returns since the financial crisis in 2008, has partly been driven by its early success in restoring stability to its financial sector and partly by the economy's strength in pioneering areas of healthcare and technology, with added boosts from fiscal policy and the energy independence created by shale oil.

 

 

 

Page 5 of 30

WITAN INVESTMENT TRUST PLC

  Annual Financial Report for the year ended 31 December 2019

 

CEO's review of the year (continued)

 

Although these reasons retain validity, they may be less tactically significant than before. The possibility of regulation may curtail the growth of technology companies and there are signs of a more discriminating investor attitude towards new technology listings - a unicorn without a horn could turn out to be a donkey. The shift towards more reflationary fiscal policies (in the UK and Europe) could benefit growth outside the US prompting a search for more cheaply-rated ways to gain exposure to more evenly spread economic growth. The growth of shale oil is likely to moderate, while a world becoming more sceptical of the sustainability of fossil fuel use may introduce policy changes that encourage producers to pump more oil before it becomes a stranded asset, keeping oil prices low relative to history.

 

Our revised benchmark has a larger weighting in the US and less in the UK and Europe, the change marking a further confirmation of our position as a global, rather than a UK-centric, investment trust. We do not expect, either in our own Executive and Board decisions or in the decisions made by the managers whom we select, to be imitating exactly the benchmark weightings: the purpose of the benchmark is to act as a reference point for the measurement of performance. Recently, those of our managers with the freedom to pick stocks across borders have tended to find more ideas outside the US and it is principally managers' stock decisions that will shape our portfolio.

 

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

The tentative signs of economic improvement at the end of 2019 have been overshadowed by the emergence of a highly infectious coronavirus from Wuhan in China. The initially rapid spread of the disease within China created fears of a global epidemic with major humanitarian and economic consequences. The resulting disruption to economic activity has heightened equity market sensitivity to news of the epidemic's rate of infection, with a rally during February on signs that the outbreak was peaking in China followed by a sharp setback when there were outbreaks in a number of other countries.

 

Volatility is likely to persist until the disease has been brought under control worldwide. Faced with a public health issue for which there was no reliable forecasting model, allied to the ensuing substantial disruption to economic activity, equity investors felt unable to quantify risks. This resulted in substantial falls in equity indices, in case the inevitable short-term impact on growth precipitated a more enduring recession.

 

In contrast to the positive mood at the year end, which proved vulnerable to the shock of the coronavirus epidemic, markets had substantially lower hopes by early March. Given that investment is a forward-looking activity, driven by new developments rather than what can be seen in a rear-view mirror, for contrarians the signals may be shifting from red to green. Assuming the coronavirus epidemic is contained in coming months, a bounce back in activity is a reasonable expectation by the second half of the year, given the significant amount of stimulus already introduced (from fiscal policy as well as lower interest rates and oil prices).

 

2019 PERFORMANCE SUMMARY AND ATTRIBUTION

The financial statements on pages 73 to 97 in the Annual Report set out the required statutory reporting measures of the Company's financial performance.

 

 

 

Page 6 of 30

WITAN INVESTMENT TRUST PLC

  Annual Financial Report for the year ended 31 December 2019

 

CEO's review of the year (continued)

 

As referred to in the Chairman's Statement, Witan's NAV total return (with debt at fair value and after all costs) was +21.3%, 1.0% ahead of the return of 20.3% from the Company's benchmark. Stripping out the impact of lower gilt yields on the valuation of the Company's debt, the NAV total return was 21.8%, 1.5% ahead of the benchmark.

 

PERFORMANCE DRIVERS OF WITAN'S GROWTH IN NET ASSET VALUE DURING 2019

A chart in the Annual Report shows the contributions (in pence per share) attributable to the various components of investment performance and costs, which together add up to the rise from the starting NAV for the year of 196.7 pence to the year-end NAV of 233.1 pence, after the payment of dividends to shareholders.

 

The third-party managers, in aggregate, performed ahead of their benchmarks (before costs). Gearing was a significantly positive contributor, as gearing averaged 11% during a year of strong absolute portfolio gains.

 

A breakdown of the performance attribution in 2019 (based on the Company's financial statements) is shown in the table below.

 

A BREAKDOWN OF THE PERFORMANCE ATTRIBUTION IN 2019

Net asset value total return

+21.3%

Portfolio total return (gross)

+21.0%

 

Benchmark total return

+20.3%

Benchmark total return

+20.3%

 

 

 

Relative investment performance

+0.7%

 

 

 

Investment management costs

-0.6%

 

 

 

Investment contribution

+0.1%

 

 

Gearing impact

+2.5%

 

 

 

Borrowing costs

-0.5%

 

 

 

Gearing contribution

+2.0%

 

 

Effect of changed fair value of debt

-0.6%

 

 

 

Share buybacks

+0.1%

 

 

 

Other contributors

-0.5%

 

 

Other operating costs and tax

-0.6%

 

 

 

 

-0.6%

Relative performance(1)

+1.0%

 

+1.0%

(1)  N.B. Figures may not sum due to rounding.

 

PORTFOLIO STRUCTURE AND PERFORMANCE

During 2019, there were no changes to Witan's core list of third party managers, although allocations were varied during the year to reflect investment opportunities and to implement changes in gearing. At the end of the year, the UK portfolio managed by Lindsell Train was changed to a global equity mandate. The UK portfolio was outstandingly successful for Witan's shareholders over the period since appointment in 2010, delivering returns of 15% p.a. compared with 9% p.a. from the UK stock market. The Board is confident that retaining Lindsell Train with a broader remit will continue to benefit Witan shareholders as our portfolio takes on an increasingly global character (signalled by the change of benchmark that took effect from the start of 2020).

 

 

 

 

 Page 7 of 30

WITAN INVESTMENT TRUST PLC

  Annual Financial Report for the year ended 31 December 2019

 

CEO's review of the year (continued)

 

The third-party managers follow mandates set by the Company. The mandate, benchmark, investment style and the date of appointment for each manager are shown on pages 26 to 31 of the Annual Report. The returns since each manager's appointment are set out in the table below showing that, since inception, the majority have outperformed their benchmarks.

 

INVESTMENT MANAGERS' PERFORMANCE

 

Witan assets managed as at 31.12.19

Performance in 2019 %

Performance since appointment(2) %

 

Investment manager

£m

%(1)

Manager

Benchmark

Manager

Benchmark

Lansdowne Partners

408.5

17.6

16.6

22.3

17.4

13.5

Pzena

313.4

13.5

18.4

22.3

10.4

12.4

Veritas

364.1

15.7

23.8

22.3

13.9

11.5

Artemis

165.2

7.1

30.2

19.2

9.4

6.3

Heronbridge

143.5

6.2

28.0

19.2

10.0

7.4

Lindsell Train

176.4

7.6

23.5

19.2

15.6

8.7

CRUX

98.8

4.3

21.1

20.4

2.7

3.4

S.W. Mitchell

99.6

4.3

30.0

20.4

1.3

3.4

Matthews

207.9

9.0

6.6

15.1

8.9

8.6

GQG Partners

118.1

5.1

18.5

14.3

8.4

6.8

Witan Direct Holdings

281.0

12.1

11.7

20.3

11.2

9.2

(1)  The percentage of Witan's investments managed and cash balances held centrally by Witan.

(2)  The percentages are annualised where the date of appointment was more than one year ago.

 

Although Witan's overall performance is the primary focus, monitoring individual managers' performance is an important check. In 2019, seven of the ten principal third party managers in place for the full year outperformed their benchmarks. These accounted for 50% of Witan's assets.

 

Positive relative performances were achieved by all three UK specialist managers, both Europe ex-UK managers, Veritas amongst the global managers and GQG Partners, our emerging markets manager. A number of these had experienced weak performance in 2018 so it was encouraging to see better results in 2019's more positive conditions. Although the UK market underperformed, all three UK managers outperformed the UK market by a sufficient margin to beat the world index return.

 

On the downside, two of our global managers (Lansdowne Partners and Pzena) underperformed despite delivering strong absolute returns of +17% and +18% respectively. Both portfolios were positioned in out of favour 'value' parts of the market, which recovered significantly in the final months of the year, though not by enough to catch up with their benchmark return of +22%. Matthews in Asia underperformed with a return of +7%, compared with the Pacific regional benchmark's +15%.

 

DIRECTLY HELD INVESTMENTS

The portfolio of direct holdings (+12%) was well behind Witan's benchmark return of 20%, the lack of correlation with markets counting against it after three years of strong relative performance. With a number of holdings having exposure to the economic cycle, performance improved materially towards the year's end, though not by enough to overcome earlier relative weakness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Page 8 of 30

WITAN INVESTMENT TRUST PLC

  Annual Financial Report for the year ended 31 December 2019

 

CEO's review of the year (continued)

 

The main direct fund investments are listed in the UK, but the underlying exposure is principally global. A new investment of 8% of the Direct Holdings portfolio was made in Schroder UK Real Estate Limited as a way to gain exposure to UK commercial property, an asset with recovery potential that had derated during the extended Brexit process. 42% is in listed private equity funds with mostly international investments. 24% is in life sciences and biotechnology. Within this, Syncona has had significant success backing new companies based in the UK, in highly-specialised areas of cell and gene therapy where the markets are international. Despite the successful realisation of two major investments in 2019, the shares experienced a share price derating from a near 40% premium to NAV at the end of 2018 to a 10% premium at the end of 2019, as investors awaited news on other portfolio holdings, most of which are held at cost. 14% is invested in the international mining sector via a holding in the BlackRock World Mining Trust, with the remaining holdings being 8% in an emerging markets smaller companies fund and 4% in a distressed debt fund.

 

The portfolio held 9.3% of assets at the start of the year and was 9.2% of the investment portfolio at the end of 2019. In addition, in June £20m was invested in a specialist Climate Change fund managed by GMO Partners LLC, as part of a programme seeking to identify smaller or specialist managers with the potential to contribute positively to Witan's future returns. This fund returned 13% during the balance of the year, 2% ahead of the global equity benchmark. In 2018, 0.7% of assets (£14m) was allocated to Latitude Investment Management Limited for investment in global equities. Following a review after the first 18 months, the allocation was increased by £23m from November. After a strong first year, Latitude's performance in 2019 (+16%) was behind the benchmark's +22%, due to weaker performance in the fourth quarter of 2019. The total in the Direct Holdings, including the two new manager allocations, was 11.8% of assets.

 

GEARING ACTIVITY DURING 2019

Following a review of the Company's long-term gearing requirements and a decline in market borrowing costs, a further £50m of long-term debt (maturing in 2051) was issued in October 2019, at a rate of 2.39%. This is the lowest sterling borrowing rate achieved for such a long maturity by any investment trust and the Board believes that fixing such a low rate for the long term will be of benefit to shareholders.

 

Gearing varied between 9% and 13%, averaging round 11% for the year. Gearing was higher in the second half, as the prospects for markets improved in response to progress on US trade and UK political issues, together with a global easing of macroeconomic conditions. This proved helpful to returns, as the portfolio's gains were substantially higher than the costs of borrowing.

 

At the end of 2018, gross gearing (the total value of all investment positions less cash) was 11.6%. This included £25m in Emerging Markets equity index futures, equivalent to 1.4% of net assets. Gearing excluding this was 10.2%. At the end of 2019, gross gearing (on the same basis) was 11.0%. There were no derivative positions outstanding. Further details of the accounting treatment for exchange traded futures positions are given in note 1(n) on page 80 in the Annual Report.

 

 

 

 

 

Page 9 of 30

WITAN INVESTMENT TRUST PLC

  Annual Financial Report for the year ended 31 December 2019

 

CEO's review of the year (continued)

 

STRUCTURE OF BORROWINGS

The Company has fixed-rate borrowings of £220.2m, principally consisting of:

 

Secured Bonds 2025 6.125%

£64m

Secured Notes 2035 3.29%

£21m

Secured Notes 2045 3.47%

£54m

Secured Notes 2051 2.39%

£50m

Secured Notes 2054 2.74%

£30m

 

The Company has a £125m one-year borrowing facility, providing additional flexibility over the level of gearing, as well as enabling the Company to borrow in currencies other than sterling, if deemed appropriate. The drawn balance was £50.5m at the end of 2019. The average interest rate on the Company's fixed-rate borrowings is 3.8%, which compares with 7% in 2015, since when the Company has issued low interest rate debt on three occasions and redeemed more expensive older debt. The average interest rate, including short-term borrowings, is currently 3.4%.

 

Witan will either invest its borrowings fully, or neutralise their effect with cash balances according to its assessment of the markets. The Company's third party managers are not permitted to borrow within their portfolios but may hold cash.

 

DERIVATIVES ACTIVITY DURING 2019

Only simple, exchange traded index derivatives are used for reasons of efficient portfolio management, to take advantage of tactical opportunities presented by market volatility or to manage portfolio risks.

 

The £25m 2018 holding in Emerging Market equity index futures was sold during the first quarter of 2019, realising a small gain on initial cost but a more substantial uplift on the valuation at the end of 2018. Part of the proceeds were invested in a Japanese equity index futures holding, as the market had lagged behind others and offered value. This was sold for a small gain in the spring. A further investment of 2% of assets was made in Japan equity index futures around mid-year, the market having continued to lag. This was sold for a small percentage gain in September, when gearing was reduced.

 

The foregoing describes how Witan used derivatives in 2019 to adjust its asset allocation tactically, in response to perceived profit opportunities. During July, Witan also made use of derivatives to reduce the interest rate risk associated with its pending long-dated debt issue.

 

There were no derivatives positions in place at the end of the year. There was a realised capital gain on index futures during the year of £3.5m, as shown in the cash flow statements on page 25 (2018: £1.3m loss).

 

DIVIDEND PERFORMANCE IN 2019

Revenue earnings per share increased by 16% to 6.0 pence per share in 2019. Portfolio dividends increased and, for part of the year, there was a favourable foreign exchange impact on overseas currency dividends, due to the weakness of sterling.

 

 

Page 10 of 30

WITAN INVESTMENT TRUST PLC

  Annual Financial Report for the year ended 31 December 2019

 

CEO's review of the year (continued)

 

The Company pays dividends quarterly. For 2019, the Board has declared a fourth interim dividend of 1.825 pence per share, to be paid to shareholders on 3 April 2020, making a total distribution for the year of 5.35 pence (2018: 4.7 pence). This represents an increase of 13.8%, 12% ahead of the 1.3% rate of CPI inflation in the year to December 2019.

 

In addition to increasing the dividend, the Company has added £6.1m to its revenue reserves. At £71.1m after allowing for 2019's fourth interim payment, the reserves are equivalent to one and a half times the annual dividend. These reserves enable the Company to maintain or grow its dividends in years when revenue from the portfolio is less buoyant, or falls.

 

2019's dividend is more than two and a half times the dividend paid for 2009, the dividend per share having risen by 155% compared with 23% for the UK CPI (as shown in the chart on page 13 of the Annual Report) and 65% dividend growth for the UK market (Source: Refinitiv/Datastream).

 

2020 DIVIDENDS

The first three quarterly payments for 2020 (in June, September and December) will, in the absence of unforeseen circumstances, be paid at a rate of 1.34 pence per share (2019: 1.175 pence), being approximately one quarter of the 5.35 pence per share full-year payment for 2019.

 

The fourth payment (in March 2021) will be a balancing amount, reflecting the difference between the three quarterly dividends already paid and the payment decided for the full year.

 

WITAN'S SHARES IN THE MARKET - LIQUIDITY AND DISCOUNTS

Witan is a member of the FTSE 250 Index, with a market capitalisation of over £2.0bn.

 

The Board has always paid attention to discount-related issues and has, over many years, made significant use of share buybacks, when Witan's shares have stood at a discount as well as being prepared to issue shares at a premium to NAV to meet demand from investors. Both actions are accretive to NAV, provide liquidity in the market and help to moderate discount volatility.

 

WITAN INVESTMENT TRUST DISCOUNT TREND

During 2019, Witan bought 25.1m shares into treasury, at an average discount of 3.2%. This directly added £1.5m to the net asset value for remaining shareholders, helping to limit then reduce the discount, which closed the year at 0.7%, down from 1.3% at the end of 2018.

 

The discount trend from 2015 is illustrated in a chart on page 20 of the Annual Report. After staying in a range around 2% in 2017-18, the discount widened during the first half of 2019, trading in a range around 3% for much of the year. The periods of greatest pressure on the discount coincided with the intermittent crises in the parliamentary manoeuvres over Brexit, amid evidence that investors were selling UK equities and investment trusts with significant exposure to the UK equity market. These pressures abated in October, once a political way forward was agreed (the general election) with further discount narrowing following the election result. The average discount during the year was 2.8% (2018: 1.6%).

 

 

 

 

Page 11 of 30

WITAN INVESTMENT TRUST PLC

  Annual Financial Report for the year ended 31 December 2019

 

CEO's review of the year (continued)

 

Discounts are affected by many factors outside the Company's control but where it is in shareholders' interests (taking account of market conditions), the Company is prepared to buy back shares at a discount to NAV or to issue shares at a premium. It remains a long-term objective to create sustainable liquidity in Witan's shares at or near to asset value. The actions taken during 2019 are evidence of this continuing commitment.

 

COMMUNICATION

The Board believes that it is important to communicate the Company's strategy and operating results to existing and potential shareholders, to ensure they have access to relevant information concerning Witan's record as stewards of shareholders' capital and to help sustain a liquid market in Witan's shares. Clear communication of the Company's investment objective and its success in implementing its strategy can help investors to decide how Witan fits in with their own investment objectives. This should help the shares to trade at a narrow discount or premium to NAV, from which all shareholders benefit.

 

The Company has for many years operated a marketing programme, communicating information about its investment strategy and performance to private and professional investors, financial advisers and intermediaries using a range of media. Investors can purchase shares on a wide range of investment platforms.

 

The Company also maintains a website (www.witan. com), to enable investors to make informed decisions when considering Witan shares for their investment portfolios. The website is regularly refreshed with new information and includes Investor Disclosure and Key Information Documents.

 

Any investor who would like to be kept informed by email of developments at Witan (including fact sheets and newsletters) can register on the Company's website ( www.witan.com ) or by sending their details to contact @witan.co.uk

 

Andrew Bell

Chief Executive Officer

11 March 2020

 

 

 

 

Page 12 of 30

WITAN INVESTMENT TRUST PLC

  Annual Financial Report for the year ended 31 December 2019

 

Strategic Report continued

 

COSTS

INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT FEES

Each of the third party managers is entitled to a management fee, based on the assets under management. The agreements can be terminated on one to three months' notice. The base fee rates for managers in place at the end of 2019 range from 0.30% to 0.65% per annum. The weighted average base fee was 0.53% as at 31 December 2019 (2018: 0.52%). One manager, of 7% of Witan's portfolio, has a performance-related fee, which is subject to capping in any particular year. It has a lower base fee than the managers without performance fees. One manager, who previously had a performance fee structure, was moved to a purely base fee arrangement from the end of 2019.

 

As an illustration, if our third-party managers uniformly outperformed their benchmarks by 3% after base management fees, this would generate a total investment management fee rate of 0.55% (consisting of a 0.53% base fee and a performance fee of 0.02%), 3% lower than the comparable estimate in 2018 (0.57%). The actual fees payable will vary according to the actual performance of managers with higher or lower fees.

 

Witan takes care to ensure the competitiveness of the fees it pays. A majority of the fee structures incorporate a 'taper' whereby the average fee rate reduces as the portfolio grows.

 

The Company's investment managers may use certain services which are paid for, or provided by, various brokers. They may place business, including transactions relating to the Company, with those brokers. Under the requirements of MiFID II, broker-provided services (other than the execution of transactions) must either be minor non-monetary benefits or, for research received by investment managers and charged to the Company, separately accounted for.

 

ONGOING CHARGES AND COSTS

The Key Information Document ('KID') on the Company's website contains a measure of costs calculated in accordance with EU PRIIPS regulations, which includes average figures over a period. The other principal differences between the Ongoing Charges Figure ('OCF') measure shown below and the KID measure are the inclusion of transaction costs (c. 0.2%), the inclusion of borrowing costs (c. 0.4%) and the inclusion of the underlying costs of holdings in other collective investments (c. 0.2%). In accordance with AIC guidance, Witan continues to calculate the Ongoing

Charges Figure ('OCF') (the recurring operating and investment management costs, as a percentage of average net assets) for the Annual Report on a consistent basis with those published in previous years.

 

It is emphasised that the Company's investment performance is reported after all costs, however measured.

 

The OCF was 0.79% in 2019 (2018: 0.75%). When performance fees due to the relevant third- party managers are included, the OCF was 0.87% in 2019 (2018: 0.83%). One of the two managers with a performance fee structure significantly outperformed again during 2019.

 

The main cost headings within the OCF are set out below. As in previous years, the figure for transaction costs is also shown. The figure for borrowing costs is also included in the table, for easy reference.

 

Page 13 of 30

WITAN INVESTMENT TRUST PLC

  Annual Financial Report for the year ended 31 December 2019

 

Strategic Report continued

 

The Company exercises strict scrutiny and control over costs. The Board believes that the OCF during the year represents good value for money for shareholders, taking account of recent and longer-term performance.

 

ANALYSIS OF COSTS

 

 

2019

 

2018

 

2019

% of average

2018

% of average

Category of cost

£m

net assets

£m

net assets

Investment management base fees (note 4, page 28)

10.09

0.53

10.14

0.53

Other expenses (excluding loan arrangement and one off costs)

 

6.61

 

0.34

5.85

0.30

Less expenses relating to the subsidiary (those expenses not relating to the operation of the investment company)

 

(1.46)

 

(0.08)

(1.45)

(0.08)

Ongoing Charges Figure

(including investment management base fees)

 

15.24

 

0.79

14.54

0.75

Investment management performance fees (note 4, page 28)

1.54

0.08

1.56

0.08

Ongoing Charges Figure

(including performance fees)

 

16.78

 

0.87

16.10

0.83

Portfolio transaction costs Including costs relating to manager changes.

 

2.75

 

0.14

2.52

0.13

Interest costs

8.74

0.46

8.37

0.43

Total costs including transaction costs and borrowing costs

28.27

1.47

26.99

1.40

Relative performance during the year (after all costs, valuing debt at fair value)

 

 

+1.0%

 

(1.9)%

N.B. Figures may not sum due to rounding.

 

Principal risks and uncertainties

The directors have carried out a robust assessment of the emerging and principal risks facing the Company, including those that would threaten its business model, future performance, solvency, liquidity or reputation. These risks, and the actions taken to mitigate them, are set out below.

 

Risks are inherent in investment and corporate management. It is important to identify important

risks and ways to control or avoid them. Witan Investment Services Limited ('WIS') has a Risk Committee in order to monitor compliance with its risk management and reporting obligations as Witan's Alternative Investment Fund Manager ('AIFM'). The Company maintains a framework of the key risks, with the policies and processes devised to monitor, manage and mitigate them where possible. Its detailed risk map is reviewed regularly by the Audit Committee and the WIS Risk Committee, which report on pertinent issues to their respective Boards.

 

The guiding principles remain watchfulness, proper analysis, prudence and a clear system of risk management.

 

Where appropriate, the Witan and WIS Boards meet jointly to cover matters of common interest. The WIS Board consists of seven non-executive directors and one executive director who are also directors of Witan, and one executive director who is a Company employee.

 

The Group's key risks fall broadly under the following categories:

 

 

 

 

Page 14 of 30

WITAN INVESTMENT TRUST PLC

  Annual Financial Report for the year ended 31 December 2019

 

Strategic Report continued

 

Market and investment portfolio

(unchanged)

Risk

 

Mitigation

Investment risk . A key risk of investing in Witan

is a general fall in equity prices, which could be

exacerbated by gearing and the risks associated

with the performance of its investment managers

and changes in Witan's share price rating.

 

Other risks are the portfolio's exposure to country, currency, industrial sector and stock-specific factors (including those relating to the sustainability of the business model taking account of environmental, social and governance factors). Macro topics such as Brexit, pandemic outbreaks (e.g. COVID-19), trade wars and regional conflict can all be expected to lead to market volatility.

 

The Board seeks to manage these risks through:

· a broadly diversified equity benchmark;

· appropriate asset allocation decisions;

· selecting competent managers and regularly monitoring their performance, awareness of emerging risks and the robustness of their processes for taking account of those risks;

· paying attention to key economic and political events;

· engagement with shareholders and other stakeholders

· active management of risk, whether to preserve capital or capitalise on opportunities;

· the application of relevant policies on gearing and liquidity; and

· share buybacks and issuance to respond to market supply and demand.

 

During the year, Andrew Bell (the Chief Executive Officer ('CEO')) managed the overall business and the investment portfolio in accordance with limits determined by the Board and its AIFM, on which the CEO reports at each Board meeting. The Board also regularly reviews investment strategy and performance, supported by comprehensive management information and analysis.

       

 

 

 

 

 

Page 15 of 30

WITAN INVESTMENT TRUST PLC

  Annual Financial Report for the year ended 31 December 2019

 

Strategic Report continued

 

Operational and cyber

 

(unchanged)

Risk

 

Mitigation

Many of the Group's financial systems are outsourced to third parties, principally BNP Paribas Securities Services ('BNPSS'). Disruption to their accounting, payment systems or custody records could prevent the accurate reporting and monitoring of the Company's financial position.

 

BNPSS, as the Company's depositary, has a key responsibility for monitoring such issues on behalf of the Company. The Board and AIFM monitor the

Depositary as well as its other suppliers. Details of the Board's monitoring and control processes are explained further in the Corporate Governance Statement on pages 47 to 48 of the Annual Report.

Compliance and regulatory change

 

(reduced)

Risk

 

Mitigation

The Company breaches compliance/regulatory requirements or fails to assess the impact.

 

The Board takes its regulatory responsibilities very seriously and compliance issues and potential regulatory changes are regularly reviewed by the Board and its AIFM.

 

Details of the Company's corporate governance policies are set out in the Corporate Governance Statement on pages 41 to 48 of the Annual Report. The Board conducts an annual assessment of the effectiveness of its governance processes.

 

There is also a three-yearly independent external review, the most recent of which was in late 2016. See page 47 of the Annual Report for further details.

 

Following the closure of the Company's savings plans, the risks associated with the holding of and accounting for client assets has been substantially reduced and will be eliminated in future.

 

Operational and regulatory risks are regularly reviewed by Witan's Audit Committee and WIS's Risk Committee. WIS is subject to its own operating rules and regulations and is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority ('FCA'). The Company has established a modus operandi for the effective coordination of its responsibilities and those of WIS, as its AIFM.

 

Operationally the multi-manager structure is robust, as the investment managers, the custodian and the fund accountants keep their own records which are regularly reconciled. The depositary, the AIFM and the Board provide additional checks and safeguards. Management monitors the activities of all third parties and reports any significant issues to the Board.

 

 

Page 16 of 30

WITAN INVESTMENT TRUST PLC

  Annual Financial Report for the year ended 31 December 2019

 

Strategic Report continued

 

Accounting, taxation and legal

 

(unchanged)

Risk

 

Mitigation

The Company must comply with sections 1158-59 of the Corporation Tax Act 2010 ('CTA'). A breach could result in the Company losing investment trust status and, as a consequence, capital gains realised would be subject to corporation tax.

 

The Company must comply with the provisions of the Companies Act 2006 ('Companies Act') and with the UK Listing Authority's Listing Rules and Disclosure Rules ('UKLA Rules'). A breach of the Companies Act could result in the Company and/or the directors being fined or becoming the subject of criminal proceedings. Breach of the UKLA Rules could result in the suspension of the Company's shares which would itself constitute a breach of the provisions of the CTA.

 

 

 

The accounting requirements are monitored by the CEO and AIFM and the Company carefully monitors compliance with the applicable rules.

 

These requirements offer significant protection for shareholders. The Board relies on the CEO, the AIFM, the Company Secretary and the Group's professional advisers to ensure compliance with all applicable rules. WIS is authorised and regulated by the FCA to act as the AIFM for Witan, for the administration of savings plans and to provide marketing services and investment advice to professional clients.

Liquidity

 

(unchanged)

Risk

 

Mitigation

The Company's portfolio of securities might not be realisable.

 

The Company's portfolio consists mainly of readily realisable securities. The Company and its AIFM regularly review liquidity needs (for example, operational costs, loan servicing and repayment, shareholder dividends and share buybacks) relative to the Company's portfolio income and the value and tradability of the Company's assets. Most of the likely liquidity requirements are foreseeable (for example, timetabled loan payments and dividends) while others (such as share buybacks) are subject to the Company's discretion. The Board is satisfied that unexpected liquidity needs are not significant and could readily be met without compromising normal portfolio management.

 

 

CORPORATE AND OPERATIONAL STRUCTURE

Witan is an investment trust with a Premium Listing on the London Stock Exchange. It has a single, wholly owned subsidiary, Witan Investment Services Limited ('WIS') which acts as the Company's Alternative Investment Fund Manager ('AIFM').

 

The overwhelming majority of the portfolio is in segregated accounts, held in custody by the Company's depositary. The operations of the custodian and the safeguarding of the Company's assets are supervised by the depositary.

 

 

 

Page 17 of 30

WITAN INVESTMENT TRUST PLC

  Annual Financial Report for the year ended 31 December 2019

Strategic Report continued

 

OPERATIONAL MANAGEMENT ARRANGEMENTS

In addition to the appointment of third-party investment managers, Witan and WIS contract with third parties for other services, including:

· BNP Paribas Securities Services London Branch for depositary services, custody, investment accounting and administration;

· Frostrow Capital LLP for company secretarial services;

· RepRisk for ESG monitoring of its investment holdings; and

· Specialist advice on regulatory compliance issues and, as required, procure legal, investment consulting, financial and tax advice.

 

The service quality and value received from major service providers are reviewed regularly by the Board.

 

The contracts governing the provision of all services are formulated with legal advice and stipulate clear objectives and guidelines for the service required.

 

STAFFING

The Company's policy towards its employees is to attract and retain staff with the skills and expertise required to manage the affairs of an investment trust company. Details of the Company's remuneration policies and required disclosures are set out in the Directors' Remuneration Report on pages 51 to 61 of the Annual Report. Employees and those who seek to work at Witan are treated equally regardless of gender, marital status, colour, race, religion or ethnic origin. The Company has seven direct employees, four men and three women. The Board currently consists of nine non-executive directors (seven men and two women) and the Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Bell, who is an employee. Following the AGM, the number of non-executive directors will be seven (five men and two women). Given its outsourced model and the small number of direct employees, the Group has no employment-related specific policies in respect of environmental or social and community affairs. However, as described elsewhere, an increased focus on environmental, social and governance issues has been formalised by the Company's membership of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change since July 2019 and its decision to become a signatory to the UN-supported Principles for Responsible Investment from February 2020.

 

WITAN INVESTMENT SERVICES

WIS is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. It is authorised to act as Witan's AIFM, to provide marketing services and to give investment advice to professional investors.

 

WIS's principal activities are acting as Witan's AIFM, providing executive management services to the Boards of Witan and Witan Pacific Investment Trust plc ('Witan Pacific') and communicating information about the companies to the market.

 

WIS's operational objectives for 2019 were:

● to fulfil its responsibilities as Witan's AIFM;

● to provide suitable advice to the Boards of its corporate clients;

● to facilitate the implementation of new arrangements for members of the Witan Wisdom and Jump Savings Schemes, which closed in May 2019; and

● to reduce the net operating costs for Witan.

 

Page 18 of 30

WITAN INVESTMENT TRUST PLC

  Annual Financial Report for the year ended 31 December 2019

 

Strategic Report continued

 

In 2019, WIS's principal sources of income were savings plan revenues (account holder charges for part of the year and a payment received from Hargreaves Lansdown relating to accounts transferred to them) and the fees (as AIFM or Executive Manager and for marketing services) paid by Witan and Witan Pacific. The main costs incurred were fees to the savings schemes administrator, staff costs and professional advice to ensure compliance with regulatory and accounting obligations.

 

 

VIABILITY STATEMENT

In accordance with the UK Corporate Governance Code, the Board has assessed the prospects of the Company over a longer period than the twelve months required by the 'going concern' provision.

The Company's current position and prospects are set out in the Chairman's and Chief Executive Officer's reports and the Strategic Report. The principal risks are set out on pages 13 to 16. The Board has considered the Company's financial position and its ability to liquidate its portfolio and meet its expenses as they fall due and notes the following:

 

● The portfolio consists of investments traded on major international stock exchanges and there is a spread of investments. In normal conditions, the current portfolio could be liquidated to the extent of more than 88% within five trading days and there is no expectation that the nature of the investments held will be materially different in future.

● The closed-ended nature of the Company means that, unlike an open-ended fund, it does not need to realise investments when shareholders wish to sell their shares.

● The Board has considered the viability of the Company under various scenarios and concluded that it would usually be able to take appropriate action to protect the value of the Company's assets. As set out in note 14 to the accounts, the Board has considered price risk sensitivity (the sensitivity of the profit after taxation for the year and the value of the shareholders' funds to changes in the fair value of the Group's investments) and foreign currency sensitivity (the sensitivity to changes in the exchange rates for the £/US dollar, £/Euro and £/ Japanese yen).

● In addition to its cash balances, which were £42m at 31 December 2019 (2018: £72m), the Company has a short-term bank facility which can be used to meet its liabilities, and fixed-rate financing in the form of secured bonds, secured notes and cumulative preference shares. With the exception of the short-term facility, this financing will remain in place until at least 2025. Details of the Company's current and non-current liabilities are set out in note 13 to the accounts.

● The expenses of the Company are predictable and modest in comparison with the assets and there are no capital commitments currently foreseen which would alter that position.

 

As well as considering the principal risks on pages 13 to 16 and the financial position of the Company, the Board has made the following assumptions in considering the Company's longer-term viability:

● The Company's remit of investing in the securities of global listed companies will continue to be an activity to which investors will wish to have exposure.

● Investors will continue to want to invest in closed-ended investment trusts.

● The performance of the Company will continue to be satisfactory. The Board is able to replace any of the current investment managers when it considers it appropriate to do so.

● The Company will continue to have access to adequate capital when required.

 

 

Page 19 of 30

WITAN INVESTMENT TRUST PLC

  Annual Financial Report for the year ended 31 December 2019

 

Strategic Report continued

 

· The Company will continue to be able to fund share buybacks when required. The Company bought back 25.1m ordinary shares in 2019 at a cost of £53.6m and experienced no problem with liquidity in doing so. It had shareholders' funds in excess of £2.0bn at the end of 2019.

 

Based on the results of its review, and taking into account the long-term nature of the Company and its financing, the Board has a reasonable expectation that the Company will be able to continue its operations and meet its expenses and liabilities as they fall due for the foreseeable future, taken to mean at least the next five years. The Board has chosen this period because, whilst it has no information to suggest this judgement will need to change in the coming five years, forecasting over longer periods is imprecise. The Board's long-term view of viability will, of course, be updated each year in the Annual Report.

 

GOING CONCERN

In light of the conclusions drawn in the foregoing Liquidity and Viability Statements, the Company has adequate financial resources to continue in operational existence for at least the next twelve months. Therefore, the directors believe that it is appropriate to continue to adopt the going concern basis in preparing the financial statements. In reviewing the position as at the date of this report, the Board has considered the guidance on this matter issued by the Financial Reporting Council.

 

 

APPROVAL

This report was approved by the Board of directors on 11 March 2020 and is signed on its behalf by:

H M Henderson  A L C Bell

 

Chairman     Chief Executive Officer

11 March 2020

 

 

 

Page 20 of 30

WITAN INVESTMENT TRUST PLC

  Annual Financial Report for the year ended 31 December 2019

 

Statement of Directors' Responsibilities

in respect of the Annual Report and the financial statements

 

Responsibility statement

 

The directors as at the date of the Annual Report confirm to the best of their knowledge that :

 

· the financial statements, prepared in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards as adopted by the EU, give a true and fair view of the assets, liabilities, financial position and profit or loss of the Company and the undertakings included in the consolidation taken as a whole; and

 

· the Strategic Report includes a fair review of the development and performance of the business and the position of the Company and the undertakings included in the consolidation taken as a whole, together with a description (on pages 13 to 16) of the principal risks and uncertainties that they face.

 

The directors also confirm that the financial statements, taken as a whole, are fair, balanced and understandable, and provide the information necessary for shareholders to assess the Company's position, performance, business model and strategy.

 

By order of the Board

 

H M Henderson

Chairman

 

A L C Bell

Chief Executive

11 March 2020

 

 

 

Page 21 of 30

WITAN INVESTMENT TRUST PLC

  Annual Financial Report for the year ended 31 December 2019

 

Financial Highlights as at 31 December 2019

 

Key data

 

2019

2018

% change

Share price(1)

231.5p

194.2p

19.2

NAV per ordinary share (debt at par value)(1)(4)

236.9p

199.0p

19.0

NAV per ordinary share (debt at fair value)(1)(4)

233.1p

196.7p

18.5

Discount (NAV including income, debt at fair value)(4)

0.7%

1.3%

-

 

Total return performance

 

 

1yr % Return

 

3yrs % Return

5yrs % Return

Share price total return(2)(4)

22.1

37.0

71.4

NAV total return(2)(4) 

21.3

32.3

73.0

Witan benchmark(2) 

20.3

29.5

64.9

FTSE All-Share Index(3) 

19.2

22.0

43.8

FTSE All-World Index(3) 

22.3

34.4

81.2

 

 

Dividend information

 

 

2019

2018

% change

Revenue earnings per share(1)

6.01p

5.18p

16.0

Dividend per share(1)

5.35p

4.70p

13.8

 

Other financial information

 

 

2019

2018

Gearing(4)

11.0%

11.6%

Ongoing charge excluding performance fee(4)

0.79%

0.75%

Ongoing charge including performance fee(4)

0.87%

0.83%

 

(1)  Comparative figures for the year ended 31 December 2018 have been restated due to the sub-division of each ordinary share of 25p into five ordinary shares of 5p each on 28 May 2019.

(2)   Source: Morningstar.

(3)  Source: Morningstar. See also FTSE International for conditions of use ( www.ftse.com ).

(4)  Alternative performance measure.

 

Alternative Performance Measures

The financial statements in the Annual Report set out the required statutory reporting measures of the Company's financial performance. In addition, the Board assesses the Company's performance against a range of criteria which are viewed as particularly relevant for investment trusts, which are summarised in the key performance indicators in the Annual Report. Definitions of the terms used and a reconciliation of the NAV per ordinary share (debt at par value) to the NAV per ordinary share (debt at fair value) are set out in the Annual Report.

 

 

 

Page 22 of 30

WITAN INVESTMENT TRUST PLC

  Annual Financial Report for the year ended 31 December 2019

 

Consolidated Statement of Comprehensive Income

for the year ended 31 December 2019

 

 

Year ended

31 December 2019

  Year ended

31 December 2018

 

Revenue

return

£'000

Capital

return

£'000

 

Total

£'000

Revenue

return

£'000

Capital

return

£'000

 

Total

£'000

Investment income (note 2)

65,045

-

65,045

58,200

-

58,200

Other income (note 3)

2,223

-

2,223

1,576

-

1,576

Gains/(losses) on investments held at fair value through profit or loss

 

 

-

 

 

340,727

 

 

340,727

 

 

 

-

 

 

(194,105)

 

 

 

(194,105)

 

Foreign exchange losses on cash and cash equivalents

 

-

 

(1,633)

 

(1,633)

 

-

 

(1,083)

 

(1,083)

 

----------

----------

----------

----------

----------

----------

Total income

67,268

339,094

406,362

59,776

(195,188)

(135,412)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Expenses

 

 

 

 

 

 

Management and performance fees (note 4)

(2,522)

(9,108)

(11,630)

(2,535)

 

(9,163)

 

(11,698)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other expenses

(6,673)

(101)

(6,774)

(5,909)

(101)

(6,010)

 

----------

----------

----------

----------

----------

----------

Profit/(loss)before finance costs and taxation

 

58,073

 

329,885

 

387,958

 

51,332

 

(204,452)

 

(153,120)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finance costs

(2,253)

(6,485)

(8,738)

(2,156)

(6,217)

(8,373)

 

----------

----------

----------

----------

----------

----------

Profit/(loss) before taxation

55,820

323,400

379,220

49,176

(210,669)

(161,493)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taxation

(3,028)

(369)

(3,397)

(2,978)

-

(2,978)

 

----------

----------

----------

----------

----------

----------

Profit/(loss) attributable to equity shareholders of the parent company

 

 

52,792

 

 

323,031

 

 

375,823

 

 

46,198

 

 

(210,669)

 

 

(164,471)

 

----------

----------

----------

----------

----------

----------

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Earnings per ordinary share(1) (note 5)

6.01p

36.77p

42.78p

5.18p

(23.63p)

(18.45p)

 

======

======

======

======

======

======

( 1) Comparative figures for the year ended 31 December 2018 have been restated due to the sub-division of each ordinary share of 25p into five ordinary shares of 5p each on 28 May 2019.

 

The total column of this statement represents the Group's Statement of Comprehensive Income, prepared in accordance with IFRSs as adopted by the European Union.

 

The revenue return and capital return columns are supplementary to this and are prepared under guidance published by the Association of Investment Companies.

 

The Group does not have any other comprehensive income and hence the total profit/(loss), as disclosed above, is the same as the Group's total comprehensive income.

 

All items in the above statement derive from continuing operations.

 

All income is attributable to the equity holders of Witan Investment Trust plc, the parent company. There are no non-controlling interests.

Page 23 of 30

WITAN INVESTMENT TRUST PLC

  Annual Financial Report for the year ended 31 December 2019

 

Consolidated and Individual Statements of Changes in Equity

for the year ended 31 December 2019

Group: Year ended 31 December 2019

 

 

Ordinary

Share

Capital

Other

 

 

 

 

share

premium

redemption

capital

Revenue

 

 

 

capital

account

reserve

reserves

reserve

Total

 

 

£'000

£'000

£'000

£'000

£'000

£'000

Total equity at 31 December 2018

50,018

99,251

46,498

1,498,832

78,843

1,773,442

Total comprehensive income:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Profit for the year

-

-

-

323,031

52,792

375,823

Transactions with owners,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 recorded directly to equity:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Ordinary dividends paid (note 7)

-

-

-

-

(44,577)

(44,577)

 Buybacks of ordinary shares (held in treasury)

 

-

 

-

 

-

 

(53,582)

 

-

 

(53,582)

 

 

--------

---------

---------

------------

---------

------------

Total equity at 31 December 2019

50,018

99,251

46,498

1,768,281

87,058

2,051,106

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Company: Year ended 31 December 2019

 

 

Ordinary

Share

Capital

Other

 

 

 

 

share

premium

redemption

capital

Revenue

 

 

 

capital

account

reserve

reserves

reserve

Total

 

 

£'000

£'000

£'000

£'000

£'000

£'000

Total equity at 31 December 2018

50,018

99,251

46,498

1,498,923

78,752

1,773,442

Total comprehensive income:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Profit for the year

-

-

-

323,098

52,725

375,823

Transactions with owners,

 

 

 

 

 

 

  recorded directly to equity:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Ordinary dividends paid (note 7)

-

-

-

-

(44,577)

(44,577)

 Buybacks of ordinary shares (held in treasury)

 

-

 

-

 

-

 

(53,582)

 

-

 

(53,582)

 

 

--------

---------

---------

------------

---------

------------

Total equity at 31 December 2019

50,018

99,251

46,498

1,768,439

86,900

2,051,106

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Group: Year ended 31 December 2018

 

 

 Ordinary

Share

Capital

Other

 

 

 

 

share

premium

redemption

capital

Revenue

 

 

 

capital

account

reserve

reserves

reserve

Total

 

 

£'000

£'000

£'000

£'000

£'000

£'000

Total equity at 31 December 2017

50,018

99,251

46,498

1,712,019

72,735

1,980,521

Total comprehensive income:

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Loss)/profit for the year

-

-

-

(210,669)

46,198

(164,471)

Transactions with owners,

 

 

 

 

 

 

  recorded directly to equity:

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Ordinary dividends paid (note 7)

-

-

-

-

(40,090)

(40,090)

  Buybacks of ordinary shares (held in treasury)

 

-

 

-

 

-

 

(2,518)

 

-

 

(2,518)

 

 

---------

---------

------------

---------

------------

------------

Total equity at 31 December 2018

50,018

99,251

46,498

1,498,832

78,843

1,773,442

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Company: Year ended 31 December 2018

 

 

Ordinary

Share

Capital

Other

 

 

 

 

share

premium

redemption

capital

Revenue

 

 

 

capital

account

reserve

reserves

reserve

Total

 

 

£'000

£'000

£'000

£'000

£'000

  £'000

Total equity at 31 December 2017

50,018

99,251

46,498

1,712,471

72,283

1,980,521

Total comprehensive income:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 (Loss)/profit for the year

-

-

-

(211,030)

46,559

(164,471)

Transactions with owners,

 

 

 

 

 

 

  recorded directly to equity:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Ordinary dividends paid (note 7)

-

-

-

-

(40,090)

(40,090)

Buybacks of ordinary shares (held in treasury)

 

-

 

-

 

-

 

(2,518)

 

-

 

(2,518)

 

--------

---------

---------

---------------

---------

------------

Total equity at 31 December 2018

50,018

99,251

46,498

1,498,923

78,752

1,773,442

                 

Page 24 of 30

WITAN INVESTMENT TRUST PLC

  Annual Financial Report for the year ended 31 December 2019

 

Consolidated and Individual Balance Sheets

As at 31 December 2019

 

Group

Company

Group

Company

 

31 December

31 December

31 December

31 December

 

2019

2019

2018

2018

 

£'000

£'000

£'000

£'000

Non current assets

 

 

 

 

Investments held at fair value through profit or loss

 

2,276,623

 

2,277,681

 

1,954,114

 

1,955,105

Right of use asset: property

490

490

-

-

 

--------------

--------------

--------------

--------------

Total non current assets

2,277,113

2,278,171

1,954,114

1,955,105

 

--------------

--------------

--------------

--------------

Current assets

 

 

 

 

Other receivables

7,260

6,933

8,198

8,664

Cash and cash equivalents

44,723

43,568

72,246

70,235

 

-----------

-----------

-----------

-----------

Total current assets

51,983

50,501

80,444

78,899

 

-----------

-----------

-----------

-----------

 

 

 

 

 

Total assets

2,329,096

2,328,672

2,034,558

2,034,004

 

---------------

---------------

---------------

---------------

Current liabilities

 

 

 

 

Other payables

(6,641)

(6,217)

(9,660)

(9,106)

Bank loans

(50,500)

(50,500)

(81,000)

(81,000)

 

----------

----------

----------

----------

Total current liabilities

(57,141)

(56,717)

(90,660)

(90,106)

 

----------

----------

----------

----------

Total assets less current liabilities

2,271,955

2,271,955

1,943,898

1,943,898

 

 

 

 

 

Non current liabilities

 

 

 

 

Other payables

(653)

(653)

(43)

(43)

Borrowings:

 

 

 

 

 Secured debt

(217,641)

(217,641)

(167,858)

(167,858)

 3.4 per cent. cumulative preference shares of £1

(2,055)

(2,055)

(2,055)

(2,055)

 2.7 per cent. cumulative preference shares of £1

(500)

(500)

(500)

(500)

 

----------

----------

----------

----------

Total non current liabilities

(220,849)

(220,849)

(170,456)

(170,456)

 

----------

----------

----------

----------

Net assets

2,051,106

2,051,106

1,773,442

1,773,442

 

 

 

 

 

Equity attributable to equity holders

 

 

 

 

Ordinary share capital

50,018

50,018

50,018

50,018

Share premium account

99,251

99,251

99,251

99,251

Capital redemption reserve

46,498

46,498

46,498

46,498

Retained earnings:

 

 

 

 

  Other capital reserves

1,768,281

1,768,439

1,498,832

1,498,923

  Revenue reserve

87,058

86,900

78,843

78,752

 

----------

----------

----------

----------

Total equity

2,051,106

2,051,106

1,773,442

1,773,442

 

 

 

 

 

Net asset value per ordinary share

236.86p

236.85p

995.15p

995.15p

 

(1) Comparative figures for the year ended 31 December 2018 have been restated due to the sub-division of each ordinary share of 25p into five ordinary shares of 5p each on 28 May 2019

As permitted by section 408 of the Companies Act 2006, the Company has not presented its own income statement. The profit of the Company dealt with in the accounts of the Group amounted to £375,823,000 (2018: loss of £164,471,000).

 

Page 25 of 30

WITAN INVESTMENT TRUST PLC

  Annual Financial Report for the year ended 31 December 2019

 

Consolidated and Individual Company Cash Flow Statements

for the year ended 31 December 2019

 

 

Group

Company

Group

Company

 

2019

2019

2018

2018

 

£'000

£'000

£'000

£'000

Cash flows from operating activities

 

 

 

 

Dividend income received

64,922

64,922

57,202

57,202

Interest received

156

152

203

198

Other income received

2,873

587

1,712

280

Operating expenses paid

(18,051)

(14,905)

(19,292)

(18,102)

Taxation on overseas income

(3,988)

(3,988)

(3,102)

(3,102)

Taxation recovered

494

494

271

271

 

----------

-----------

----------

-----------

Net cash inflow from operating activities

 

46,406

 

47,262

 

36,994

 

36,747

 

----------

-----------

----------

-----------

 

 

 

 

 

Cash flows from investing activities

 

 

 

 

Purchases of investments

(971,055)

(971,055)

(801,410)

(801,410)

Sales of investments

982,575

982,575

806,173

806,173

Settlement of futures contracts

3,543

3,543

(1,258)

(1,258)

 

----------

-----------

----------

-----------

Net cash inflow from investing activities

 

15,063

 

15,063

 

3,505

 

3,505

 

----------

-----------

----------

-----------

 

 

 

 

 

Cash flow from financing activities

 

 

 

 

Equity dividends paid

(44,577)

(44,577)

(40,090)

(40,090)

Issue of secured notes net of issue expenses

 

49,685

 

49,685

 

-

 

-

Buybacks of ordinary shares

(53,512)

(53,512)

(2,564)

(2,564)

Interest paid

(8,366)

(8,366)

(8,311)

(8,311)

Repayment of lease liability

(89)

(89)

-

-

Net (repayment)/drawdown of bank loans

 

(30,500)

 

(30,500)

 

8,000

 

8,000

 

----------

-----------

----------

-----------

Net cash outflow from financing activities

 

(87,359)

 

(87,359)

 

(42,965)

 

(42,965)

 

----------

-----------

----------

-----------

 

 

 

 

 

Decrease in cash and cash equivalents

 

(25,890)

 

(25,034)

 

(2,466)

 

(2,713)

Cash and cash equivalents at the start of the period

 

72,246

 

70,235

 

75,795

 

74,031

Effect of foreign exchange rate changes

 

(1,633)

 

(1,633)

 

(1,083)

 

(1,083)

 

----------

-----------

----------

-----------

Cash and cash equivalents at the end of the period

 

44,723

 

43,568

 

72,246

 

70,235

 

 

 

Page 26 of 30

WITAN INVESTMENT TRUST PLC

  Annual Financial Report for the year ended 31 December 2019

 

Notes to the Financial Statements  

for the year ended 31 December 2019

 

1.  Accounting policies

The financial statements of the Group have been prepared in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards ('IFRSs') as adopted by the European Union and therefore the Group financial statements comply with Article 4 of the EU IAS Regulation. These comprise standards and interpretations approved by the International Accounting Standards Board ('IASB'), together with interpretations of the International Accounting Standards and Standing Interpretations Committee approved by the International Accounting Standards Committee ('IASC') that remain in effect, to the extent that they have been adopted by the European Union.

 

These financial statements are presented in pounds sterling because that is the currency of the primary economic environment in which the Group operates.

 

(a) Basis of preparation

The financial statements have been prepared on the historical cost basis, except for the revaluation of certain financial instruments. The principal accounting policies adopted are set out in the financial statements. Where presentational guidance set out in the Statement of Recommended Practice Financial Statements of Investment Trust Companies and Venture Capital Trusts ('the SORP') issued by the Association of Investment Companies (the 'AIC') in October 2019 is consistent with the requirements of IFRSs as adopted by the European Union, the directors have sought to prepare the financial statements on a basis compliant with the recommendations of the SORP.

 

Judgements and sources of estimation uncertainty

In the application of the Group's accounting policies, management is required to make judgements, estimates and assumptions about carrying values of assets and liabilities that are not always readily apparent from other sources. The estimates and associated assumptions are based on historical experience and other factors that are considered to be relevant. Actual results may vary from these estimates. The directors do not consider that there are any significant estimates or critical judgements in these financial statements.

 

(b) Going concern

The financial statements have been prepared on a going concern basis.  The Group's business activities, together with the factors likely to affect its future development and performance, are set out in the Strategic Report. The financial position of the Group as at 31 December 2019 is shown in the balance sheet on page 24. The cash flows of the Group for the year ended 31 December 2019 are not untypical and are set out on page 25.

 

(c) Basis of consolidation

The consolidated financial statements incorporate the financial statements of the Company and the entity controlled by the Company (its subsidiary) made up to 31 December each year. 

 

In accordance with IFRS 10 the Company has been designated as an investment entity on the basis that: 

- It obtains funds from investors and provides those investors with investment management services; 

- It commits to its investors that its business purpose is to invest solely for returns from capital appreciation and investment income; and 

- It measures and evaluates performance of substantially all of its investments on a fair value basis. 

 

The subsidiary of the Company was established for the sole purpose of operating or supporting the investment operations of the Company, and is not itself an investment entity. Therefore, under the principles of IFRS 10, the Company has consolidated its subsidiary as it is a controlled entity that supports the investment activity of the investment entity. 

 

Control is achieved where the Company is exposed, or has the right, to variable returns from its investment in the subsidiary and has the ability to affect those returns through its power to direct the relevant activities. Where necessary, adjustments are made to the financial statements of the subsidiary to bring the accounting policies used by it into line with those used by the Group. All intra-group transactions, balances, income and expenses are eliminated on consolidation. 

 

 

 

Page 27 of 30

WITAN INVESTMENT TRUST PLC

  Annual Financial Report for the year ended 31 December 2019

 

Notes to the Financial Statements continued

 

(d) Presentation of the Statement of Comprehensive Income

In order to better reflect the activities of an investment trust company, and in accordance with guidance issued by the AIC, supplementary information which analyses the Statement of Comprehensive Income between items of a revenue and capital nature has been presented alongside the Statement of Comprehensive Income. Additionally, the net revenue is the measure the directors believe appropriate in assessing the Group's compliance with certain requirements set out in section 1158 of the Corporation Tax Act 2010.

 

2.  Investment income

 

 

 

 

 

2019

2018

 

£'000

£'000

 

 

 

UK dividends from listed investments

22,393

18,648

UK special dividends from listed investments

2,085

1,660

 

-----------

-----------

Total UK dividends

24,478

20,308

 

-----------

-----------

 

 

 

Overseas dividends from listed investments

39,089

36,726

Overseas special dividends from listed investments

1,476

1,074

Overseas stock dividends from listed investments

2

-

Fixed interest and convertible bonds

-

92

 

-----------

-----------

Total investment income

65,045

58,200

 

 

 

 

2019

2019

 

£'000

£'000

Analysis of investment income by geographical segment:

 

 

United Kingdom

24,478

20,308

North America

7,062

7,622

Continental Europe

15,053

11,644

Japan

2,114

2,269

Asia Pacific (ex Japan)

8,598

9,403

Latin America

276

230

Other

7,464

6,724

 

-----------

-----------

Total investment income

65,045

58,200

 

 

3.  Other income

 

 

 

 

2019

2018

 

£'000

£'000

Deposit interest

138

214

Stock lending income

557

278

Income from the subsidiary company's third party business

1,528

1,084

 

-----------

-----------

 

2,223

1,576

 

 

 

 

 

 

Page 28 of 30

WITAN INVESTMENT TRUST PLC

  Annual Financial Report for the year ended 31 December 2019

 

 

Notes to the Financial Statements continued

 

4.  Management and performance fees

 

 

Year ended 31 December 2019

Year ended 31 December 2018

 

Revenue

Capital

Total

Revenue

Capital

Total

 

£'000

£'000

£'000

£'000

£'000

£'000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Management fees

2,522

7,567

10,089

2,535

7,605

10,140

Performance fees

-

1,541

1,541

-

1,558

1,558

 

----------

-----------

-----------

----------

-----------

-----------

 

2,522

9,108

11,630

2,535

9,163

11,698

 

5.  Earnings per ordinary share

 

The earnings per ordinary share figure is based on the net profit for the year of £375,823,000 (2018: loss of £164,471,000) and on 878,509,015 ordinary shares (2018: 891,325,835(1)), being the weighted average number of ordinary shares in issue during the year.

 

The earnings per ordinary share figure detailed above can be further analysed between revenue and capital, as below. The Company has no securities in issue that could dilute the return per ordinary share. Therefore the basic and diluted earnings per ordinary share are the same.

 

 

2019

2018

 

£'000

£'000

 

 

 

Net revenue profit

52,792

46,198

Net capital profit/(loss)

323,031

(210,669)

 

----------

----------

Net total profit/(loss)

375,823

(164,471)

 

 

 

Weighted average number of ordinary shares in issue during the year(1)

878,509,015

891,325,835

 

 

 

 

Pence

Pence

Revenue earnings per ordinary share

6.01

5.18

Capital earnings per ordinary share

36.77

(23.63)

 

----------

----------

Total earnings per ordinary share

42.78

(18.45)

 

 

 

 

(1) Comparative figures for the year ended 31 December 2018 have been restated due to the sub-division of each ordinary share of 25p into five ordinary shares of 5p each on 28 May 2019

 

6.  Issued share capital

 

The number of ordinary shares of 5p each in issue at 31 December 2019 was 1,000,355,000 (2018: 1,000,355,000(1)), of which 134,376,565 ordinary shares of 5p each (2018: 109,308,160(1)) were held in treasury.

 

(1) Comparative figures for the year ended 31 December 2018 have been restated due to the sub-division of each ordinary share of 25p into five ordinary shares of 5p each on 28 May 2019

 

 

 

 

 

Page 29 of 30

WITAN INVESTMENT TRUST PLC

  Annual Financial Report for the year ended 31 December 2019

 

Notes to the Financial Statements continued

 

 

7.  Dividends

 

 2019

£'000

2018

£'000

Amounts recognised as distributions to equity holders in the year:

 

 

Fourth interim dividend for the year ended 31 December 2018 of 1.55p(1) (2017: 1.35p(1) per ordinary share

 

13,764

 

12,038

First interim dividend for the year ended 31 December 2019 of 1.175p (2018: 1.05p(1) per ordinary share

 

10,379

 

9,357

Second interim dividend for the year ended 31 December 2019 of 1.175p (2018: 1.05p(1) per ordinary share

 

10,276

 

9,357

Third interim dividend for the year ended 31 December 2019 of 1.175p (2018: 1.05p(1) per ordinary share

 

10,185

 

9,357

 

 

 

Refund of unclaimed dividends

(27)

(19)

 

----------

----------

 

44,577

40,090

 

======

======

 

 

 

Fourth interim dividend for the year ended 31 December 2019 of 1.825p (2018: 1.55p(1) per ordinary share

 

15,783

 

13,764

 

======

======

 

 

 

Total in respect of the year:

 

 

Set out below is the total dividend to be paid in respect of the year.  This is the basis on which the requirements of section 1158 of the Corporation Tax Act 2010 are considered.

 

 

2019

£'000

2018

£'000

Revenue profits available for distribution (Company only)

52,725

46,559

First interim dividend for the year ended 31 December 2019 of 1.175p (2018: 1.05p(1) per ordinary share

 

(10,379)

 

(9,357)

Second interim dividend for the year ended 31 December 2019 of 1.175p (2018: 1.05p(1) per ordinary share

 

(10,276)

 

(9,357)

Third interim dividend for the year ended 31 December 2019 of 1.175p (2018: 1.05p(1) per ordinary share

 

(10,185)

 

(9,357)

Fourth interim dividend for the year ended 31 December 2019 of 1.825p (2018: 1.55p(1) per ordinary share

 

(15,783)

 

(13,764)

 

----------

----------

Revenue retained for the year (Company only)

6,102

4,724

 

======

======

 

(1) Comparative figures for the year ended 31 December 2018 have been restated due to the sub-division of each ordinary share of 25p into five ordinary shares of 5p each on 28 May 2019

 

 

8.  2019 Accounts

 

The figures and financial information for 2019 are extracted from the Annual Report and financial statements for the year ended 31 December 2019 and do not constitute the statutory accounts for the year.  The Annual Report and financial statements include the Report of the Independent Auditor which is unqualified and does not contain a statement under either section 498(2) or section 498(3) of the Companies Act 2006.  The Annual Report and financial statements have not yet been delivered to the Registrar of Companies.

 

 

 

 

Page 30 of 30

WITAN INVESTMENT TRUST PLC

  Annual Financial Report for the year ended 31 December 2019

 

Notes to the Financial Statements continued

 

9.  2018 Accounts

 

The figures and financial information for 2018 are extracted from the published Annual Report and financial statements for the year ended 31 December 2018 and do not constitute the statutory accounts for that year.  The Annual Report and financial statements have been delivered to the Registrar of Companies and included the Report of the Independent Auditor which was unqualified and did not contain a statement under either section 498(2) or section 498(3) of the Companies Act 2006.

 

10.    Annual report and financial statements

 

Copies of the Annual Report and financial statements will be posted to shareholders by the end of March 2020 and will be available on the Company's website (www.witan.com) or in hard copy format from the Registered Office, 14 Queen Anne's Gate, London, SW1H 9AA.

 

The Annual General Meeting will be held at 2.30 pm on Wednesday, 29 April 2020 at Merchant Taylors' Hall, 30 Threadneedle Street, London EC2R 8JB.

 

 

For further information please contact:

 

Andrew Bell

Chief Executive

Witan Investment Trust plc

Telephone:  020 7227 9770

 

Alexis Barling

Director of Marketing

Witan Investment Trust plc

Telephone:  020 7227 9770

 

- ENDS -

 

Neither the contents of the Company's website nor the contents of any website accessible from hyperlinks on the Company's website (or any other website) is incorporated into, or forms part of, this announcement.

 


This information is provided by RNS, the news service of the London Stock Exchange. RNS is approved by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a Primary Information Provider in the United Kingdom. Terms and conditions relating to the use and distribution of this information may apply. For further information, please contact [email protected] or visit www.rns.com.
 
END
 
 
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