Alastair Mundy, Head of Value at Investec Asset Management, discusses in this interview where he sees the best investment potential in 2015.
What has surprised you most in 2014?
What has really surprised me this year was quite how poor the performance of Tesco’s share price was. We knew trading was tough in the food retail sector and we knew their accounting was pretty aggressive, but even we were surprised when the accounting irregularities hit the screens.
However, we are keeping faith with Tesco, we still think they can turn the business around, and we think they can compete against discount retailers. There is now new management at Tesco, Dave Lewis has come in from Unilever, and we expect him to shake things up very quickly; perhaps sell the Asian or European divisions and/or some non-corporate businesses, and perhaps be more competitive against the discount retailers.
Where do you see good value in the UK equity market in 2015?
The best value we see in the UK equity market going into 2015 is in the larger stocks in the market. Companies like HSBC, Glaxo, BP and Shell have performed poorly against the mid-cap companies over the last decade and we think finally things are changing with these very large companies. Rather than looking for acquisitions they are making disposals, reducing their non-core assets, cutting costs and we believe focusing on what is right for the shareholder.
Why do you believe there is value in mega caps?
We think if mega-cap companies can shrink back to where they really have the strong competitive advantage, shareholders will be surprised at the amount of earnings growth these companies can deliver. They are on quite low valuations already compared to some other smaller companies in the market, so we think that is what is going to drive performance.
How are you positioning your portfolios in terms of strategy and style?
Our UK Special Situations portfolio is positioned increasingly towards the FTSE 100 companies, where we have a very large weighting. We have been reducing our weighting towards FTSE 250 companies over the last couple of years and this has continued in 2014. We also hold quite a lot of cash; not so that we can spend it if there is a small market fall, but to wait for some really fantastic opportunities or for individual stocks if they have profit warnings or fall significantly out of favour.
How are you positioned in your complementary assets on your Cautious Managed portfolio?
We think it is very important to focus our Cautious Managed portfolio on capital preservation at the moment, as we see a number of concerns around the world. These concerns range from geopolitical worries to fairly disappointing earnings growth for companies worldwide, and, of course, the end of quantitative easing in the US. All of these factors suggest that equity valuations should not be as high as they are. So, what do we need if we think equity valuations are going to fall? We need some complementary assets such as gold, gold equities, Norwegian krone, cash and index-linked bonds, both US and UK. We cannot be absolutely positive that these complementary assets will rise if equity markets fall significantly, but we are hoping that they will dampen volatility if equity markets become more volatile. The strategy of investing in out-of-favour companies and combining this with a focus on complementary assets that work well with equities in different times in the cycle has been a strategy that has been successful for us over the past 21 years on our Cautious Managed portfolio.