Coronavirus Update

Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Preliminary Results 2021

This content has been sourced from: https://www.investegate.co.uk/scot.mort-inv-tst--s...

Results for the year to 31 March 2021

 

NAV (borrowings at fair value ) *

111.2%

NAV (borrowings at book value ) *

111.5%

Share Price*

99.0%

Benchmark 

39.6%

Source: Refinitiv / Baillie Gifford. All figures are total return*. See disclaimer at the end of this announcement.

*  Alternative Performance Measure - see Glossary of Terms and Alternative Performance Measures at the end of this announcement.

† Benchmark: FTSE All-World index (in sterling terms)

 

The following is the Preliminary Results Announcement for the year to 31 March 2021 which was approved by the Board on 12 May 2021.

 

Statement from the Board

 

Corporate Strategy

The year to 31 March 2021 was clearly overshadowed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Quite apart from the devastating human cost, it has also created enormous social, economic and business disruption. However, this has also been a period that has supercharged the prospects of several portfolio companies, faster than many might have expected. We could point to Illumina and Moderna who, between them, took only four days to sequence the virus and make a candidate vaccine; online platforms such as Amazon that provided goods to our doors; or Zoom, the video conferencing service that turned into a verb overnight.

As an externally managed investment trust, the Company has been fortunate in not having to contend with so many of the difficulties faced by many operating businesses. But there have been some temporary challenges such as online Board meetings and restrictions on holding physical General Meetings.

In response to the obvious challenges of a virtual environment, Baillie Gifford made full use of the digital tools at its disposal to provide a full service that progressed uninterrupted. As one would expect, joint Managers James Anderson and Tom Slater remained resolutely focused on patient investment on behalf of shareholders and their time horizons reach far beyond the pandemic and its immediate after effects. Despite largely being confined to their own homes, they continued to engage with portfolio companies, as well as exploring new investment opportunities. It is worth noting that the portfolio turnover increased over the year in both monetary and number terms as Scottish Mortgage became owners of several new companies which the Managers believe can drive returns over the coming years.

 

 

 

 

 

Performance

For the financial year to 31 March 2021, shareholders saw the strongest ever return produced by the Company, surpassing the returns delivered during the Company's expansion post the Great Depression and, more recently, in the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis. As a result, the Company reached new market capitalisation highs during the year, closing at just over £18 billion.

 

Total Return * ( %)

12 Months to

31 March 2021

NAV

111.2

Share Price

99.0

FTSE All-World Index

39.6

Global Sector Average - NAV

76.8

Global Sector Average - share price

72.2

 

Source: AIC/Refinitiv/Baillie Gifford. NAV after deducting borrowings at fair value*.

*  Alternative Performance Measure - see Alternative Performance Measures and Glossary of Terms at the end of this announcement.

 

When the Managers judge performance, they focus on long term returns and the impact of compounding over time.  Following a period of outperformance, they remain patient and only trim holdings when they believe the upside has reduced. As we have learnt, over long time periods, a small number of companies generate most of the total return.

 

Total Return*(%)

Five Years to

31 March 2021

Ten Years to

31 March 2021

NAV

374.9

708.0

Share Price

347.9

756.1

FTSE All-World Index

98.5

193.7

Global Sector Average - NAV

233.4

437.6

Global Sector Average - share price

232.3

482.7

 

Source: AIC/Refinitiv/Baillie Gifford. NAV after deducting borrowings at fair value*.

*  Alternative Performance Measure - see Glossary of Terms and Alternative Performance Measures at the end of this announcement.

 

Value for Money

It is pleasing that the continued growth in Scottish Mortgage's assets has meant that costs as a proportion of net asset value have again reduced as the Company shares the benefits of scale with its owners. Ongoing charges for the year were 0.34%.

Value for money is moving up the agenda across the asset management industry. Net outperformance lies at the heart of this issue, which is comprised of two factors: relative investment performance to passives and peers, and cost.

On cost, it is difficult to find fair comparison as very few other investment companies provide access to both public and private companies in one portfolio. However, the Company's ongoing charges are less than most actively managed funds invested in public equities and significantly less than private equity funds. This leads to the conclusion that Scottish Mortgage is not only low cost, but, once relative performance has been incorporated, outstanding value for money for shareholders. This will continue to be a central tenet for both the Board and Managers.

 

Financial Position

The Board remains committed to the strategic use of borrowing, which is one of the principal advantages of the investment trust structure. The extent and range of equity gearing was discussed by the Board and Managers at each Board meeting throughout the period. The absolute level of borrowing increased to remain within an appropriate range against a rapidly growing net asset value. All new borrowing was secured at very competitive rates (details provided at end of this document) and at the end of the year the overall value of the borrowing represented approximately 7% of the Company's net asset value.

 

Earnings and dividend

The Managers seek to maximise total return by providing growth capital to a global portfolio of transformational public and private companies. One common characteristic across these companies is that many choose to retain and reinvest most of their earnings to support future growth. This results in a relatively low level of dividend income for your Company that represents a small and diminishing part of the overall return generated. The revenue earnings per share for Scottish Mortgage over the period were 0.62 pence - this represents a reduction on last year (1.55 pence in 2020), following a decline in income received from portfolio companies.

As a Board we acknowledge the importance of providing a predictable and growing level of dividend income, to help shareholders plan for their own overall portfolio income needs. The Directors are, therefore, recommending that this year the total dividend be increased by 5.2% to 3.42 pence.

The Company's revenue earnings for the year are insufficient to cover the dividend and the majority will be paid from realised capital reserves. Collectively, we believe this to be appropriate, given the relatively immaterial size of the element paid from capital compared with the scale of the distributable capital gains achieved over the long term

 

Liquidity

Over the period, the Company continued to operate its liquidity policy to meet, in normal market conditions, imbalances in supply and demand of its own shares over the short term. In total, the Company issued 24.7 million shares and bought back 56.4 million, resulting in a net buyback totalling around £420 million.

 

Portfolio Manager Update

In March of this year we informed shareholders that James Anderson will retire as a partner from Baillie Gifford and stand down as joint manager of Scottish Mortgage on 30 April 2022. Over the last two decades James has led the transformation of the Company, from a largely UK-focused trust to one that is now global, long term and index indifferent. He also pioneered Scottish Mortgage's investments in private companies, one of its most important strategic initiatives to date. There is a lot more to say about the huge contribution that James has made, but it would be premature to do so now, as he remains focused on jointly managing the portfolio over the coming year.

During this year, the investment team increases to three, with the addition of Lawrence Burns as Deputy Manager. Lawrence's name may be new to many shareholders but he is philosophically aligned with the current Managers. He has a particular focus on transformative growth companies and has also co-managed some of Baillie Gifford's largest strategies alongside James and others.

Lawrence's arrival marks the next step in a long term succession plan that has been agreed between the Board and Managers and will ensure that we have a strong team in place to manage the portfolio for the next decade or more. The Board would like to take this opportunity to welcome Lawrence to his Scottish Mortgage role.

 

Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)

We recognise the importance of considering ESG factors when making investments and in acting as a responsible steward of capital. We consider that Board oversight of such matters is an important part of our responsibility to shareholders.

Governance also needs to be considered in the context of the philosophy that underpins the management of the portfolio. The Managers take a very selective approach, with a focus on companies that can grow to many multiples of their current size. More often than not, the companies with the most exciting prospects are those that seek to tap into technological and cultural progress to find newer and better ways of producing the goods and services that society will need over the course of the next decade. In this context, the Managers' approach to governance and sustainability is based on five core beliefs that are detailed in the recently published document, 'Our Approach to Governance'. We recommend this as valuable reading to all shareholders and it can be accessed on the Company's website scottishmortageit.com

 

Shareholder Engagement

The Annual General Meeting will be held on 24 June 2021 at Baillie Gifford's offices at Calton Square, 1 Greenside Row, Edinburgh. In view of the continuing Covid-19 related restrictions, attendance will be kept to the minimum permitted by the Company's Articles of Association and shareholders will not be able to attend. We would, though, remind shareholders that they are able to submit proxy voting forms before the applicable deadline and also to direct any questions or comments for the Board in advance of the meeting through the Company's Managers, either by emailing scottishmortgage@bailliegifford.com or calling 0800 917 2112 (Baillie Gifford may record your call).

As always, the details of the outcomes of the AGM business will subsequently be available on the website, as will a filmed Managers' update.

More generally, we would encourage shareholders to engage with the Company throughout the year, not solely via the AGM. The Managers provide information and 'Insight' pieces on the portfolio on the Company's website scottishmortgageit.com.

Now more than ever these digital resources allow shareholders to stay well informed, by hearing directly from those managing their money. Over the year, webinar presentations have been extremely well attended and more are planned in future. Details of these will be put on the website.

It is hoped that the Managers will be able to proceed with a shareholder forum in Edinburgh in September 2021, as well as other live events later in the year. If such events can take place, Board members will look to attend a number of these to provide opportunities for face to face engagement with shareholders .

 

Directors' Share Qualification

Following a review, the Board is proposing that the Articles of Association be amended at the forthcoming AGM to remove the so-called 'Directors' share qualification' provisions. The formal requirement for each Director to hold a particular number of shares is somewhat historical and would now involve a substantial financial commitment from any proposed Director, which is not considered by the Directors to be conducive going forwards to attracting a diverse range of candidates to the Board.

 

 

 

 

Outlook

It might perhaps seem insensitive to look forward when the world remains in the grip of the pandemic. Nonetheless, it is incumbent on us to be optimistic and look beyond the current crisis. If the last year has taught us anything, it is that the world is uncertain but that we can endure and businesses can flourish in the most challenging of circumstances.

Investment opportunities are likely to remain plentiful as companies increasingly use digital tools to revolutionise industries and build a sustainable future. Scottish Mortgage is well placed to give you access to these transformational growth companies. The Managers are known as patient investors with time horizons well aligned to company founders, which is particularly attractive to private company owners who carefully select who they wish to see on their ownership registers.

We remain confident that Scottish Mortgage merits a place in all portfolios. Shareholders benefit from high quality managers, with a clearly defined investment philosophy and process, together with independent board oversight. All of this is provided at a cost that the Board believes represents genuine value for money.

 

 

Justin Dowley

Senior Independent Director

(in the temporary absence of the Chair)

12 May 2021