General Investment

What does credit default pricing tell us about the cycle?

By |2018-11-23T12:55:49+00:00November 23rd, 2018|Cerno Capital, Cerno Capital Posts, Credit, General Investment|

Credit risk is the risk that companies do not repay their debts. This risk can be measured and traded. CDX IG is an index comprising the 125 most liquid single name Credit Default Swaps (CDS) in the investment grade space in the US. The most commonly traded tenor point is 5 years and the index is refreshed by the provider every 6 months to maintain maturity and liquidity profile of the underlying names. We are currently on series 31 (meaning the index has been running in one form or another since 2002-2003). The index is quoted in terms of basis points and a quote represents the annual cost of insuring a notional amount of the underlying assets (as a simple approximation). For example; with CDX IG NA currently trading at 78bps (0.78%) an investor paying to insure US$10mn for 5 years would pay US$78,000 annually. In return for this insurance premium they would be made whole (minus the recovery rate) in the event of any defaults during the period, proportionate to the size of the constituent. On the flip side, the seller of such a contract would receive US$78,000 annually whilst being on the hook for the above obligations. These [...]

Cerno Capital awarded HK Connect status

By |2018-09-26T10:05:55+00:00September 25th, 2018|Cerno Capital, Cerno Capital Posts, General Investment, Other Posts|

Following several months of work, we have been awarded HK Connect status which allows us to invest in Shenzhen and Shanghai listed ‘A’ shares (formerly known as local stock). The ‘stock connect’ link between China’s mainland markets and Hong Kong relaxes restrictions that historically split the Chinese stock market between shares targeted at local investors and those available to international investors. The link was first launched in 2014 between Shanghai and Hong Kong. In late 2016 it was further extended to include the burgeoning, technology hub of Shenzhen. It allows mainland Chinese to purchase shares listed in Hong Kong and lets foreigners buy China A shares listed on the mainland. This vastly expands the range of possible investments we can make in the world’s most exciting economy. Fay Ren, Co-Manager of TM Cerno Pacific & Emerging comments: “The A-share market is more than twice the size of the H-share market, giving us access to a wealth of new ideas to explore. There are some real gems in the mix and we are thrilled with the opportunity to find and own them, in particular the more tech oriented entrepreneurial names that are little known outside the country”. Goldman Sachs, with whom [...] September churn leaves S&P 500 record a distant memory

By |2018-10-18T10:51:27+00:00September 12th, 2018|Cerno Capital Media Mentions, General Investment|

James Spence's comments on US equities are included in Michael Mackenzie's column on the S&P 500's tough start to September. James notes, "it is waning global demand which presents the greatest threat [to US equities], exacerbated by a strong dollar, weakening of the Chinese economy and trade friction. These are hardly imaginary events." Click here to read the full article.

Cerno Capital to Vote Against Proposed Acquisition of JLIF

By |2018-09-25T16:08:04+00:00September 7th, 2018|Asset Allocation, Cerno Capital Posts, General Investment, Other Posts|

Update: On the 24th of September, the shareholders of JLIF voted to determine the future of the trust. The turnout displayed a disappointing level of shareholder apathy with just 54% of the available votes being cast. Of the votes cast, 85% voted in favour of the takeover. The shares of JLIF will cease to trade on the 28th of September. Attention will now shift to other listed vehicles that may prove attractive to private capital. Such capital appears to be willing to operate with lower discount rates than the public markets deem prudent. The John Laing Infrastructure Fund Limited is a holding in Cerno multi-asset portfolios due to the attractive characteristics of the infrastructure assets it owns – principally, long term inflation linked cash-flows deriving from availability-based payments on socially and economically important infrastructure assets. On the 16th of July, the Board of John Laing Infrastructure Fund Limited (JLIF) announced that following an unsolicited approach from a consortium of Dalmore Capital Limited and Equitix Investment Management Limited (the Consortium), discussions were continuing over a Possible Offer to purchase the entire shareholder capital of JLIF at a price of 142.5 pence. On the 3rd of August, the possible offer became a [...]

The Next Global Downturn: Corporate Debt & the Concept of Fragility

By |2018-07-24T10:14:59+00:00July 16th, 2018|Cerno Capital Posts, Cerno Global Leaders, Developed Equities, General Investment, Global Leaders, Other Posts, Strategy|

Our aim, within the context of the Global Leaders Fund, is to own great companies over multiple market cycles. In this way we operate over a timeframe where competition is scarcer, allowing us the best opportunity to outperform global markets. This overarching objective is underpinned by three concepts: growth, long term relevance (sustainability of returns) and financial soundness. All three are crucial in delineating the leading businesses we want to own. Companies that we can employ in a concentrated, low turnover portfolio and sleep comfortably at night. Growth is perhaps the easier to define: does the company have the tools at its disposal to compound earnings at an attractive rate over time. Relevance and sustainability has sharply diverging meanings depending on who one asks. Our preference is to cast the net as broadly as possible: simply, a company whose current earnings to do not borrow from its future earnings. This concept is wide ranging and influences the fund exclusions. Tobacco for example, where new customers must be found to offset the natural elimination of the existing base by the product itself. Old energy with the extensive disruption from renewables already in full swing. Banks, where inherent leverage hangs like a [...]

The Custom Option

By |2018-07-11T08:54:19+00:00July 9th, 2018|Cerno Capital, Cerno Capital Posts, Cerno Global Leaders, General Investment, Global Leaders, Investment Quarterly, Other Posts, Strategy|

Conducting big business in the decades following the industrial revolution normally entailed the marshalling of labour and resources in a profitable sinecure. Fur trappers and tin miners, agriculture and energy, railroads and steel all fit this model. These industries persist today but are becoming scarce in the pantheon of very top companies measured by market capitalisation or economic value addition. Labour has mobilised, a thicket of laws exists to prevent excessive exploitation and monopolies of international scale are prohibited. Only perhaps in the world of software and social media have we seen the kind of recently accrued market share power that breeds exploitative practices: Microsoft’s dominance of operating system software is a matter of historic fact and Facebook’s control of the network effect across its platforms are prime examples of predatory corporate behaviour: rabid until checked. Outside these large and unusual cases, successful companies conducting business across multiple continents need to balance of standardisation against customisation. Standard so often entails stand-still which is a death curse for companies. At the other end of the spectrum, few businesses can adopt a fully bespoke offering and hope to grow beyond their artisanal roots. There is another category, companies and sometimes just one-person [...]

Roma non fuit una die condita – Rome Was Not Built In A Day

By |2018-06-12T14:23:41+00:00June 12th, 2018|Asset Classes, Cerno Capital Posts, General Investment, Government Bonds, Other Posts, Regions|

A short history of Italian government debt Italy’s titanic national debt, similarly to Rome, was not built in a day. In Italy, like much of Europe, the saga begins benignly in the ashes of World War II. The economic miracles experienced by states such as Greece, Germany and Japan in the 1950s-60s as the countries rebuilt their economies from the ground up (with aid from the US Marshall plan) resulted in two decades of breakneck economic growth. In Italy this period was known as ‘il miracolo economico’. GDP growth averaged just below 6% until 1963 and 5% thereafter until 1973. This boom eventually gave way to fiscal largesse in an attempt to continue the dramatic growth rates and associated quality of life improvements the domestic population had grown accustomed to. With the puncturing of ‘il miracolo’ during the 1973 global oil crisis, subsequent Italian governments borrowed their way to increased prosperity. From the Years of Lead in the 1970s to Rampartism in the 80s and the Second Republic of 1992, Italian debt steadily rose from 30% of GDP, along with real living standards. Italy Debt to GDP ratio 1900-2018. Source: Bloomberg By the early 90s where our overview begins, Italian [...]

Going, Going, Gold

By |2018-05-03T15:44:24+00:00May 3rd, 2018|Asset Allocation, Asset Classes, Cerno Capital, Cerno Capital Posts, General Investment, Other Posts, Strategy|

Our view on gold has changed recently and we have sold the positions in full across all portfolios. Gold has a few things going for it. It has had a prescribed value for thousands of years – stemming directly from the fact that it was, for much of the past three millennia, a medium of exchange, a savings product - in effect a currency. In 1971, when the US finally came off the gold standard, the direct link between paper currencies and gold was lost. Forty years is a relatively short time in a period measured in centuries, so institutional and personal memories of the linkage remain strong. However, Gold is an example of a putatively safe asset which is, on investigation, not reliable in all environments. Gold is not necessarily a beneficiary from higher inflation, as is commonly thought. The price of gold demonstrates no stable statistical relationship with the measured rate of inflation. No matter whose CPI series one adopts, the relationship is unstable by virtue of the very large swings in the gold price. The case for believing that gold offers a very long run store of value is not well constructed. In face of these inconvenient [...]

Further FAQs on the Cerno Global Leaders Fund

By |2018-04-30T08:45:47+00:00April 30th, 2018|Cerno Capital, Cerno Capital Posts, General Investment, Other Posts|

The Investment Team compiles questions and answers, asked at our Global Leaders Breakfasts on Wednesday 25th & Thursday 26th April 2018. Most of the information is public, what do you see in your stocks that others don’t? It is less a matter of seeking information advantage in the here and now but structuring our thoughts over sufficient long-time horizons where competition is scarcer. The arbitrage is largely in holding great companies for the long term and avoiding the usual pratfalls which are over-leverage and disruption. Does the hard rebalance contradict the proposition to hold stock in the long-term as you cut the winners? Rebalancing is consistent with our expectation of each company making a meaningful contribution to return and our time horizon given lower confidence in short term share price outcomes versus longer term fundamental performance. We expect rebalancing to equal weights will add value as it is the natural response of a long-term shareholder to the impact of stock market preferences on share prices. Cutting positions to maintain equal weighting is an important risk control given it minimises the portfolio of major industry disruption to any one position.  Our approach effectively deals with the situation of holding an outsized [...]

Inflation Linked Bonds – Why They Don’t Work (In All Situations)

By |2018-03-27T09:22:33+00:00March 27th, 2018|Asset Allocation, Cerno Capital Posts, General Investment, Other Posts|

The first inflation linked bond (or linker) was launched in 1780 by the Massachusetts Bay Company. Although inflation was a much less understood or easily measured concept back then, the need for inflation protection has been acutely felt since the inception of financial markets. Inflation linked bonds (ILBs) only came into investor consciousness properly however post their introduction in the 1980s by the UK DMO and in 1997 by the US Treasury. This resulted in the most liquid inflation linked bond market of today the US$500bn (notional) US TIPs market. TIPs stand for Treasury Inflation Protected Securities. To contextualise the issues of ILBs we must appreciate that their pricing dynamics are essentially the same as nominal bonds. That is to say, the market determined price of a nominal bond is the collection of its cash flows (fixed coupon x principal) and principal repayment, all discounted to the present value via relevant discount rates. Following from this, the sole differentiating technical factor between nominal and ILBs is that the inflation linked bond receives an adjustment to coupons and principal value (paid at maturity) based on an inflation tracking index (typically CPI). Because of this, ILBs (to some degree) suffer or benefit [...]