What is the City of London Investment Trust?
The City of London Investment Trust predominantly invests in larger companies [68% in FTSE 100 companies, 19% in mid-cap (medium sized) companies, and 13% in overseas companies as at 30 June 2016.]
The fund invests to provide income and growth. Income is paid to shareholders in the form of dividends; this is a bit like interest paid by banks, although what you get depends on the profit the company makes. We have grown the dividend every year over the past 50 years, which is a record among investment trusts. Growth, meanwhile, comes from the company’s share price growing.
City of London Trust: Key stats
Net assets: £1,249 million* Ongoing charges figure: 0.42%
Number of holdings: 117
*Morningstar on 4 August 2016. Other figures taken from the June 2016 fact sheet.
Do you invest in the fund yourself?
I have two big holdings; Henderson shares through my company scheme [Henderson manages the trust] and the City of London Investment Trust. I had 107,395 shares in the fund in the trust’s last financial year.
What companies have you recently bought?
I’ve bought Inchcape – a global motor retailing company. It is in the FTSE 250 and got dragged down after Brexit so I got it at quite a good price. I’ve also added to our holding in property developer Berkeley Group, as while it was hit hard following Brexit, it has a few riverside developments planned and has a deal with National Grid to redevelop old gas holders into flats. It’s also yielding 8%.
What companies have you sold recently?
In June, I sold Premier Farnell – a distributor of electronic components – it hadn’t been performing well, so when a takeover bid for the company came along it seemed to be a good ‘get out of jail card’.
Has there been a Brexit impact on the fund?
The fund isn’t particularly exposed to the UK domestic market, so there hasn’t been too much of an impact following Brexit. Global companies in the fund will also benefit, as the worth of their business in sterling will improve ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼due to the pound falling against the dollar and the euro.
How do you protect the fund from market falls?
One saying is that the market is like a manic-depressive; one day it’s incredibly excited and the next it isn’t. So you do need to be able to stand back from the noise.
The market is governed by fear and greed, but you’ve got to balance those emotions. In fact, the world’s greatest investor, Warren Buffet, said that the time to be greedy is when others are fearful and vice versa.
What’s the best company you’ve ever bought?
You often find good companies in surprising places. The best company I’ve bought is British American Tobacco. You wouldn’t think it would do well given smoking is in decline, but during the technology bubble in January 2000, the share price got down to below £3, and it’s now about £48. So it’s a phenomenal stock and it’s paid very good dividends throughout too.
However, I would strongly urge investors to build up a diverse portfolio. To bet it all on one horse is a huge mistake.
What was your worst investment?
The one that was particularly annoying was Lloyds Banking Group. I’d held the company for a while, but then in the run-up to the financial crisis it bought HBOS and almost bankrupted itself, so I sold my holdings. However, about a year ago I bought back into it, as now its balance sheet is strong and it’s started paying dividends again.
What’s your top tip for investors?
If you’re investing in the stock market without an adviser, I’d recommend a lot of reading first as you are dealing with your savings. People need to be aware of the risks as well as the returns.
The man behind the fund
Name: Job Curtis (Job is pronounced in the same way as the word ‘probe’).
Managed the fund since: 1991
Background: Graduated from Oxford in 1983 with a degree in PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Economics). Then went to work as a graduate trainee for a stockbroking firm, before moving to Cornhill insurance, and then to Touche Remnant. It was here Job began managing the City of London Trust aged 30. The company was taken over by Henderson in 1992.
Interview conducted on 22 July 2016.