Brexit:Risks and Opportunities. What it all Means for Lowland Investment Company
Laura Foll, Deputy Fund Manager
Lowland Investment Company
There will be heightened uncertainty in the short term as the implications for underlying companies are worked out.
The impact will be different company by company – some international companies (such as AstraZeneca) will, we think, see little impact other than the effects of currency moves while others will see their environment change more markedly. Approximately 70% of FTSE 100 sales are derived outside of the UK, so the UK is a very international market and companies with a competitive product positioning and strong balance sheet should remain well positioned over the long term.
What are the main risks?
- Currency – the fall in sterling this will mean higher input costs for those that import goods, such as food and clothing retailers. The question then is whether higher input costs can be passed on via price rises – a highly competitive environment such as food retailing may find it difficult and therefore earnings growth forecasts will need to be lowered. However, lower sterling will benefit those companies that generate a substantial portion of earnings in other currencies benefiting companies in our fund such as such as Scapa and Elementis.
- Interest rates – due to the expected slowdown in UK economic growth, we expect interest rates to either remain on hold or to decrease which has implications for bank earnings, where margins have already been under pressure due to low interest rates environment. We hold a low weight in banks and those that we do hold (such as Standard Chartered) are quite international in their exposure.
- Rising unemployment – in the face of uncertainty some companies may put hiring decisions on hold, and some companies will chose to relocate jobs to mainland Europe. Rising unemployment would impact retail sales, particularly of discretionary items such as apparel, and would likely cause an increase in bad debt for consumer lending companies that we hold (such as Virgin Money and Provident Financial).
Does it present opportunities?
Lower currency will benefit dividend payments, as a substantial portion are paid to the fund in US Dollars (such as HSBC). At a broader level there will be opportunities, but we need to be cautious of the negatives of Brexit presenting themselves before the positives. For example the lower currency should ultimately make Britain a more competitive area to manufacture, but ahead of new trade deals being negotiated international companies may well be cautious of investing in the UK.
There may also be higher government spending in infrastructure benefiting companies such as Hill and Smith, or defence spending such as Babcock.
What does it mean for you at a portfolio level?
We have always tried to select companies that produce specialist products (or services) that can compete on an international scale which should not change following the vote, but in the short term it will mean changes in earnings forecasts and this is something we will need to review company by company. Some companies we hold (such as University spin-outs, approximately 5% of the total Fund) will not be materially impacted as what matters for them is whether their technology works and is commercially viable, not moves in the wider economy such as this. It is events like this that remind us of the need for a diverse portfolio.
We will be looking over the next few weeks and months to try to spot opportunities where we think the market is either being complacent over the negative impacts (such as the negative impact on consumer confidence), or underappreciating the positives (such as sterling depreciation).
Nothing in this document is intended to or should be construed as advice and you should satisfy yourself as to its suitability and the risks involved, you may wish to consult a financial adviser.
This document is not a recommendation to sell or purchase any investment. It does not form part of any contract for the sale or purchase of any investment.
Issued in the UK by Henderson Investment Funds Limited (reg. no. 2678531), incorporated and registered in England and Wales with registered office at 201 Bishopsgate, London EC2M 3AE, is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority to provide investment products and services.