John Bennett - Henderson

John Bennett, Director of European Equities at Henderson Global Investors makes the case for investment trusts



Investors are likely aware there are two main ‘types’ of collective investment vehicles: open- or closed-ended. Open-ended vehicles in the UK are either called open-ended investment companies (OEICs) or unit trusts, and otherwise referred to as ‘funds’; closed-ended vehicles are known as investment trusts.

‘Open-ended’ refers to the fact that when new investors come along with money to invest, new units in the fund are created and the fund grows; similarly when investors want their money back, the fund shrinks as the units are cancelled.

‘Closed-ended’ refers to the fact there are a fixed number of shares in issue for an investment trust, so in order for an investor to buy shares another investor must be willing to sell. These are transacted through an exchange.

Not needing to worry about potential redemptions in investment trusts means fund managers are able to buy more esoteric or illiquid stocks because they don’t need to worry about selling them to raise cash. This can be very beneficial for investors, as John Bennett, Fund Manager of the Henderson European Focus Trust, writes:


John Bennett on Special Situations: the Trust’s powerful differentiator


Over the years I have frequently discussed the advantages investors enjoy when owning investment trusts. Recently, I have been reminded of these again.

I am not overly confident in the markets presently.

US equities, the forerunner for global risk assets, are too highly valued. Political paralysis in the Eurozone coupled with drag from financial repression and excessive debt means relatively low valued European equities are, in my opinion, not actually that cheap.

At times like these there are unique positions in the Trust that give me some confidence: the special situations.

For my large open-ended funds these stocks are often inappropriate on account of being too small and too illiquid; we simply couldn’t trade them into meaningful portfolio positions nor use them to raise cash quickly enough to fund any necessary redemptions.


What Other Benefits do Investment Trusts Bring Investors?

1) More reliable income – The income you receive may be more reliable than open-ended funds because investment trusts are able to reserve up to 15% of the dividends received from underlying holdings, usually in times of economic prosperity, and use this to help continue paying-out income if times get harder and dividends become less fruitful.


2) Independent board – Investment trusts have an independent board whose job it is to keep an eye on the fund manager’s performance and ensure they’re keeping in-line with the investment mandate, supporting or challenging them where necessary.


3) Gearing – Investment trusts can gear – or borrow extra money – which can significantly add to performance if skilfully deployed in rising markets, although being a double-edged sword it can enhance loses in falling markets.


In the closed-ended structure the absence of capital flows means we do not have to worry about these issues; there’s plenty of time to trade the stocks and aim to get the best price for our investors.

While special situations are not a large part of the portfolio’s strategy I do believe they set the Trust apart from its open-ended counterparts.


I point to two representative positions.


Tessenderlo Chemie is the first, a Brussels-based chemicals manufacturer operating in markets from agriculture, construction, food to health & hygiene.

We have been invested in the company for some time although its share price returns have been lacklustre over the years.

The reason for our continued investment has been a subsidiary business known as Kerley, a manufacturer of agricultural sulphur-based liquid fertilisers.

In North America it is the leading supplier in this area, aided by cheap raw materials from a highly integrated upstream business model. It places the company in a powerful competitive position due to the difficulty in replicating this model, leading to high growth, high margins and high returns.

Successive management teams have been somewhat underwhelming, however in 2013 a successful Belgium entrepreneur, Luc Tack, bought into the company and started to enact promising change.

Following decisive cost cutting the company recently came to shareholders for a €200m rights issue, gladly partaken by ourselves. We believe it is now well positioned for growth.


Veidekke is the second, the largest building and construction firm in Norway. With over 6000 employees and footholds in Denmark and Sweden, it builds new homes, commercial property, public buildings, roads and railways. It has never lost money since its founding in 1936.

During the financial downturn their margins came under pressure, but with the subsequent clear-out of lower-margin business the recovery has lent to improving profitability.

We find particularly attractive the high level of employee ownership, a clear home-markets leading position and an extremely strong balance sheet. Indeed as we perpetually nag management to distribute more of the cash from its balance sheet, we have confidence in a continuing high and rising dividend.


Nothing in this document is intended to or should be construed as advice.  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.

The value of an investment and the income from it can fall as well as rise and you may not get back the amount originally invested.

Before investing in an investment trust referred to in this document, you should satisfy yourself as to its suitability and the risks involved, you may wish to consult a financial adviser.




Issued in the UK by Henderson Global Investors. Henderson Global Investors is the name under which Henderson Global Investors Limited (reg. no. 906355), Henderson Fund Management Limited (reg. no. 2607112), Henderson Investment Funds Limited (reg. no. 2678531), Henderson Investment Management Limited (reg. no. 1795354), Henderson Alternative Investment Advisor Limited (reg. no. 962757), Henderson Equity Partners Limited (reg. no.2606646), Gartmore Investment Limited (reg. no. 1508030), (each incorporated and registered in England and Wales with registered office at 201 Bishopsgate, London EC2M 3AE) are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority to provide investment products and services. 


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