Jim Horsburgh, chief executive of the £1.5bn Witan global growth investment trust, has announced his decision to retire by the AGM in 2009.
He has acted as the company’s CEO since February 2004 and has presided over an eventful time for the trust which switched to a multi-manager investment approach in October 2004. Witan says it will ensure a smooth transition period for Horsburgh’s successor.
The announcement was made as part of Witan’s half year results for the six months ending June 30 2007.
The net asset value per share of the trust rose 6.3% over the period, reflecting the continuing rise of world equity markets. Despite a correction in February which saw markets fall by around 5%, the FTSE All-Share Index rose by 5.7% whilst the FTSE World (ex UK) Index rose by 6.0%.
The trust’s share price rose 8.1% (18.1% over 12 months) and there is a dividend increase of 5.1% to 4.10p per ordinary share, outstripping current levels of inflation (to be paid on September 7 2007).
Horsburgh says: “It is encouraging to see continued good performance from the Henderson UK smaller companies team and the improving performance from Brandes and Southeastern but the performance of Wellington, which runs a Continental Europe mandate, still gives the Board cause for concern. On a positive note the two enhanced indexed portfolios performed well.”
The investment in the UBS Mellon currency loan note fell by £2.5m, equivalent to a return of -0.7% on a notional £350m currency portfolio, mainly due to overweight positions in the yen and the US dollar. Witan says this vehicle was always expected to be volatile and this outcome, whilst a disappointing start, was within the anticipated range.
During July this year the trust completed its first formal review of its underlying investment managers since moving to multi-manager. It replaced the incumbent Asia ex-Japan manager APS Asset Management with Comgest and Orbis to run Witan's Asia ex-Japan and Australian portfolios respectively.
Commenting on the prospects for the trust, chairman Harry Henderson says: “Markets look set for a period of turbulence – a sharp reminder that investing in equities is not without risk. To mitigate the potential impact of such movements Witan has, since June, in effect been ungeared, down from a previous level of gearing of about 10%, reflecting the Board’s belief that while medium term prospects for global equities remained attractive, some potential risks had not been recognised.
“However, history shows that over the longer-term equities outstrip other asset classes and Witan’s diversified, multi-manager portfolio remains an excellent means of profiting from global markets.”
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