2019 was a testing time for the closed-end listed managed investment structure. The ALP’s controversial franking credit policy would’ve diminished the appeal of LICs for retirees, coupled with the tax-loss selling heading into June saw discounts widen across the board. As a result, attractive opportunities arose with many large and reputable LIC/LITs trading at historically large discounts.
Our top picks for 2020 are MFF Capital Investments Limited (MFF) which has delivered continued superior long-term performance, Plato Income Maximiser Limited (PL8) which specialises in maximising income for pension-phase and SMSF investors, and MCP Master Income Trust (MXT) which provides non-equity income diversification for investors seeking yield in a period of historically low rates.
MFF CAPITAL INVESTMENTS LIMITED (MFF)
MFF’s primary focus is to invest in large listed international companies that have attractive business characteristics at a discount to their assessed intrinsic values. The Directors believe that this will generate superior risk adjusted returns over the medium to long term, while minimising the risk of permanent capital loss. As at the end of October 2019, we calculate MFF had a 10 year share price annualised return (incl. net dividends) of 21.2% p.a. and a pre-tax NTA return of 18.9% p.a. compared to the MSCI World Index (in AUD) return of 12.4% p.a. Performance is calculated after the payment of tax, which is MFF’s greatest expense. Tax paid can result in franking credits eventually being transferred through to the benefit of shareholders and MFF had a franking reserve over $58m as at 30 June 2019. The FY19 Indirect Cost Ratio of 0.44% was the lowest we calculated amongst global mandated LIC/LITs, whilst the Manager and the Company have agreed to cease the entitlement to a Performance Fee for the period ending December 2019.
PLATO INCOME MAXIMISER LIMITED (PL8)
PL8 provides a well-diversified portfolio of Australian listed equites that aims to deliver shareholders with annual income (incl. franking credits) in excess of the S&P/ASX 200 Franking Credit Adjusted Daily Total Return Index (Benchmark). The Company will also aim to outperform (after fees) the Benchmark in total return terms (incl. franking credits) over each full investment cycle. The Manager, Plato Investment Management Limited, achieves this by 3 means; dividend run-up effect, franking credits and running a dividend trap model. PL8 invests directly into a ‘no fee’ class of one of the Manager’s unlisted funds. Due to this, PL8’s investment portfolio is classified as long-term holding with the movements in the underlying portfolio reported in other comprehensive income. PL8’s profits will therefore be derived from the distributions of the underlying fund. This creates greater confidence about available profits from which to source payment of a franked dividend on a monthly basis. Based on the 31 October share price, PL8 is trading on a 7.3% annualised gross yield. Management Fees are 0.82% p.a. (incl. GST & RITC) and there is no Performance Fee.
MCP MASTER INCOME TRUST (MXT)
MXT is a fixed income LIT that aims to provide exposure to the Australian corporate loans market with diversification by borrower, industry and credit quality. Of the 125 investments in the portfolio at the end of October 2019, 55% were of investment grade. Metrics Credit Partners (The Manager) is an alternative asset manager with an experienced investment team that have the capability to cover all fundamentals of direct lending and private credit including originating, structuring and distributing private debt. As at the end of October 2019, we calculate MXT had a 1 year share price return (incl. net dividends) of 4.1% and a NAV return of 5.7% compared to the RBA Cash Rate +3.25% return of 4.5%. MXT has a target return of the RBA Cash Rate +3.25% (currently 4.0%) net of fees. As at the end of October 2019, the trailing 12 month yield was 5.5%. Management Fees are 0.64% p.a. and there is no Performance Fee.