Is UK Tobacco Policy A Failure?  

It is the Department of Complacency. For decades DH’s tobacco policy has missed opportunities, scored own goals and only made progress because its greatest errors have been overridden by reality. This is after all the department which repeatedly tried to ban vaping. If MEPs had listened to Jeremy Hunt’s plea then every e-cigarette on the market would have been banned…

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Sharing the Spoils of Global Income Markets

Ben Lofthouse, Fund Manager of Henderson International Income Trust, shares his view of overseas income markets and the momentum behind global dividends growth

It’s been a fascinating year so far with a lot of the trends around economic growth continuing, which has led to some changes in the global macroeconomic landscape.

There have been some notable surprises, too. One of those was the US corporate tax cut, which has made life a lot more profitable for US companies with domestic earnings, which I think has received less attention than the repatriation element of the legislation for overseas dollars. Whichever way you look at it, we are seeing strong earnings growth in the US partly as a result of these tax reductions.

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Catching the Waves on Europe’s Rolling IPO Market

Ollie Beckett, fund manager of TR European Growth Trust, shares some of the Trust’s recent success stories from Europe’s IPO market and explains why investors seeking growth might find Europe’s small and mid-cap space attractive.

After a stellar 2017, the momentum behind Europe’s economic growth slowed as expected in 2018, but the first two quarters of the year saw another encouraging period of initial public offerings (IPOs) that should reassure growth-seeking investors.

In the first six months of 2018, there were 162 IPOs in Europe totaling $23.7bn, according to data from Bloomberg. Given our focus on finding small and medium-sized companies in Europe with high-growth potential, we at TR European Growth Trust (TRG) are excited to find out which of these new listings will give us the opportunity to grow our shareholders’ capital.

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Structural change, disinflation and ‘Amazonisation’

Structural change, disinflation and ‘Amazonisation’

Serial disruptors like Amazon are shaping the economic transformation that is taking place before us. John Pattullo, co-fund manager of Henderson Diversified Income Trust, explains how investors can be on the right side of change.

The longest bull market of all-time was recognised on 22nd August by a number of institutions, including Bank of America Merrill Lynch and S&P Dow Jones Indices, edging past the previous record set between 1990 and 2000. Some disagree with the definitions of bull and bear markets, so the goalposts change depending on your view, but either way it has been an extraordinary period for US equities. Now, however, there are clear signs that we are entering the latter stages of the business cycle, which means a bear market is probably close.

For example, the S&P 500 Index is very close to its all-time record high of 2,872 set on 26 January this year, as illustrated in Chart 1. The pattern resembles what is known as a ‘double top’, which many analysts interpret as preceding an immediate or long-term reversal in price. That’s not always the case, but you wouldn’t be alone in taking on a bearish attitude as a result of this information.

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Why are dividends so important to equity investors?

Why are dividends so important to equity investors?

Income fund managers constantly bang on about dividends.  Maybe it’s in our genetic makeup but actually dividends should be important for all equity investors.  In my mind there are five key reasons for this:

    1. Total returns – I can bore you by reciting data from numerous studies showing dividend yield and dividend growth make up the majority of an investor’s total return over the long run but it would be more interesting to look at a real time example.  I bought Imperial Brands for the Trust 5 years ago when the stock was trading on an 11x price to earnings multiple. Today the multiple is still at 11x. The market is valuing the company at the same rating it did 5 years ago. So does that mean the company has been a bad investment? In short, No.  The shares have delivered a total return of 64%, outperforming the UK equity market by over 20% in that time period. That return has been driven by the high dividend yield which has grown at 10% p.a. You don’t need a rerating for shares to outperform.

 

    1. Contrarian investing – generally high yielding stocks tend to be unfashionable as either they have disappointed the market, resulting in a falling share price/rising yield, or they are mature, low growth businesses. Consequently, investors either underestimate their ability to produce decent returns or assign a too low valuation to these returns.  Back in 2012 AstraZeneca had a dividend yield of 7% but was facing a patent expiry on its main drug, was unloved by analysts, was perceived to have no new drugs in its pipeline and people questioned the dividend sustainability. Not a compelling investment case. Since then the company has committed to the dividend, developed a pipeline full of exciting immuno-oncology drugs which are the envy of the industry and the shares have returned 186%.  Just because a company is out of favour doesn’t mean it can’t change.

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Change Brings Opportunity

Change, uncertainty and volatility in stock market prices are the ingredients that Henderson Opportunities Trust (HOT) thrives on. The Trust is relatively small with net assets of around £100m at the end of April, spread over a diverse list of companies. Our size enables us to move quickly when we see opportunities.

Equity markets around the world have experienced greater volatility in 2018. Change is a constant feature of the political and economic landscape, and this change is epitomised by the situation in the UK. Here, digital and technological innovations are challenging established business models, while the country’s political leaders negotiate leaving the EU and begin to forge new partnerships in a globally competitive economy.

The Trust has the flexibility to go up and down the spectrum of companies in terms of size to find attractive opportunities. Currently, the HOT list holds approximately 15% in the FTSE 100, 9% in the FTSE 250, 13% in the FTSE Small Cap and 63% in non-FTSE All Share. The weight in FTSE AIM (alternative investment markets) has increased in recent years because we have tended to find more attractive opportunities within this space. These are typically young, high growth companies that are unencumbered by legacy issues.

An example of a successful FTSE AIM investment in the portfolio is robotic process software company, Blue Prism. Since its purchase in March 2016, the share price has appreciated 237%, owing to high demand for their robot process automation software. The software addresses a key pain point for enterprises – poorly integrated back-office systems – by enabling companies to automate interactions between legacy software applications. This allows companies to redistribute labour and save costs. For example, banks can use the software to process orders for new debt/credit cards, while insurance companies can use it to streamline insurance claims by checking internal data and producing a suggested pay-out. Continue reading

#IPTsUnfair – The Raid on the Responsible

In less than two years, the Government has doubled the Insurance Premium Tax (IPT) burden from 6% to 12%. The tax is payable on most general insurance policies, as well as commercial insurance taken out by businesses. Independent experts say that IPT costs per-household are set to rise above £200 in 2018.

If the Chancellor increases it once again in this year’s Budget, millions of British households and businesses will be affected even more.  

Another hike would mean another cost passed directly onto hard-pressed families. This could dissuade them from protecting essentials like their homes, health, vehicles and pets.

The idea of taxing people simply for doing the responsible thing by buying insurance is absurd. It’s like taxing people for locking their front doors, or stopping at a pedestrian crossing. If you raise taxes on insurance you will discourage people from insuring themselves.

Shouldn’t we be encouraging those who are taking proper precautions and being responsible, rather than discouraging them?  

If you, like us, oppose another increase in Insurance Premium Tax, then speak out. Watch and share our video and stand up against another hike once and for all, because quite frankly, #IPTs Unfair.

 

Content produced and sponsored by The Association of British Insurers (ABI)

For Whom the Lord Bell Toiled

Last month, Lord Bell appeared on Newsnight fronting up the disgraced Bell Pottinger, the PR spinners he co-founded, which has now been dissolved. Re-wind a few years and his Lordship was fronting up another disgraceful entity.

In 2013, he was the guest of honour at the annual shindig of the Association of British Bloodsuckers (Bookmakers – Ed) – the ABB. According to Private Eye, he encouraged them to take a leaf out of the tobacco lobby’s playbook and believe “your opponents are wrong, and the moment you start acknowledging that they have an argument, you’re dead”.

It must have had an impact as Malcolm George, now CEO of the ABB, still claims that betting shops are the safest places to gamble.

Back then, the ABB Chair, Neil Goulden, was also Chair of the Responsible Gambling Trust (RGT). Guess who did the PR spin on the RGT’s whitewash research into FOBTs? Yes, Bell Pottinger!

When the RGT met with the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board to discuss the FOBT research whitewash, guess who was in the room with them? Yes, Bell Pottinger!

It was also reported that Lord Bell had advised the ABB to acquire the royal seal of approval – which would have made them the Royal Association of British Bookmakers.

It will take more than bookies’ PR spin to avoid their pending seal of disapproval from the government’s FOBT review.

Content produced and sponsored by Stop the FOBTS.

Time for European businesses to stand up for a fair Brexit deal

by communications firm PLMR’s Brexit Unit

To judge by a lot of media coverage about Brexit, you could be forgiven for thinking that all important decisions rest with Jean-Claude Junker. Rather than seeing the European Commission as an almighty entity, one could see it as a kind of political secretariat (albeit a powerful one) for the interests of the Continent’s national leaders; for the political interests of Chancellor Merkel and President Macron in particular. But there is another powerful voice that has been curiously absent from the Brexit debate: the voice of businesses, large and small, from across the European mainland.

European firms have no real interest in seeing a punitive, anti-trade settlement after Brexit. Any marginal market share benefits they may receive from anti-UK protectionism would be more than offset by the broader economic problems that such a settlement would cause. Businesses are not interested in political pride or point-scoring – they are interested in certainty, simplicity, sensible regulation and the removal of barriers to trade and commerce.

British businesses have been very vocal about their interests in this process. Governments must listen to businesses but not be led by the nose. Business lobbying is not always in the broader national interest as the 2008 financial crisis showed, and politicians must listen foremost to their electorates. But it helps to also let companies have a say on the stewardship of the economy. UK firms have had their say and now it is time for European firms to stand up for a fair Brexit settlement.

EU companies will want a pragmatic deal. They will still want to access London’s financial markets and to sell goods and services to our 60 million-strong population, and they will want to be able to do business with our companies as they always have. Making these points to the Commission, but especially also to their national governments, should help avert a punitive deal.

Businesses know that there is no point ruminating on past decisions or seeking to undermine the result of the 2016 referendum. They want a deal that benefits both sides because they know that trade is not a zero-sum game. Let us encourage European companies to find their voice and to make their points forcefully to their representatives.

PLMR’s Brexit Unit advises organisations on managing the transition to a post-EU framework in the UK. Consultants Joe Mitton and Simon Darby are on hand to field queries – for more information visit www.brexitunit.co.uk

Bookie self-regulator goes into hiding as gambling sites found to be ripping people off

An eight-month investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has revealed that people are not getting the deals they expected from gambling sign-up promotions, and sites are unfairly holding on to customers’ money. The CMA said it was taking action against “a number of operators” suspected of breaking the law.

Nisha Arora from the CMA said: “New customers are being enticed by tempting promotions only to find the dice are loaded against them. And players can find a whole host of hurdles in their way when they want to withdraw their money.” Adding that customers were sometimes forced to play hundreds of times before they were allowed to withdraw their money, denying them the choice to “quit while they’re ahead.”

Ten years since the enactment of the Gambling Act and the formation of the Gambling Commission, this is a conclusion that millions of gamblers have been painfully aware of.

If the Senet Group, the industry-funded self-regulator, actually did what it says it does: “promote responsible gambling standards and ensure that the marketing of gambling is socially responsible” this would not be an issue, so proving that self-regulation does not work.

Wanda Goldwag, the “independent standards commissioner” appointed by the Senet Group, who regularly shows up in Westminster with PR spin initiatives, has gone silent and missing since the CMA news that her members could be subject to legal actions.

Wanda – where are you?  

Content produced and sponsored by Stop the FOBTS.

Screw EU! Paddy Power’s Giant Theresa Flips V-Sign

Paddy Power has erected a 110-ft Theresa May statue, offering Europe a two-fingered salute from the White Cliffs of Dover. Ahead of the embattled Prime Minister’s trip to Brussels on Thursday the mischievous bookmaker has offered her some ‘strong and stable’ support. Or, as they call it in Westminster – a ‘hard Brexit’…

The statue can be seen from Normandy, took a 12-man crew a full week to assemble, and sends a clear message to the UK’s soon-to-be former EU neighbours – even if the election didn’t. Paddy Power makes it odds on that more than one Prime Minister will be involved in Brexit talks (2/7) – and just 13/8 that a second General Election will be called this year…

The chances of May performing a U-Turn – her party piece – and deciding that the UK should instead Remain in the EU, are rated at 20/1A Paddy Power spokesman said:

We tried to make the installation look as life-like as possible to Theresa May – which is why it’s two-dimensional and largely wooden. During construction, it was both strong and stable, but soon went weak and wobbly when the winds changed – about as stable as a partnership with the DUP.”

The structure is of such a scale that the fingernails alone are more than five-foot long. And Theresa’s legs are a huge 10-metres tall, the equivalent of almost six Jeremy Corbyns…

Paddy Power Brexit specials:

  • 2/7 More than one UK PM is involved in Brexit negotiations
  • 13/8 Another General Election is called this year
  • 3/1 UK to fail to reach agreement with the EU over a Brexit deal before the March 2019 deadline
  • 4/1 A second EU Referendum to be held before 2019
  • 7/2 The UK to apply to re-join the EU within ten years
  • 20/1 Theresa May to perform a U-turn and announce that the UK will Remain

Content produced and sponsored by Paddy Power

Recapping the Betting

How did you do with your election betting? Over at Paddy Power Guido looks back on the betting and the tipping. Find out who is Guido’s tip for the chop….

Next Labour Leader Runners & Riders

Guido has taken a look at the runners and riders to be the next Labour Party leader over at Paddy Power. Find out who is Guido’s 7/1 tip for the top….

YouGov’s Shock Poll: Should You Be Betting on a Hung Parliament?

This morning’s YouGov poll showing a hung parliament as a likely outcome has moved the pound and the betting markets. Guido has taken a look at the polling and the betting. Get some betting perspective and a tip over at Paddy Power.

Labour’s Pop in the Polls: Blip or Trend?

Labour have popped in the polls after Theresa May’s manifesto went down particularly badly over the so called “dementia tax”. Should you be betting on Labour to win more seats? Get some betting perspective over at Paddy Power.

Vanifesto: FSB joins forces with The Sun to ‘Save Our Strivers’

Pressure is now mounting on all would-be politicians to show their support for the UK’s 4.8 million self-employed.  A highly-motivated group of voters, these are the UK’s army of strivers – the entrepreneurs setting themselves up, starting out on their own.  They take significant risks and often pay themselves below the National Living Wage.  They deserve the support of all those elected to office.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has today published its manifesto ‘Small Business, Big Ambition’The Sun’s White Van Man proudly drove the policy-packed plan to Downing Street and to Parliament, to deliver the demands from small business.

It is a Business Plan for Britain, full of proposals to reform the economy and unleash economic growth from small firms and the self-employed.  All those standing on 8th June will be sent a copy from their local FSB, and will be asked to back small business in their communities.  Have a look at the manifesto and its 30 proposals to improve the economy.

Small businesses and the self-employed have driven our jobs growth miracle, particularly for women. Those furthest from the labour market, including disabled people, enter the world of work by either setting up a small business or working within one.  The 4.8 million-strong community should not be targeted for tax hikes.  They deserve better from every party and candidates standing on 8th June.

Content produced by the Federation of Small Businesses #FSB2017

It’s Payback Time

With Christmas just around the corner, the fight is on against Government plans to let the banks keep billions of pounds they wrongly took from innocent consumers. There are still billions of pounds of mis-sold PPI stashed away in the bankers’ coffers. And it’s no surprise that the bankers are now doing all they can to stop punters getting their hard-earned cash back. So much for the season of goodwill to all …

Behind closed doors the banks have been furiously lobbying the Government to let them shift these remaining billions onto the profit sheets used to calculate their bonuses instead of giving it back to their loyal customers. And it looks like the Government is about to cave in! They are planning a New Year cash windfall for bankers by limiting how customers can get their money back from the banks who took it illegally from them in the first place.

It’s clear that this Government has been captured by the banks. Protecting the Scrooges running the big banks instead of helping ordinary consumers. That can’t be right!

It’s payback time – don’t let them get away with it again.

Ahead of the government’s expected announcement in early 2017, the Payback Time campaign has been launched to provide a platform for supporters to lobby their representatives about the unintended consequences of the PPI proposals. Click here to find out more…

Content produced and sponsored by the Alliance of Claims Companies

Making a Marc

Bookmakers battered as Government cracks down on ‘crack cocaine’ machines” screamed a Telegraph headline last week, bringing a leprechaun’s smile to former Paddy Power boss, Stewart Kenny, who had been calling for such action for some years.

You got it, another big bookmaking boss came out against the “crack cocaine” of gambling. Mr Kenny told the Irish Government, “Let us learn from the mistake in the UK of allowing them into betting offices. Once they are in it is impossible to get rid of them or even curb their more addictive elements.” He joined the growing ranks of industry insiders, (which includes another former Paddy power boss), who are all urging action on FOBTs.

Though the Telegraph headline may have been a little presumptuous as the Government hasn’t yet announced a “crackdown” on FOBTs, but an All Party Parliamentary Group has. The cross-party group of MPs has backed a stake cut saying “Government now has clear case for significantly reducing the £100 stake”.

So, MPs from all Parties, the media, the Scottish and Welsh Governments, the public and an increasing number of bookmakers themselves all want action on FOBTs, whilst just 4% of the public are in favour of keeping them!

Marc Etches, the CEO of “Gamble Aware” – the rebranded version of the bookmakers’ FOBT lobbying vehicle, hasn’t yet caught up with the times. He is still trying to persuade the Government NOT to act and joins an ever-decreasing club of industry CEOs desperately clinging to FOBTs (or their bonuses to be more precise).

As the Campaign told the Scottish Daily Record, those who continue to defend FOBTs will have blood on their hands.

Content produced and sponsored by Stop the FOBTs

Are There Any Psycho Execs in Bookies?

cffg_psycho

Theresa May announces crack down on Executive Pay” read the headlines this week, just as disgraced former HBOS executive, Andy Hornby, pocketed a whopping £7.8 million from the newly merged Ladbroke Coral group.

That’s right, the man who knowingly mis-sold PPI to unsuspecting UK consumers for years and made millions from it, moved on to pillage and rape yet another company – and got away with it again!

But, Hornby’s multi million windfall pales into insignificance compared to that of his boss, Jim Mullen – the CEO of the new gambling conglomerate. Rumour has it that after an extensive career at Ladbrokes spanning a whole 2 years, he is set to get over £20 million despite question marks over his handling of issues concerning the rape and murder of his staff by FOBT users.

Then you’ve got the “Arthur Daley” of the bookmaking world, Fred Done – the man who linked his workers BASIC wages to his “crack cocaine machines”, then offered them pay day loans at 39.9% APR. Walk into any Betfred shop and ask punters and staff what they think of the “Bonus King” – if you are offended by expletives, cover your ears.

In September 2016, an Australian study found that about one in five corporate executives are psychopaths – roughly the same rate as among the prison population. One wonders whether the bookmaking sector needs to recruit more psychiatrists!

Content produced and sponsored by Stop the FOBTs

Nanny and Baby in Unusual Relationship

nanny-babyv2

Wanda Goldwag is the CEO of the Senet Group, funded by the bookies and acting as their advertising and responsible gambling standards watchdog. A recent complaint to the ASA about a Senet “responsible” ad succeeded and Nanny Goldwag was guilty of breaching the standards she was hired to uphold![…] Read the rest

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Boris as Hulk…

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