Register For Our Mailing List

Register to receive our free weekly newsletter including editorials.

Home / 323

Managing LIC discounts and premiums

Over the course of the last 12 months we have seen discounts to NTA grow wider in most of our Listed Managed Investment (LMI or sometimes called Listed Investment Companies or LICs) coverage universe and, where they existed, premiums have narrowed or turned into discounts. Even LICs which have seen their shares trade at 20%+ premiums to NTA over the past few years, such as WAM Research Limited (ASX:WAX) and WAM Capital Limited (ASX:WAM), have seen their premiums to NTA contract to the smallest levels in many years.

Discounts can persist

This waxing and waning of premiums and discounts has been part and parcel of LIC investing for many years. This can provide opportunities for investors to buy at a discount but also make it more expensive for investors to access quality LICs trading at premiums. WAX and WAM have traded at persistent premiums for many years and those looking to buy into the shares at NTA, or even better a discount, were left in waiting.

Other names have traded at persistent discounts for many years with no end in sight despite, in some cases, solid underlying portfolio performance. The existence of these persistent discounts has led to corporate activity in the LMI sector with takeovers and mergers and more recently the windup of LIC’s such as 8IP Emerging Companies (ASX:8EC). We have also seen the restructure from a LIC to an active ETF vehicle in the case of Monash Absolute Investment Company (ASX:MA1).

Price management mechanisms

Despite the launch of on market and off market buybacks to try and control and narrow persistent discounts, we have not yet seen the introduction of explicit discount control mechanisms in the Australian market. These mechanisms are relatively commonplace in the UK Investment Trust (IT) space which is equivalent to the LIC space here in Australia.

A standard example would be that when a company’s shares trade at for example a greater than 10% discount to its NTA, this immediately triggers an on-market buyback by the company. Similarly, if the shares trade at a greater than 10% premium to its NTA the company would issue shares into the market at NTA. The logic behind this strategy is that as the discount control mechanism is clearly articulated it helps to keep the share price trading around its NTA as there is a clearly defined mechanism and course of action to be followed in case the share price moves well above or below the NTA. The band around which the share price can deviate from the NTA before the mechanisms are activated are set by the board and can be as tight or as loose as deemed fit given the underlying assets in the company.

While discount control mechanisms are not the panacea for persistent premiums and discounts, evidence from the UK market suggests they can help reduce large divergences from NTA and allow investors to trade in and out closer to NTA the majority of the time.

Many Australian LICs do have the ability to use buybacks as part of their capital management and a number of buybacks are currently in operation. Despite this, many continue to trade at large discounts with the buybacks often ineffective. Continued buyback of securities also leads to a reduction in fund size and may not be beneficial to LICs that are already subscale.

With the AGM season fast approaching for the majority of LICs in October and November, the issue of persistent discounts, along with potential strategies for addressing the discounts, is something that LIC shareholders can raise with boards at the AGM.

We expect further consolidation in the sector and other forms of corporate action designed to address both the size and persistence of discounts.

For further updates on LICs, including new issues, see the latest IIR Report for September 2019 here.

 

Peter Rae is Supervisory Analyst at Independent Investment Research. This article is general information and does not consider the circumstances of any individual.

 

RELATED ARTICLES

International LICs can have a fully franked future

A checklist for buying LICs at a discount

Watch for LICs that never return to par

banner

Most viewed in recent weeks

After 30 years of investing, I prefer to skip this party

Eventually, prices become so extreme they bear no relationship to reality, and a bubble forms. I believe we are there today, not for all stocks but for many in the technology space.

Australian house prices: Part 2, the bigger picture

There is good reason to believe the negatives will continue to outweigh the positives over the next 12 to 18 months. There is more concern about house prices than the short-term indicators suggest.

How to handle the riskiest company results in history

It is better to miss a results bounce and buy after the company has delivered than it is to step on a landmine. With such uncertainty, avoid FOMO by following these result season investing tips.

Australian house prices: Part 1, how worried should we be?

Three key indicators are useful for predicting the short-term outlook for house prices, although tighter lockdowns make the outlook gloomier. There is enough doubt to create cause for concern.

Welcome to Firstlinks Edition 367

There is a similarity between the current health crisis and economic crises of the past. For COVID-19, record amounts of biotech funding from government agencies and private companies are looking for a vaccine. Likewise, central banks once struggled treating recessions but the 'vaccine' now is record amounts of financial stimulus to ensure liquidity. While the world awaits a COVID treatment, markets are purring along, at least until side effects hit.

  • 22 July 2020

Welcome to Firstlinks Edition 369

Imagine you had perfect foresight about COVID-19 at the start of the year. You correctly foresaw that the global pandemic would kill over 700,000 among 20 million infections by August. In Australia, borders would close, cities would be locked down, most mortgagors would be on income support and companies would be allowed to trade while insolvent. You then had to guess how much the stock market would fall. Would you say about 10%?

  • 6 August 2020

Latest Updates

Shares

How to handle the riskiest company results in history

It is better to miss a results bounce and buy after the company has delivered than it is to step on a landmine. With such uncertainty, avoid FOMO by following these result season investing tips.

Shares

The rise of Afterpay and emergence of a new business model

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. The founders of Afterpay stumbled on the attraction for consumers of paying by instalments, and now retailers must offer the facility or lose business.

Property

WFH and its impact on Australian offices and tenants

Although most office workers are currently WFH, an energy and a buzz comes from working in the same physical space. Other benefits include team building, relationships, talent mentoring and creative collaboration.

Fixed interest

Why 2020 has been the year of the bond market

Going back to June 2019, investors would have questioned the logic of diversifying away from outperforming growth assets. But when markets feel at their best, it is paramount to keep a perspective on long-term goals.

Investment strategies

Is 5G all hype or real investable opportunity?

While its impact will take time to unfold, 5G will meaningfully change the world. Once adoption takes hold, there is huge potential for its application across a wide range of industries.

Property

Australian house prices: Part 1, how worried should we be?

Three key indicators are useful for predicting the short-term outlook for house prices, although tighter lockdowns make the outlook gloomier. There is enough doubt to create cause for concern.

Property

Australian house prices: Part 2, the bigger picture

There is good reason to believe the negatives will continue to outweigh the positives over the next 12 to 18 months. There is more concern about house prices than the short-term indicators suggest.

Sponsors

Alliances

© 2020 Morningstar, Inc. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer
The data, research and opinions provided here are for information purposes; are not an offer to buy or sell a security; and are not warranted to be correct, complete or accurate. Morningstar, its affiliates, and third party content providers are not responsible for any investment decisions, damages or losses resulting from, or related to, the data and analyses or their use.
Any general advice or class service prepared by Morningstar Australasia Pty Ltd (ABN: 95 090 665 544, AFSL: 240892) and/or Morningstar Research Ltd, subsidiaries of Morningstar, Inc, has been prepared by without reference to your objectives, financial situation or needs. Refer to our Financial Services Guide (FSG) for more information. You should consider the advice in light of these matters and if applicable, the relevant Product Disclosure Statement before making any decision to invest. Past performance does not necessarily indicate a financial product’s future performance. To obtain advice tailored to your situation, contact a professional financial adviser. Articles are current as at date of publication.
This website contains information and opinions provided by third parties. Inclusion of this information does not necessarily represent Morningstar’s positions, strategies or opinions and should not be considered an endorsement by Morningstar.