Foreign fling

2011-04-21 00:00

The Foord Asset Management team doesn’t give a lot away in terms of portfolio composition. So the release of its annual report by Foord Compass [JSE:FCPD] – a debenture-based investment vehicle – is quite a keenly anticipated event. Of course, the report gives investors a peek into the portfolio composition of a specialised investment vehicle (some might call it a hedge fund) that has as its aim annual growth of inflation plus 10% and the payment of generous distributions bi-annually.

What makes this year’s annual report (which covers the year to year-end 2010) even more intriguing is Foord Compass’s disclosure earlier this year that it was more than 90% invested in equities – a time when many market participants may have been erring on the side of caution. While it’s possible that position may have changed since year-end, comments in the annual report suggest Foord Compass is still betting on equities to drive its returns.

In terms of the portfolio, the most eye-catching shifts are the marked increase in the holdings in hybrid life assurance operation Discovery (500 000 to 1m shares) and furniture conglomerate Steinhoff International (520 000 to almost 2,2m shares). Foord Compass also increased its positions in conglomerates Remgro and Bidvest, but held its position in British American Tobacco.

Despite its overall increase to equities, Foord Compass whittled down its positions in property group Redefine, poultry group Astral Foods and fashion retailer Foschini.

Looking offshore, Foord Compass’s biggest single holding (albeit spread between two bonds) remains in Edcon Bonds, which were worth R150m at end-December. It also built positions in Anglo American plc (10 000 shares), Capital Shopping Centres (190 000), Aussie beverage company Foster’s (1,25m), QBE Insurance (300 000) and General Electric (300 000) but reduced its holding in Foord International Trust from 1,57m to 1,16m units.

There’s a distinctly international flavour to Foord Compass’s portfolio, with more than R600m of the equity portion considered international holdings compared with around R376m of investments in SA.

Of course, if we consider Remgro, Steinhoff, BAT, Discovery and Bidvest hold considerable asset bases offshore, then Foord Compass is looking like a sizeable play on a weak rand.

The writer holds Foord Compass debentures.