In the depths of February two of us went on a research trip to a logistics trade fair. One of the presenters held up a small pineapple from the Caribbean. He marvelled that it was available on UK supermarket shelves for £1. The cost just for sending it as an individual item, he said, would have been over £5.
We expanded our Wellbeing theme this month with an investment in Tivity Health.
Tivity is an American company with a profound positive impact. It provides fitness programs for the individuals covered by its insurance company customers. It designs good courses and encourages the individuals to stick with them. This has a measurably positive impact on their health.
When a smaller holding is our top monthly performer, there is often more than one story to tell. In April, China Longyuan achieved this distinction. And sure enough, there are lots of factors to its rise.
It is nearing five years since we opened our investment in Smurfit Kappa. Listed in Dublin (and now also London), it is one of the world’s leading packaging companies. The 46,000 Smurfit Kappa employees produce 34,000 cardboard boxes every minute.
Facebook’s recent travails have resurfaced long-standing questions about the role and influence that Facebook, Google and other ‘tech giants’ have in shaping public discourse. The loss of 16% of its value in the week leading up to Easter has so far forced Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to apologise for a ‘breach of trust’[i]. Whether there will be further long-term implications for the business is still unclear. However, this most recent scandal, along with stricter regulation governing the use of personal data such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) point to much greater scrutiny in future.
In advance of these latest controversies, Facebook and other tech stocks have been popular holdings among a wide range of leading ‘ESG’ and sustainability funds. Facebook’s standing has clearly been weakened by recent events with some investors now questioning the company’s continued position in their portfolios[ii]. But can Facebook and the other tech giants ever really be considered to be offering solutions to sustainability challenges? Read more …
The BBC Radio 4’s ‘Costing the Earth’ programme recently hosted a discussion on why environmental issues seem to have become more prominent in public debate recently. The programme’s focus was specifically on environmental policy, but the question could have just as reasonably been focused on the investment community. Why has environmental and sustainable investment become such a hot topic of late? Read more …
In the middle of February, fast food chain KFC had to close most of its UK outlets because it ran out of chicken. For the healthy few that don’t know this, ‘KFC’ stands for ‘Kentucky Fried Chicken’. So this was a big problem. With some clever PR and a good dollop of humility, KFC has probably rescued its reputation. But the UK is one of its five biggest markets globally. So the profit impact of even a short outage will have been meaningful.
For over five years now we have been invested in a US company called Danaher. Danaher is a conglomerate and has had interests in a wide variety of businesses. It is now focused on high-tech businesses in the healthcare and environmental industries. Danaher is the ultimate parent of many important companies in several of our themes.
We saw some rotation during December with profit taking in a number of 2017’s best performing names, but the biggest news arrived early in the month. In the early hours of Saturday 2nd, the US Senate voted to pass the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act”. This was the last real hurdle to passage of the bill. On Friday 22nd, President Trump signed it into law.