Scottish Daily Mail

Scottish Mortgage chief calls for patience

- By Calum Muirhead

THE manager of Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust has defended the fund’s strategy following what he admitted was a ‘painful’ year for shareholde­rs.

Tom Slater, who co-manages the £11.5bn trust, encouraged investors to ‘remain discipline­d and patient’ after the value of the firm’s portfolio tumbled by nearly 18pc in the year to the end of March.

Scottish Mortgage, which is hugely popular among UK investors, has surged in value over the last decade following a series of well-placed bets in the tech sector.

Its largest holdings include Elon Musk’s electric car firm Tesla as well as Dutch microchip maker ASML and computer graphics group Nvidia.

Shares in the 114-year-old trust soared during the pandemic as demand for tech shares boomed, with the stock hitting a record high of around 1569p in November 2021. But the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, alongside rising interest rates and surging inflation, has hit its portfolio hard as market sentiment soured on the tech industry.

The shares are currently changing hands at around 622p, down 60.4pc on the record high reached nearly two years ago.

In the company’s annual results, Slater acknowledg­ed that the ‘accelerati­ng pace of change throughout the economy’ has ‘not translated’ into results for the fund but said such periods were ‘inevitable’.

He added: ‘We need to remain discipline­d and patient. Our approach will never be consistent­ly in favour, and we should not deviate from it to avoid short-term headwinds.’ But Slater’s co-manager Lawrence Burns warned that some of the fund’s private companies in which it invests could find themselves in trouble as higher interest rates make it harder to raise funding.

‘It is likely that a few of our smaller private company holdings may find themselves casualties of this new environmen­t,’ he said, although he stressed this was only expected to represent ‘a small percentage of the portfolio’s assets’.

Some of Scottish Mortgage’s largest holdings are in private firms, with rocket group SpaceX its fifth largest investment, accounting for 3.7pc of the portfolio.

The trust also acknowledg­ed a sharp shift in the stock price, which during the year fell to a 19.6pc discount to the value of its assets from just 0.5pc previously, and admitted this had been ‘discomfiti­ng for shareholde­rs’.

Scottish Mortgage was also rocked by an extraordin­ary boardroom bust-up in March that sent shockwaves through the usually sleepy world of investment trusts.

It came after one of the firm’s non-executive directors Amar Bhide launched an attack on its corporate governance. He accused the Scottish Mortgage board of ‘a long series of procedural violations’ going back months and said his concerns had been ‘brushed aside’ by management.

He also directly targeted chairman fiona McBain, alleging her role had been ‘to protect managers from criticism and questionin­g’. It culminated in McBain announcing she would step down from the board after the group’s annual general meeting in June.

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