Institutional Investors and Slovene Stocks in 2014

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1 Institutional Investors and Slovene Stocks in 2014

2 Institutional Investors and Slovene Stocks in 2014 Capital markets were generally on a roller-coaster ride in 2014, with increased volatility and higher volumes, but also more international attention from institutional investors that mostly had eyes for market and sector leaders. The views of fund managers concerning investments in emerging markets differed widely throughout the year though overall with an increased inflow of assets allocations to emerging and especially frontier markets increased. Due to debt worries in Europe and political tensions in Eastern Europe, risk aversion and risk control were the top priority for market participants. Domestic institutional investors clearly remain the top investors in the free float of the Ljubljana Stock Exchange (LJSE), but international institutional investors also showed stronger interest in the Slovene market in US investors continue to lead the international institutional list, followed by investors based in Croatia as well as from countries such as the UK, Sweden, Estonia, Luxembourg, and Singapore. US and UK investors as well as Croatian institutional investors were among the largest relative buyers, whereas Swedish, Polish, and Austrian investors reduced their exposure in the free float of Slovene issuers. In terms of investment style, growth and GARP styles experienced large increases, confirming that Slovenia is still considered a growth market, whereas value and deep value strategies showed a relative decrease compared to the last study. As in the previous years, especially uncertainty regarding political, default and governance risks were cited as the major reasons for international investors cautiousness. Potential growth opportunities and undervalued stocks were referred to as upside in the most recent study of annual ownership changes. These are the key messages of the study, Institutional Ownership of the Ljubljana Stock Exchange (cut-off date: 31 December 2014), conducted on behalf of the CEE Stock Exchange Group (CEESEG) by the market intelligence company, Ipreo. The conclusions arrived at by the detailed study of the Ljubljana Stock Exchange as of 31 December 2014 are given below: Market capitalization increases The survey analyzed the trends in investments of the top institutional investors in the free float of all LJSE-listed prime market issuers that are not foreign issuers or secondary listings. The conclusions below were reached on the basis of a combination of confirmed data from forensic shareholder analysis of some of the local issuers as well as publicly available ownership data and information reported by the local exchange and other entities such as Eurostat and Efama. The free float of LJSE-listed issuers increased in 2014 from previously EUR 2.6 billion to EUR 3 billion 1. This change is due to numerous factors such as several large international investors that increased their stakes in selected Slovene large caps, a higher market capitalization and a favorable exchange rate. For issuers listed on the LJSE, an estimated volume of EUR 0.9 billion or 30% of the free float is held by institutional investors. The remaining EUR 2.1 billion or roughly 70% are estimated to be held by domestic private households and non-financial institutions. 1) By comparison, total equity market capitalization of domestic LJSE issuers amounted to EUR 5.2 billion at year-end 2013 and to EUR 6.2 billion at year-end

3 Institutional investors in the LJSE by country as of 31 December 2014 EUR 0.5 billion of the EUR 0.9 billion held by institutional investors were identified and allocated in detail: EUR 0.3 billion or roughly 59.6% are held by international investors, EUR 0.2 billion or 40.4% by Slovene institutional investors. Others 4.9% * Austria 1.5% Poland 1.6% Singapore 2.1% Luxembourg 2.6% Estonia 3.3% Sweden 3.4% Slovenia 40.4% UK 3.8% Croatia 3.9% USA 32.5% * Among others, France, Hungary, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Finland Source: Ipreo, December 2014 Strong interest from foreign investors US funds with high stock picking activity International institutional investors were very active in 2014, several of them entered and exited the market throughout the year and thus showed high activity rates. In addition to domestic holders, the US is by far the largest investment region in LJSE-stocks, with currently 32.5% accounting for a large share of all identified holders and also showing several institutions that selectively bought into Slovene stocks. Over the course of 2014, US institutional investors increased their strong relative market share in LJSE-listed issuers further, whereas other regions saw mixed activity. Croatian investors upped their stake by more than 50% compared to one year ago, UK-based funds increased their holding by more than 41%, and Luxembourg-based funds almost quadrupled their relative stake, while Polish investors and institutions based in Germany and Austria generally reduced their exposure to Slovene stocks. In 2014, the US increased its relative stake in the LJSE-free float from 28.5% to 32.5%, followed by Croatian funds (from 2.5% to 3.9%) and UK-based institutions which now hold 3.8% of all identified institutional holdings, up from 2.7%. They are followed by Swedish holders (3.4%, down from 3.7%) and Estonian holders (3.3%, up from 2.8%). The largest individual changes were driven by investors such as Parametric, Capital Research, SEB Luxembourg, IFC, and Trigon. Some of the major sellers were domestic institutions such as KBM, NLB, and Triglav, but also foreign institutions such as Capital World and Aviva Pte. Overall, major relative buying was mainly driven by investors from Luxembourg (from 0.5% to 2.6%), Croatia (from 2.5% to 3.9%), and France (from 0.8% to 1.1%). The Czech Republic and Polish investors belonged to the major detractors (from 3.5% to 0.9% and from 2.8% to 1.6% of all identified holders respectively). It should be noted that these figures only refer to identified institutional investors. In addition, a large stake of the Slovene free float is estimated to still be held by domestic retail investors and households and domestic-oriented investment firms (pension and mutual funds) including mandates. Ipreo found that 40.4% (down from 41.2% a year earlier) of all identified institutional investments were made from the home market, though due to the limited transparency of the public data as well as an investment shift to more domestic holders this is likely to be understated. It also comes as no surprise that market feedback remained uniform regarding the growing importance of not only ESG-factors 2 in investment management decisions and also with respect to the involvement of investors, which is being discussed in upcoming European legal changes, too. Investors confirmed that while CEE-exposure is selectively still seen as positive, it does not 2) ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance). 3

4 seem to play as much of a role as it did a few years ago, mostly due to other economies that offer more attractive growth or yields at lower risk. Companies that already have an established track record and network in emerging markets were cited as the main reasons for the continued higher investment levels in some of the companies listed on CEESEG s member exchanges, but for pure growth potential, institutional investors now often prefer markets such as MENA, Asia, Turkey or other parts of Emerging Europe to Slovenia. They stated that they would rather pick specific investment stories of issuers as a basis for entering special market segments. This is a trend also identified across the markets of CEESEG and in other parts of Europe where investors watch governance, political and debt issues much more closely. As already seen in the past few years, the trend towards significantly increased capital flows from passive and ETF investors into the European equity markets is not reflected in CEESEG, most likely due to market cap and governance reasons. According to market feedback, Ipreo s intelligence states that investors are now selectively increasing their allocations again to emerging markets funds and the region, with London gaining importance in terms of investable assets for the region. Also, when it comes to investment management decision-making for CEE and other markets, fund managers are increasing their presence in London, as numerous investment managers have split and increased investment teams for emerging markets between Asia and London, with London being responsible for CEE & SEE markets. Overall, capital inflows from Asian and MENA-based investors are also expected to rise with some sovereign wealth funds increasingly looking at wider Europe and smaller issuers as potential targets when the political, economic and governance status is investment-grade worthy. These trends coincide with a more focused stock-picking approach for developing and growth markets which is also reflected in several large ownership changes at the issuer level within the Group. Moreover, the trend towards integration of non-financial criteria into the investment decision-making process has caught up throughout Europe, with the largest fund managers now more actively communicating with issuers, also in CEESEG. Strong appetite for growth value strategies on a decline As in the past years, the traditional investment styles growth and value remain the dominant styles used for investments in LJSE-issuers, though in 2014 a clear shift towards growth-oriented funds was registered. Slovenia clearly seems to be seen as a region that could yield above average growth; hence growth and GARP (growth at a reasonable price) strategies saw the largest increases, at the expense of value strategies. While investment style remains a key issue in the analysis of a company s and exchange s shareholder base, with growing volatility on markets, increased OTC and electronic trading and new multi-style strategies, the distinction between the various styles has become somewhat blurred. Significant volumes of money fled equities during the financial crisis in the last years; it returned with less risk adverse investors in the recent months, but shifting money into emerging markets remains mainly a stock pickers approach to intrinsically undervalued firms under high risk controls, which was also the case for Slovene issuers. With respect to overall investment styles in Slovenia, growth and GARP strategies saw the largest inflow of capital as there seems to be strong interest and opportunities to invest in growth, whereas value saw outflows. Growth has increased by 5% to 45.9% of all identified styles, followed by GARP strategies that increased from 15.7% to 25.9%. Index strategies which often track the market capitalization also went up (+44.8% to 1.7%). GARP strategies (+64.1% to 25.9%) and specialty styles (+203.8% to 5.6%) saw interest with the strongest relative increase compared to the last report. Value and deep value strategies were the only other two styles that saw relative selling, now accounting for 16.9% (-32.1%) and 3.9% (-69.1%), respectively. Investors are attaching greater importance to non-financial or ESG-factors which come into play in several investment strategies and add an extra level of complexity to the decision-making process. This is also driven and supported by some international legal and NGO pressure such as the UNPRI, stewardship codes or the upcoming European Union legal changes. Corporate governance teams at the largest investors not only have an increased influence on buying and selling 2) ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) 4

5 of shares, but also communicate more frequently with issuers directly via ongoing engagement processes or before general meetings. These factors also play a role in numerous passive strategies as they can be used for so-called enhanced index strategies where issuers get excluded or over-/underweighted compared to the benchmark depending on whether they meet transparency, disclosure or governance requirements. Several of the large institutional management groups have started to build and include these types of strategies into their mainstream funds and investment management process, a trend to watch out for and monitor. Portfolio turnover ratio increases The portfolio turnover ratio indicates how often institutional investors switch securities within their overall portfolios on average per year. The turnover ratio of active investors (high and/or very high turnover rates) for the financial market of Ljubljana currently stands at 8.7%, up from 6.5% in This development is in line with the general trend in Europe and also CEESEG, where Ipreo saw stronger trading and more active institutions up to 8.7% in 2014 from 8.5% previously. However, this ratio only sheds some light on long-term strategic portfolio turnover, as it is a slightly delayed function of buying and selling movements in recent months and which were computed at investment group level. It is also a measure based on publicly available information and comes with a certain time lag, ignoring OTC and dark pool trading. Therefore, the numbers will tend to understate the actual trading activity within portfolios and investors, especially since data collected by Ipreo suggests that a growing portion of all trades in European stocks is conducted OTC or via alternative trading platforms. General explanations for switching within portfolios are, e.g., the entry of long-term institutional investors, inclusion in or exclusion from portfolios due to non-financial criteria, redemptions or market capitalization issues but also the entry of short-term alpha-focused hedge funds 3 that profit from current price levels. In the present market environment, this ratio is scarcely indicative just like the current changes in investment style of long-term strategic portfolio switching, because investors are currently often confronted with the need to alter their positions without consideration of the fundamental aspects, as well as the growing importance of OTC and dark pool trading and limited disclosure. Currently, in several larger and developed markets in Europe, an ever growing share of all trading is conducted OTC or via alternative trading platforms, and therefore, Ipreo has observed the growing importance of proactive outreach of IR and management to active portfolio managers 4. The predominant types of institutional investors especially international ones still have low to moderate turnover ratios, which implies a positioning in the LJSE generally for the long term. Very High 3.9% High 4.8% Moderate 14.5% Low 76.8% Source: Ipreo, December ) Alpha-focused investors pursue outperformance with respect to a benchmark. 4) Active investor relations and outreach will gain in importance as the current trend to an ever growing number of passive investors as well as to alternative trading will reduce the number of decision-makers that can be influenced. Active portfolio managers and analysts will therefore have a greater impact on the (fair) valuation of issuers share prices on local stock exchanges which in turn are the reference prices for alternative trading platforms. The need to fully know, understand and target the right active institutional managers is therefore likely to increase in the coming years. 5

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