Burberry Group PLC

Burberry (BRBY) was in the news at the beginning of March 18 when it announced a new chief creative officer, Ricardo Tisci, had been appointed. Tisci was previously at the French couture and perfume house, Givenchy, so his expertise sits well with Burberry’s intention to move the brand further into luxury goods. The market certainly approved the move, marking the shares up nearly 6%. Earlier in the year they had lost ground on the departure of Christopher Bailey, who had been design director, then chief executive, for a total of 17 years. Investors had mixed views of Bailey, as Burberry’s sales in the Middle East and China had weakened somewhat. Last year, the company appointed Marco Gobetti, who has a long track record in managing luxury brands, as chief executive. The hope was that a dream team of Gobetti as CEO and Bailey back running the creative side of the business, would boost sales. However Bailey has decided to cut all ties and move on to fresh challenges. Read More

National Express

National Express (NEX.L) is best known in the UK for its coach services. However, it’s actually a multinational transport group running rail, bus, tram and coach services and operating in Europe, Africa, North America and the Middle East. Headquartered in Birmingham, it employs around 45,000 people and 80% of its income comes from overseas operations. The company reckons to carry passengers on 800 million individual journeys each year. The company is becoming famous for the regularity with which it delivers dividend increases, of which more below. Suffice to say that there have been seven consecutive increases in the dividend – a record few companies can beat. National Express has been making acquisitions which have helped growth and it expects to make more in the next year. It’s also targeting new contracts in the North American charter and transit market and in German and Moroccan rail services.  Read More

Edinburgh Investment Trust PLC (EDIN)

The Edinburgh is an investment trust launched in 1889 – so it must be doing something right, even if this year’s results don’t look very spectacular. It invests mostly in UK stocks with the objective of increasing the fund’s net asset value (NAV) per share and achieving dividend growth in excess of UK inflation. Its February 2018 update noted that there was an increase in volatility in the UK market allied to uncertainty over the speed and size of US interest rate rises. The trust has a holding of over £18m in Provident Financial and the trust’s portfolio manager, Mark Barnett, also noted that the Provident share price had risen markedly because it had settled with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) over the enquiry into Vanquis Bank. Provident has also issued a statement to the effect that it is going back to paying dividends. In his review of the portfolio, Mark Barnett stated that the negative feelings towards UK companies and sterling that were instigated by the EU referendum were unwinding. For that reason he has increased the trust’s exposure to UK domestic businesses. Looking forward, he is interested in the pharmaceutical sector where he sees value potential and in oil and tobacco stocks. With sterling strengthening and possibly more difficult markets to come, he’s retaining his policy of diversification. Read More

ETFS Physical Gold (PHAU)

The gold price has been taking a backseat recently partly because of huge coverage of bitcoin. But this precious metal has continued to be a safe haven store of value in troubled times. There are many ETFs offering trades in physical gold – an ETF is an exchange-traded fund, often characterised by low commissions, and operating in a similar fashion to an index fund. In the past people bought krugerrands or sovereigns as literal physical gold. But gold coins came with all the problems of keeping the gold securely. The only other way of getting exposure to the gold price was via gold futures. Now, people can buy into the gold price and its movements through physical gold ETFs. The price tracked is usually the gold spot price and the fund is backed by at least a proportion of physical gold, held in a bank vault, with each gold bar allocated and identified individually. The fund reflects between 1% and 10% of gold’s full price. How do you know if the gold is of the correct carat and value? The London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) issues rules and the custodians (the banks) only accept LBMA certified gold. Read More