Performance Review 2006
Performance Review 2007Catherine Ryan (Portfolio Manager), Matthew Sheldon (Portfolio Manager) and Jens Peers (Head of Environmental Equities): "The performance of the KBC Eco Fund Water since its inception in 2000 has been impressive with M&A a key driver of the overall theme and particularly for small to mid cap stocks. The market has become increasingly positive on water related businesses as a source of profits and portfolio diversification within broader markets. The unique feature of the Fund is its high growth characteristics combined with a low beta to mitigate market risk."
Performance Review 2008Catherine Ryan: "Severe negative investor sentiment hit markets over 2008. Extreme volatility and a ‘flight to safety’ persisted for much of the year with the collapse of Lehman Brothers the flagship event of the year. The environment brought about repeated intervention by monetary authorities across the globe with widespread state deposit guarantees and capital injections into beleaguered banks. Faced with rapidly declining confidence, deflationary pressures and contracting economies, central banks slashed interest rates.
Towards the end of the year there were some short term stimuli. Barrack Obama’s election as the next US president and his plan for a huge stimulus plan for the US economy. A multi-billion dollar bailout plan in China focused on infrastructure was announced as well as a bailout of the US auto industry.
However, investors’ focus ultimately returned to the waning economic backdrop to all the major global economies. Emerging markets were also hit hard as the theory that they could ‘decouple’ and continue to grow strongly independently of the US and Europe no longer held up. The Fund was in no way immune to this difficult backdrop and underperformed the wider market."
Performance Review 2009
Catherine Ryan: "The KBC Eco Fund Water increased strongly in absolute terms over the year and also outperformed the wider MSCI World Index. During the first six months of the year, we held on to our more or less defensive structure in the fund, with an overweight position in the regulated utilities. We specifically like their transparency and predictability of revenues during the difficult economic environment. Valuations were not demanding going into the year, and as time passed by, those valuations have actually become more attractive (especially in the US). Within the other subsectors (Infrastructure and Technologies), we had a clear preference for companies with a strong capital base and a limited need for additional capital to fund their growth. We also liked companies whose end markets are less depending on expansion capex, but more on maintenance and efficiency increasing capex. Those companies are described as early cyclical and can generally count on a large proportion of recurring income. As we got more visibility on the global economic recovery, we gave the portfolio a more cyclical tilt during the second half of the year, decreasing the weight of utilities and investing more in Water Infrastructure stocks.
The announcements of different monetary and fiscal stimulus plans across the world to stimulate economic growth provided a boost for stock markets. Green investments are very much at the core of those plans, especially in the US and China. Later in year we increased the weight of water infrastructure, as we expect the fiscal stimulus packages to start having positive effect on the companies’ revenues and earnings. We increased the weight of infrastructure while decreasing the more defensive utilities, especially in the UK after the final determinations of the conditions for the next 5 years pricing period. Near the end of 2009, we also reduced the weight of the Chinese water names on valuations, but selectively picked them up again in early 2010 after the market corrected."
Performance Review 2010
Catherine Ryan: "The initial months 2010 saw reasonably steady progress within global equity markets as renewed confidence that the global economy was indeed making its way out of a very deep recession. This buoyed investors and equity prices rose from deflated levels. The remainder of the year, while generating positive returns overall, was more volatile with investors caught in a tug of war between positive and negative drivers to the markets. On the plus side the US economy is well into its recovery. Corporate earnings have been extremely strong driven by increased revenues and lower costs post extensive cost cutting programs. Inflation pressures were pretty much absent in the US and Europe where economic data was also positive in core Eurozone countries. On the other side of the equation, investor uncertainty lingered which led to investor risk aversion at different stages. The sovereign debt crisis in the Eurozone was and is a real problem, escalating geopolitical tensions in Korea and the Middle East rattled some nerves, Chinese policy tightening posed a possible disruption to global growth if overdone and the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico threw more uncertainty into the mix.
The KBC Eco Fund Water increased in value in line with the wider global equity market. The water technology sector of the fund was the best performing driven by strong company earnings reports and M&A activity in the space. The water infrastructure sector benefited towards the end of the year from better than expected macro economic data and a clearer outlook for the economic recovery. Water utility companies were the weakest performing stocks / sector over the year due to their defensive characteristics and also as a result of uncertainties at various stages about the water industry’s regulatory environment in the US and UK."
Performance 2011 - Year-to-Date
Catherine Ryan: "The KBC Eco Fund Water underperformed the wider equity market initially in 2011 as investors took profits from stocks which had a strong end to 2010. Headline global events also impacted on various holdings. The turmoil in the Middle East caused stocks with project exposure to the region to sell off as potential delays to project completions implied downside risk to earnings estimates. Companies in the fund exposed to ‘project risk’ in the Middle East include Pure Technologies, Sound Global and Torishima Pump. Elsewhere, the nuclear crisis in Japan weighed on sentiment, particularly towards Japanese holdings as their short term outlooks became unclear. The oil price reaching new highs had both positive and negative implications. It was a positive for companies engaged in business activities that benefit from a high oil price such as supplying pumps and other equipment to the oil industry. On the other hand oil for other companies makes up a meaningful part of their input costs and this puts pressure on operating margins when prices cannot be passed through to customers directly. On a positive note, confirmation of a bottoming in the US residential construction market helped sentiment towards stocks with exposure to this end market. Also in the US, water price increases continued to track ahead of inflation. This positive regulatory environment is supportive for US water utility companies by enhancing their earnings power and incentivising further business expansion. Japanese stocks Kurita and Torishima Pump were among the main detractors from performance. Both were hit by concern regarding the potential impact of Japan’s nuclear crisis.
Moving into the second quarter of 2011, as well as being impacted by wider market headwinds, two water utility themes attracted investor attention, one positive and one negative; merger and acquisition activity and anti-privatisation sentiment. Cheung Kong Infrastructure bid for Northumbrian Water at a material premium which benefited the stock directly but also pointed to upside potential for the UK utility’s peers. M&A also drove non-utilities as Q1 acquisition announcements closed with associated higher guidance. An Italian referendum stopped further privatisation of water systems and removed current profit generation mechanisms for water utilities, negatively impacting European utilities. In the water technology sector, diversified industrials like Agilent, Roper and Halma benefited from positive Q1 earnings. However, other names struggled. Pure Technologies’ near term earnings were impacted by its Libyan exposure and Arch Chemical was affected by the inflated selling cost of its goods. Water infrastructure stocks were weak in general as Chinese and global construction stocks were hit by economic news, as was the case for China Everbright, and by corporate governance and funding concerns. Operating leverage, a key theme in water industrial stocks, continued to be apparent in Q1 results announced in Q2. The diversified industrial holdings in the fund, like Agilent, Roper, and Halma did particularly well through the earnings season. Itron, an active player in the water metering sector, held an investor day at the end of May which brought about a combination of stock weakness on downgrades and the introduction of very favourable financial projections for 2015, highlighting the robust long term thesis for many holdings in the fund."
Performance since 2006
Investment Process and Strategy – How does the Fund Manager invest?
Fund Management Process
KBC Asset Management’s Environmental strategies are designed to achieve strong long term returns in solutions that address the sustainability challenges posed by the three dominant global trends:
World’s changing demographic profile: The combination of population growth, industrialisation, economic growth and urbanisation will continue to test the limits of our eco–system and will require investment in innovation and infrastructure in the developed and developing world to meet the needs of a growing, more affluent global population.
Natural resources (supply/demand imbalance): A growing, more affluent global population has and will continue to put increasing pressure on the supply of natural resources. Meeting the needs for energy, water and food is a major challenge of the 21st century.
Climate change: Sustained pressure for lower carbon economies continues to gain momentum through efforts to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.
The KBC Eco Fund Water is comprised of companies involved in offsetting the global scarcity challenges faced in relation to our most precious resource, water. The main drivers of this theme are:
1) Growing demand from a growing more affluent population.
2) Finite Supply - constrained by pollution and climate change.
3) Regulatory - supporting water quality standards and conservation.
4) Technological - managing delivery, consumption and quality.
The KBC Eco Fund Water strategy was initiated in 2000 and invests in approximately 40-60 global companies active in the water sector. The strategy invests across all parts of the water cycle including Water and Wastewater treatment, Industrial water treatment, Water testing, Metering, Filtration, Infrastructure Engineering / Consulting services, Pumps/Valves.
Over the course of the next 12 months, we expect the recovery that many of our companies are seeing across the majority of their end markets to continue to play out, though perhaps at a decelerating pace. This should continue to provide earnings growth and drive operating leverage also in some specific cases. We have seen M&A activity pick up in recent months and continue to see this as a key theme going forward, as company balance sheets remain in very strong shape. Many of the portfolio’s companies fall into one of three M&A categories: (1) those that have recently announced large and accretive deals, (2) those that have significant net cash on the balance sheet and/or have announced intentions to acquire or (3) companies that are logical candidates to be acquired and whose valuation on a standalone basis is supportive.
Longer term, the increasing need for both the rehabilitation of existing aged infrastructure and investment in new infrastructure to meet the growing needs of an expanding population, has been further compounded by funding issues caused by the credit crisis over the last three years. As the economy recovers and we move back into a more normal funding environment, we would expect to see an increase in infrastructure spend in the water sector as the backlog of delayed projects are carried out and further supplemented by new projects.
The new Chinese Five Year Plan and its greater emphasis on expanding water infrastructure investment along with improving water quality should see big opportunities for not only companies based in China, but also international companies with China market exposure.
Regulation continues to evolve favourably in the water industry. Water pricing is increasing at mid to high single digit levels annually and is expected to continue in order to incentivise investment in water related assets. In addition, water quality standards are becoming more stringent and this will continue to drive both the growth opportunities for the technology companies we own and also the evolution of new technologies, which we continue to try to identify. As a result of these very strong, secular drivers, we believe that the KBC Eco Fund Water should revert to commanding a premium to the broader market over time due to the more stable and visible outlook for the earnings of the companies it owns and their significant growth potential.
Bei weiteren Fragen zum Fonds kontaktieren Sie bitte:
Leiterin Asset Management
Tel: + 49 (0) 69 - 75 61 93 - 73
e-Mail: [email protected]
Wilfried Marco Thoerner
Tel.: + 49 (0) 69 - 75 61 93 - 46
e-Mail: [email protected]