Performance Review 2007
Performance Review 2008Andros Florides (Portfolio Manager), Sohini De (Portfolio Manager) and Jens Peers (Head of Environmental Equities): "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 KBC Eco Fund Climate Change was in no way immune to this difficult backdrop and underperformed the wider market."
Performance Review 2009
Andros Florides: "The KBC Eco Fund Climate Change fund was up strongly over 2009. We gradually bought into energy efficiency stocks over the course of the year as we became comfortable with the sector’s outlook. We added some clean energy stocks in the natural gas sector and took some profits in the carbon trading sector.
During the year, the price of oil rose significantly while the carbon price’s progress lagged. The weakness in carbon prices was mainly driven by the ‘modest’ outcome of the climate change deal. The major event during the year was the Copenhagen summit held in December 2009. In many ways, the Copenhagen Accord which resulted from the Copenhagen Climate Change summit was a disappointment but still a step in the right direction.
There was continued positive news regarding fiscal stimulus packages promoting “green spend”. Stimulus packages to support infrastructure, smart grid and smart metering were again in the news as money moves closer to being deployed. There were initial signs that some of the fiscal stimulus funds are beginning to flow through to company level. We saw several integrated solutions companies like Emerson mentioning China was the initial country where the stimulus money started to flow through.
Following a rebound in equity markets from March 2009, global Indices continued their upward momentum to the end of the year. Positive data from China showing a rebound in the economy and signs that the US economy had at least stabilised at low levels was sufficient to drive a solid rally in risk assets and equities.
The energy efficiency sector performed well while and the alternative energy exposure acted as a drag to relative performance. Within energy efficiency, the North American railroads performed well especially CSX. The company improved its efficiency and the whole sector got a boost after Warren Buffet’s acquisition of Burlington Northern Santa Fe. Other energy efficiency stocks like ABB, Emerson, Johnson Controls, Philips and Schneider performed well on the back of positive outlooks and better earnings as cost cutting started improving bottom line.
The main underperformance came from the alternative energy sector. Solar energy was the worst performing sector following a German government announcement proposing a 15% cut in solar subsidies. Shares of all solar companies were noticeably weaker on this news, since Germany accounts for more than 40% of all global installations. We maintain that these subsidy cuts will lead to lower module prices but more importantly will not halt growth in global installations. There were signs of strong volume increases in other emerging markets which we think will lead to sizeable growth in installations worldwide.
In carbon trading, the main detractor was Climate Exchange, which continued its slide post the Copenhagen summit. Lower volumes and uncertainty around potential diluted version of the US climate bill is weighing heavily on the stock."
Performance Review 2010
Andros Florides: "The initial months of the year 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 Climate Change strategy saw little in the way of policy developments post what was in many ways a disappointing climate change summit at Copenhagen in December 2009. The follow-on meeting in Mexico in December 2010 made some progress, including a deal to set up a Green Climate Fund to help channel $100bn annually in climate aid from 2020 as well as new systems to protect tropical forests and share clean technologies, but hope for a new treaty in coming years is limited. However, as we come out of recession and as higher energy prices and fears over security of supply come back to the fore, individual country commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improve energy efficiency remain at the fore.
The best performing sector was Energy Efficiency and the laggard was Alternative Energy over the year. Within Energy Efficiency, the North American railroads performed well and contributed strongly to performance, especially CSX. The whole railroad sector rallied strongly as the sector benefitted from the stabilization and subsequent economic rebound. Easy volume comparatives along with robust pricing and stringent cost discipline enabled most companies in the sector to consistently outperform market expectations over the course of the year, leading to material upgrades. Other Energy Efficiency stocks like ABB, Emerson, Cooper Industries and Schneider Electric performed well as the improvement in the economy along with cost discipline led to improving profitability. There was a considerable uplift in corporate mergers and acquisitions in this area which further lifted performance.
The main underperformance came from the Alternative Energy sector, reflecting fears that credit availability continues to stunt growth prospects. Furthermore, the sovereign debt crisis in European peripheral countries was a major detractor as was the uncertainty surrounding regulatory and subsidy regimes in major markets such as Spain, Italy and Germany. As a result, wind energy was the worst performing alternative energy sub-sector. This also reflected low general energy prices in the US which thwarted the development of further large scale wind farms, significantly impacting the order books of wind turbine manufacturers such as Vestas and Gamesa."
Performance 2011 - Year-to-Date
Andros Florides: "Over the initial months of 2011 the best performing sub-theme within the KBC Eco Fund Climate Change was Alternative Energy while Energy Efficiency continued on an upward trend. The lagging themes were Water and Agribusiness. Investor sentiment towards the Alternative Energy sector improved greatly following the tragic events in Japan. Concerns regarding the safety of nuclear power came to the fore as Japanese authorities struggled to control the radioactive leak at the Fukushima plant. In future it will become more cumbersome to roll out new nuclear capacity as stricter safety standards, higher insurance costs and more expensive funding costs will slow new installations. The turmoil in the Middle East caused Water stocks with ‘project exposure’ to the region to sell off as potential delays to project completions implied a downside risk to earnings estimates. The oil price reaching new highs had both positive and negative implications. It was positive for companies engaged in activities that benefit from a high oil price such as supplying pumps and equipment to oil companies. On the other hand, oil for other companies makes up a meaningful part of their costs and the oil price put pressure on profit margins.
Moving into the second quarter of the year volatility in markets continued to impact the strategy but the water theme’s performance turned around while alternative energy stocks were hit after their previous good run. Two water utility themes attracted investor attention; 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. An Italian referendum stopped further privatisation of water systems and removed current profit generation mechanisms for water utilities, negatively impacting European utility stocks. Sentiment towards alternative energy turned negative due to uncertainty surrounding European solar subsidy support. Policy uncertainty in Italy weighted on the theme as Italian ministers debated key changes to solar subsidies and the uncertainty surrounding the final outcome hurt shares. The delay in the decision ensured banks stopped approving solar deals and new installations slowed greatly. Furthermore, a host of companies reported poor Q1 earnings, driven by seasonality and weak outlook statements."
Performance since 2007
Investment Process and Strategy – How does the Fund Manager invest?
Fund Management Process
Environmental Strategies Overview
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 Asset Management’s Climate Change Strategy is comprised of companies which will benefit from the drive to reduce the impact of climate change and mitigate its effects on the planet. The Climate Change strategy was initiated in 2007 and invests in circa 50-80 companies spanning a diverse range of sectors including Water, Alternative Energy, Waste Management, Energy Efficiency, Clean Energy and Agri.
The main drivers of this are:
Increased demand for products/services that reduce carbon emissions.
The regulatory / political drive to mitigate the causes of climate change.
Reduction of the environmental and economic costs of climate change.
Equity markets are currently in a ‘glass half empty’ mindset due to the macro concerns that abound. Looking ahead we believe it appropriate to adopt a more constructive ‘glass half full’ mindset as we believe markets will end 2011 higher than current levels. The key assumption supporting this view is that economic growth stabilises at current levels and reaccelerates somewhat to year end. On that basis, investors may well switch their focus from macro policies and the eurozone debt crisis to stock-specific matters with real leadership emerging from the corporate sector. After years of focusing on balance sheets, companies in general are in excellent shape. As time passes and profits grow further, balance sheets (with the exception of the banks) will be increasingly awash with cash. Management teams will deploy this cash through capital expenditure and some hiring but primarily via merger and acquisitions and increased dividends. We believe investors will be rewarded by favouring equities and the rewards will arise as investor sentiment swings back from weak to positive.
As the economic recovery becomes firmly embedded, we expect to see a renewed impetus back towards the whole theme of Climate Change. Deployment of technologies that enhance productivity and energy efficiency will likely be promoted as the best way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions such that Kyoto Protocol and emissions targets are achieved. The development of existing technologies now means that payback periods are indeed shorter than historically. This will become relevant when the economy improves, particularly for the likes of building efficiency which is more contingent on new builds. Transport will be a key focus of government policy and the development of alternative transport fuels and the development of hybrid, plug in hybrid and electric vehicles will be a source of growth longer term. The repair and maintenance of developed market electricity grids, the build out of new electricity grids in developing markets, the application of smart grid technologies to incorporate new intermittent energy sources such as wind and energy as well as more effectively using electricity in homes and businesses will lead to huge investment. Higher standards in energy efficiency will continually evolve and drive further innovation and opportunities for market leaders as well as new companies in the space.
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]