• by  • July 8, 2015 • Crystal Amber

    Crystal Amber Fund Limited Monthly Net Asset Value and Interim Dividend Declaration            
    Crystal Amber Fund announces that its unaudited net asset value ("NAV") per
    share on 30 June 2015 was 168.26p (31 May 2015: 160.84p per share).
    The proportion of the Fund's NAV at 30 June 2015 represented by the ten largest
    holdings, other investments and cash (including accruals), was as follows:
    Top ten holdings Pence per share Percentage of investee equity held
    Grainger plc 34.9 3.40%
    Hurricane Energy plc 13.1 11.80%
    Leaf Clean Energy Company 12.9 29.90%
    STV Group plc 12.3 6.70%
    Pinewood Group plc 11.5 4.10%
    Sutton Harbour Holdings plc 10.3 29.30%
    Coats Group plc 9 2.40%
    Dart Group plc 7.8 1.20%
    Balfour Beatty plc 5.2 0.30%
    4imprint Group plc 5 1.60%
    Total of ten largest holdings 122
    Other investments 31.6
    Cash and accruals 14.7
    Total NAV 168.3

    Investment Adviser’s commentary on the portfolio

    Over the quarter to 30 June 2015, NAV per share increased by 13.5 per cent. The
    Fund’s average cash position over the quarterly period has been 5.3 per cent,
    implying a return on the investment portfolio of 14.3 per cent. Over the Fund’s
    financial year to 30 June 2015, NAV per share has increased by 4.6 per cent or
    4.9 per cent including the dividend paid.

    The top three positive contributors to NAV growth over the quarter to the end
    of June were Thorntons plc (5.7 per cent contribution), STV Group plc (1.3 per
    cent) and Hurricane Energy plc (1.2 per cent). The three main detractors have
    been Ophir Energy plc (0.7 per cent), Plus500 Ltd (0.4 per cent) and Juridica
    Investments plc (0.3 per cent). The Fund sold its remaining holding in Plus 500
    Ltd, realising a total profit including dividends of £4.3 million.

    During the quarter to 30 June 2015, the Fund disclosed notifiable positions in
    Grainger plc and Pinewood Group plc, increased its position in Hurricane Energy
    plc, Coats Group plc and STV Group plc and sold out its holdings in Aer Lingus
    Group plc and Thorntons plc.

    Aer Lingus Group plc (“Aer Lingus”)

    In June, given the limited upside, the Fund disposed of its stake in Aer Lingus
    following the favourable share price reaction to the Irish Government’s
    decision to dispose of its stake to IAG. The proceeds have been re-invested
    elsewhere where the risk reward profile appears to be more compelling.

    The Fund realised gains in Aer Lingus of €15 million (£10.8 million) and banked
    dividends of €0.8 million (£0.6 million) (compared to a total investment of €
    21.1 million (£15 million)).

    Balfour Beatty plc (“Balfour Beatty”)

    Over the period, the Fund started to build a position in Balfour Beatty, the
    international engineering and construction group.

    Following six profit warnings over the last two years, Leo Quinn’s arrival as
    Chief Executive provides the opportunity to address several legacy issues in
    construction and turn around a business selling on an enterprise value to sales
    ratio of 0.2.

    We believe that the value of Balfour Beatty’s Public-to-Private Partnership
    (“PPP”) projects provide support to the company’s current stock market value.

    Coats Group plc (“Coats”)

    Coats is the world’s leading industrial thread and consumer textile crafts
    business. In 1890, it listed on the London Stock Exchange.

    During the quarter, the Fund increased its shareholding to 33.9 million shares,
    equivalent to 2.4 per cent of Coats’ issued share capital. Coats is capitalised
    at £352 million and in the year to 31 December 2014, reported operating profits
    of £64 million on revenues of more than £1 billion.

    Coats had net cash of £206 million at 31 December 2014. During 2014,
    principally as a result of a 115 basis point decrease in the discount rate,
    Coats’ pension liabilities increased by £197 million to £375 million. The board
    of Coats is engaging with the UK Pensions Regulator following the receipt of a
    Warning Notice in December 2014.

    We believe that the share price currently fails to reflect the underlying value
    of the business. The Fund notes recent acquisitions by Coats which it regards
    as a sensible use of its cash resources.

    Grainger plc (“Grainger”)

    In June, the Fund purchased a 3.2 per cent stake in Grainger.

    Grainger was established in 1912 and is the UK’s largest listed residential
    property owner and manager. Its traditional reversionary business is based
    predominantly on regulated tenancies which provide substantial, high quality,
    predictable and resilient cash flows. Its portfolio of 7,400 reversionary
    assets has a carrying value of £1.5 billion. As these properties become vacant,
    Grainger estimates that they will generate a surplus of £500 million,
    equivalent to 120p a share. This embedded value is the difference between
    today’s market value compared to the vacant possession value at today’s prices.
    It does not reflect any future benefit from house price inflation. This
    portfolio is expected to generate £120 million of gross cash each year until
    2030. Grainger also owns 8,400 properties as part of its market rented
    portfolio valued in excess of £1.1 billion.

    Grainger’s shares trade at a 21% discount to unaudited net asset value of 293p
    at 31 March 2015. The company has stated that sales prices achieved have been
    6.6% higher than vacant possession value and this supports our analysis that
    current market values are in excess of vacant possession values.

    Grainger’s stated net asset value excludes the estimated reversionary surplus
    of 120p a share.

    We believe that Grainger’s portfolio, providing visibility of cash realisations
    through to 2030, represents an attractive asset for an insurance company
    seeking to match this asset profile against long- term future liabilities.

    We also note that Grainger pays an average interest rate of 5.1% on its £1
    billion of debt. This excludes commitment fees. We believe that in the current
    interest rate environment, there is considerable scope to secure better terms
    for shareholders, which could increase pre-tax profits by more than £10 million
    a year.

    In March, Grainger’s CEO, Andrew Cunningham, announced he will step down at the
    next AGM in February 2016. On 30 June, his successor was announced as Helen
    Gordon, currently Head of Real Estate Asset Management at Royal Bank of

    Pinewood Group plc (“Pinewood”)

    Pinewood is a leading provider of studio and related services to global
    screen-based industries.

    In 2011, the Fund was Pinewood’s largest shareholder and held the view that
    Pinewood’s iconic brand and technical excellence should have enabled it to have
    delivered higher profitability. Following a cash offer from Peel Holdings, the
    Fund then sold its position realising a profit of £8.7 million.

    We have continued to follow developments at Pinewood and during the quarter
    acquired a 4.1% interest in Pinewood as a result of a placing.

    On 30 June 2015, Pinewood announced its full year results to 31 March 2015.
    While the company stated that it had delivered strong growth, the Fund notes
    that of the £8.1 million of profit after tax, £3.1 million was derived from tax
    credits and a further £1.1m from Pinewood’s share of results of joint ventures.
    Revenue was £75 million. We believe that Pinewood’s core business should be
    achieving a much higher level of profitability.

    On 1 July 2015, the Investment Adviser to the Fund met with Pinewood’s
    management and expressed this view. The company has responded by saying that it
    is seeking to engage constructively with the Fund and is open to the Fund’s

    The Fund is therefore engaging with Pinewood and is currently optimistic of a
    more helpful dialogue than took place in 2010 and 2011.

    Thorntons plc (“Thorntons”)

    On 22 June, Thorntons announced the terms of a recommended cash offer from
    Ferrero International S.A. (“Ferrero”) at 145p per share. As a pre-condition,
    the Fund agreed to sell its entire stake in Thorntons to Ferrero on the day of
    the announcement. The Fund was the largest shareholder in Thorntons owning 18.9
    per cent of Thorntons’ issued share capital. We believe that the ability to
    deliver this holding to Ferrero was an essential element of the transaction.

    In our view, the offer recognises the value that the Fund had identified in
    Thorntons’ brand and production capability. Thorntons’ recent profit warnings
    had exposed some operational challenges in growing third party grocery sales.
    In our view, Ferrero will bring its expertise in this sales channel and an
    international marketing and distribution capability. This should accelerate
    Thorntons’ growth. We believe that Ferrero, a family owned business, can bring
    to Thorntons the long term focus that has made Ferrero succeed worldwide.

    The Fund realised profits of £7.5 million on its shareholding in Thorntons (on
    a total investment of £11.5 million).


    The Board has declared an interim dividend of 2.5p per ordinary share in
    respect of the year ended 30 June 2015. The dividend will be paid on 14 August
    2015 to shareholders on the register (the record date) on 17 July 2015. The
    shares will be quoted ex-dividend on 16 July 2015.

    Transactions in Shares

    Over the period, the Fund bought back 4,455,630 shares at an average price of
    146.18p per share as part of its buyback programme.