Garrett-Cox welcomes growth but warns of slowing markets

INVESTMENT giant Alliance Trust embarked on its 125th year in business with its strongest performance in two decades.

But chief executive Katherine Garrett-Cox warned that the market rally in recent months was not expected to continue “at the current pace”.

Her warning came as the £2.4 billion trust added that its economic outlook was now “less gloomy” and it forecasted that the global economy will grow in 2013, “albeit marginally”.

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Following a year of dramatic change for the trust, Garrett-Cox compared the business to a “supertanker” that has “taken a while to turn”.

The discount in the value of its assets to its shares – an area of difficulty for the group last year – has remained below 15 per cent since the year end, which represented “huge progress”, Garrett-Cox said.

She said: “These things do take a while to turn, it was a bit of a supertanker. We are certainly not complacent. But when people recognise that the performance is much more consistent and good, the dividend is going to be steady and growing and the subsidiaries are really starting to add value, people will sit up and take notice.”

The FTSE-250 company raised its total dividend by 7 per cent to 9.63p per share. It added that this marked its 46th consecutive year of dividend increases.

Analysts said that the results to the end of 2012 “distil the seismic changes” that the group 
implemented over the year, particularly the shift from over 200 equity investment holdings to fewer than 100.

The JP Morgan analysts added that 2013 “should be a good year” for the trust, when it will see a full year of profits at its savings business and a “consistently managed” global portfolio of equities.

During 2012, Alliance Trust delivered a 12.4 per cent total shareholder return, which was marginally ahead of various index peers.

The firm said it had reduced its investment team by “about a third” last year, adding that half of its investment team is now based in its London office, with the balance split between Dundee and Edinburgh.

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