Independent Trust climbs 34%

STRONG performances by energy and housebuilding shares boosted the net asset value (NAV) of the £230 million Independent Investment Trust by a record 34.2 per cent last year.

The return on the Edinburgh-based trust, which is run by legendary fund manager Max Ward, was way ahead of the 13.8 per cent growth in the FTSE All-Share index in the 12 months to 30 November.

The yield on the trust was set at 4.5p, an increase of 5.9 per cent.

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The chairman's statement accompanying the results said that, while investors may be disappointed with this dividend increase "after years of strong dividend growth", the directors were hampered by the amounts the trust had invested in energy companies paying little or nothing in the way of dividends.

The stellar performance of the trust, which was set up in October 2000, was put down to it increasing its stake in energy companies and building up a significant exposure to a variety of continental European property markets, as well as housebuilders performing against expectations.

The statement added: "The characteristically excellent performance of our housebuilding holdings was remarkable on this occasion for having occurred during a period of unexciting fundamental conditions for the industry."

During the year, the trust reduced its holding in housebuilders by 13.4m. Despite this move, the value of the trust's position in the industry rose over the year from 42.9m to 46.3m.

Ward, who was previously manager of Ballie Gifford's Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust, declined to comment on the results.