We are delighted to announce that Bosco Ojeda has joined Columbus. Bosco brings a wealth of experience having worked for over 25 years at UBS, where he held the position of Head of European Small and Midcap Research.
Pareturn Columbus class I is up 8.30% in November, 4.24% in 2023 and 24.5% in the last 5 years. This was a great month for European midcaps (MSCI Mid Europe: +6.4%) and in general for equity markets (Stoxx 600: +6.4%), although it’s just a small bounce after a weak October. The bounce was largely driven by a rally in bonds which experienced one of the best months for the past 40 years. Time will tell if inflation is set to return to central banks goals, but today inflation is no longer the concern it was months ago. Companies, families, and governments can now refinance 80bp lower than at the peak in October and there is a strong feeling that the rates risk is now limited. Money market funds are so heavily overweighted that the inflation change is a massive event. For European midcaps this is a very relevant theme, we see deep value in many high-quality companies in Europe which have solid growing cash flow prospects. The opportunity to invest in quality growth companies in Europe is still there, no matter if the macro situation can remain subdued for some time or if inflation does not return to the 2% target for some time.
The “big 7” (Apple, Amazon, Google, Meta, Microsoft, Nvidia and Tesla) underperformed midcaps this month. There is excessive equity concentration on those stocks, usually a driver of low returns in the long-term. An open economy requires a large group of companies that respond to economic needs and a good selection of small/midcaps tends to have better upside in the long term than the market average. Market consensus expects the economy to slow down in 2024 and begin a period of rate cuts that may be favourable for bond and equity valuations. The risk of a macro adjustment remains present, but rates relief is taking away a big risk of stagnation. In this environment, we are convinced that the Columbus’ portfolio is well positioned.
Regarding the Columbus portfolio, during the month of November, the return of some of the stocks we hold stand out. The 2 best performing stocks this month coincide with companies where we increased our stakes in 2023, including Grifols (+22%) and Elecnor (+16%). In both cases there was a clear catalyst behind the strong performance (asset disposals). A reminder that stocks can be cheap for long, but a good catalyst can revert how the market looks at some companies.
Other stocks that enjoyed a strong performance include Fraport, Prysmian, Neoen and Reply. These are stocks which were penalized despite a solid operating performance, there are quite a few of those in our portfolio that should be heavily rerated. On the negative side, during November a few financials have suffered from lower rates prospects (Unicaja: -6%, Mapfre: -2%, SCOR: -2%). We maintain a moderate exposure to low-risk financials as current rates will continue to support earnings for a while and value remains very supportive.
Over the past 4 weeks we have been very busy visiting more than 40 companies. This is a great time of the year to meet with management teams ahead of 2024. Most companies have good visibility on the budgets for next year and for Columbus is a fantastic opportunity to rebalance the portfolio. We anticipate relevant changes in Columbus over the coming days with fresh new ideas and changes in weightings. November performance can be the tip of the iceberg of a potential rerating for quality European midcaps and we want to be ready to capture its long-term potential.
The Columbus Fund can be purchased through the AllFunds, Inversis and Fundsettle platforms. Columbus has a Master-Feeder structure. The Pareturn GVC Gaesco Columbus European Equity Fund in Luxembourg (master) and the GVC Columbus European Equties FI fund (subordinate). The Luxembourg vehicle offers institutional and retail share classes denominated in euros and sterling.