Mark Barnett and Invesco have been fired from the Perpetual Income and Growth (PLI) investment trust after a prolonged period of underperformance.

In a statement, the trust’s board of directors said the decision has ‘not been taken lightly, particularly given the current market environment’, but that it had to act after poor performance continued for most of its financial year to 31 March.

In the six months to 30 September 2019, the trust had returned -1.2% in net asset value (NAV) terms and -1% in share price terms, compared to a 4.6% rise in the FTSE All Share.

'COMPELLED' TO FIRE BARNETT

Chairman Richard Laing said, ‘We gave Invesco time to build on the early ‘Brexit Bounce’ that was anticipated, but this proved to be short-lived.

‘At the half year, performance was below the benchmark and this has continued in the second half to 31 March.

‘The board is mindful of the market environment, but feel compelled to announce the decision today to replace the manager.’

Shares in the trust shot up 7.2% to 209p on the news.

The move means Barnett no longer has any investment trust mandates, after he was sacked as manager of the Edinburgh Investment Trust (EDIN) in December following another prolonged period of poor performance.

-44% RETURN IN FIVE YEARS

Barnett had managed the trust PLI since 1999, and up until 2016 had an excellent track record.

According to Winterflood, PLI outperformed the FTSE All Share in NAV terms in 14 of the 16 calendar years between 2000 and 2015, in a period encompassing a range of market conditions.

The annualised NAV total return was 10.7% compared with 3.8% for the wider UK market during that time.

But since 2016, it delivered a NAV total return of -33% compared with a 1% rise for the FTSE All Share, with a series of stock specific issues piling up.

Winterflood analysts added that the share price total return of -44% over the past five years was even worse, reflecting the fund’s de-rating over the period from a 2% premium to a 16% discount.

'NOT TOO MUCH OF A SURPRISE'

AJ Bell head of active portfolios, Ryan Hughes, said, the decision to fire Barnett ‘doesn’t come as too much of a surprise given the scale of the underperformance’.

He added, ‘It clearly was of little comfort to the board that other value focused investment trusts have suffered even more in the recent sell off, while they also have clearly lost confidence in the manager’s ability to capitalise on any post-coronavirus bounce-back which will hopefully come once we emerge from the other side of this current crisis.

‘The £400m trust will now be a highly prized opportunity for a range of UK equity managers, particularly when the assets of so many will have been hit hard by recent market falls.’

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Issue Date: 06 Apr 2020