AVI Japan Opportunity Trust

AVI Japan Opportunity Trust

A new investment trust run by AVI, established to provide shareholders with capital growth through investing in a focussed portfolio of overcapitalised small-cap Japanese equities. AVI will leverage its three decades of experience investing in asset-backed companies to engage with company management and help to unlock value for all stakeholders.

AVI are pleased to have successfully raised £80m in the AVI Japan Opportunity Trust plc (AJOT).

Commenting on the successful launch, Joe said:

“It has been an exciting journey and I am pleased that AVI will be able to continue its work in Japan with a dedicated fund. This will be a portfolio of some of the extraordinarily cheap smaller companies in Japan at a time when an improving corporate governance regime is forcing change.  We will have the right to make shareholder resolutions at annual general meetings, which are becoming more common with a record number this year.  AJOT is an opportunity we see for investing in Japan today as evidenced by the more than £1m invested by the AVI team in AJOT.”

Press Release

History

Asset Value Investors was established in 1985 to manage the assets of British Empire Trust plc (“British Empire”)(“BTEM”), which now has over £1 billion* of gross assets. AVI runs a high-conviction long-only global investment strategy focussed on investing in companies with strong asset-backing that are trading at a discount to estimated net asset value (NAV).

AVI’s portfolio consists of investments in three core areas: family-controlled holding companies, closed-end funds, and special situations, with the latter currently consisting entirely of Japanese equities. Engagement with company management and directors forms a core part of AVI’s approach to realising value from discounts.

Asset Value Investors is majority owned by employees and regulated by the FCA (UK) and the SEC (US).

Over the past 30+ years that AVI has pursued this strategy, a compound annual return of 12.1%** has been achieved. AVI takes a proactive approach to ensure that companies work to reduce the discount on which they trade.

*As at 31 July 2018

**As at 31 July 2018 for BTEM NAV Total Return

Visit British Empire's website

Activism

Asset Value Investors (AVI) has a long history of engagement with investee companies in Europe and Asia, where we often interact with the Board and management to unlock shareholder value and promote high standards of corporate governance. 

AVI’s interactions usually take the form of behind-closed-doors communication (private meetings and letters) with boards and management, wherein we discuss the various avenues available for improving corporate value. Our discussions include advocating for, inter alia: increasing dividends; buying back shares; selling or reducing non-core assets; winding up investment vehicles without a viable future; or reducing the complexity of holding companies through simplifying the corporate structure.

Our efforts to engage with companies are always constructive, and have a strong track record of generating value for shareholders.

AVI has been investing in Japanese equities for three decades, observing the slow development of the corporate governance agenda – which has now reached a critical mass.

Starting with the introduction of the Stewardship Code in February 2014, a host of private and governmental bodies – including Japan’s FSA, the Ministry of Economy, Trade & Industry, the Government Pension Investment Fund, ISS, and Panasonic – has initiated efforts and reforms which are slowly pushing Japanese companies towards improving their corporate governance and balance sheet efficiency.

While change will not happen overnight in Japan, there is nonetheless growing evidence that the tide of public and private opinion in Japan has changed; the ripples from this seismic shift will spread slowly, but should have broad and deep effects on how Japanese companies operate – for the benefit of all stakeholders involved.

The time to capitalise on this improving trend is now and, with a dearth of ways to access the cash- and asset-rich companies that AVI focuses on, the AVI Japan Opportunity Trust is the optimal way to do so.

Portfolio Construction & Monitoring

Construction

AVI uses two filters – liquidity and net financial value* as a percentage of market cap – to whittle down the broad universe of 3,475 non-financial Japanese companies to a core investable universe of 474 companies. From there, AVI conducts detailed in-house research on each companies’ business and earnings power, as well as the potential for changes to corporate governance, to determine the most attractive companies and assemble these into an (indicative) portfolio of 27 companies.

Monitoring

Following construction of the portfolio, AVI undertakes continuous review of the portfolio at various levels in order to monitor progress and observe activities and events. We monitor share prices on an intra-day basis, as well as corporate activity and macroeconomic events as they arise. In addition, we will report regularly to the Board of Directors, and will produce interim and annual reports which will be publicly available.

 

Case Studies

AVI first invested in TBS in January 2017.

Our analysis concluded that TBS’ operating business is dwarfed by their securities portfolio and real estate.

The shares of TBS were trading at a 36% discount to our calculated net asset value (NAV). We determined that there was balance sheet inefficiency and several corporate governance issues that could be addressed.

Over the year, AVI has sought to instigate changes in the corporate governance at TBS. We have actively engaged with the Board of TBS to discuss various actions to enhance corporate governance and balance sheet efficiency. Subsequently, TBS cancelled all of the treasury shares which amounted to 8.3% of the share capital.

See AVI’s Public Engagement Campaign