Amati AIM VCT

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Previous offer review

Below is our review of the previous offer, which closed in February 2022. As an when a new offer will open, the review on this page will be updated. 

The Amati AIM VCT invests predominantly in AIM stocks and offers a mixed portfolio of mature, revenue-generating companies as well as earlier-stage businesses with the potential for significant growth. The VCT favours the healthcare and technology sectors, both of which fared comparatively well through the pandemic, although past performance is not a guide to the future.

The VCT has net assets of £247.1 million (January 2022) and is managed by Amati Global Investors, a specialist fund management business focused exclusively on UK smaller companies with £1.35 billion under management (December 2021). The VCT has a track record of delivering attractive returns to investors and has paid steady dividends – although future dividends are variable and not guaranteed. 

Over the past 10 years to 31 December 2021, Amati AIM VCT produced a NAV total return of 241.99%, making it the third best-performing VCT over the period. Past performance is not a guide to the future.

The VCT has already raised £40 million under the current offer. However, following a period of strong investment activity the VCT’s board decided to use the £25 million overallotment facility. Please note, when the offer opened in July it was oversubscribed, raising the full £40 million in four working days. The £25 million overallotment facility could fill quickly. 

Important: The information on this website is for experienced investors. It is not advice nor a research or personal recommendation to invest. If you’re unsure, please seek advice. Investments are for the long term. They are high risk and illiquid and can fall as well as rise in value, so you could get back less than you invest.


Highlights

  • Mature AIM-focused VCT
  • Target dividend of around 5% of NAV – dividends are variable and not guaranteed
  • Diversified portfolio of 73 holdings, plus exposure to TB Amati UK Smaller Companies Fund
  • Bias towards healthcare and technology sectors 
  • No performance fee
  • Strong longer-term track record
  • Available for this tax year (2021/22) and next tax year (2022/23)
  • Minimum investment £4,000

The manager

Amati Global Investors, based in Edinburgh, is a specialist smaller-companies fund manager. It was founded in 2010 as a management buyout of Noble Fund Managers. The VCT is managed by a team of five: Paul Jourdan, David Stevenson, Anna Macdonald, Scott McKenzie, and Gareth Blades. 

Paul Jourdan, Amati’s CEO and co-founder, has 23 years’ fund management experience. David Stevenson joined Amati in 2012 after seven years at investment boutique Cartesian Capital, where he was a co-founding partner. Prior to that, David spent 13 years at SVM Asset Management. 

Anna Macdonald joined Amati in 2018 to replace Douglas Lawson, one of the founders of Amati, who left the team to concentrate on running a data analytics company he co-founded the previous year. She previously led the research department of Adam & Company as well as its AIM IHT portfolio service.

Gareth Blades joined Amati in 2019. Dr Blades is a specialist in the healthcare sector. He previously worked in corporate finance at PharmaVentures as well as the spinout division of Edinburgh University. His experience should strengthen the VCT’s position within the healthcare sector.

Scott McKenzie joined in April 2021. Scott has 25 years’ experience managing UK equity portfolios. Prior to joining Amati, he was head of research at Saracen Fund Managers. 

Amati is majority-owned by its staff although Mattioli Woods, an AIM-quoted wealth manager, took a 49% stake in February 2017. Amati manages £1.35 billion (December 2021) between the VCT and its two other services, TB Amati UK Smaller Companies Fund and Amati AIM IHT Portfolio.

Investment strategy

Amati targets investments it would be happy to hold for five years or longer. It seeks businesses with:

  • An experienced management team
  • Valuable intellectual property and proven ability to commercialise it
  • A competitive advantage 
  • The potential to grow quickly, preferably internationally

Each company will be assessed for a number of ‘red flags’ or weaknesses which can include significant liabilities, poor profit or cash conversion and aggressive accounting. Businesses will need to be well funded. Amati does not invest in companies with market capitalisations below £15 million or those it deems inadequately financed. 

The VCT operates a team-based investment approach, preferring collaborative and consensus views to generate ideas and challenge positions. The team seeks out opportunities regardless of market conditions. It does not favour one valuation technique to the exclusion of others.

The strict investment criteria, combined with VCT rules, means an AIM VCT’s ‘investable universe’ is typically reliant on qualifying companies raising fresh capital. The ebb and flow of companies coming to AIM to raise funds may therefore affect the breadth of investment opportunities available to the VCT. That said, 2021 was a bumper year for AIM admissions: 70 new UK companies were admitted to AIM, more than doubling 2020’s figures, although there is no guarantee this trend will continue. 

In addition, the investment team has seen a substantial pickup in pre-IPO deals (including Saietta Group – detailed below). Amati considers these types of opportunities to be valuable additions to the portfolio as they allow the team to secure larger positions at IPO relative to other VCT funds. However, these transactions require significantly more due diligence than investments in quoted stocks and are therefore likely to remain a smaller part of Amati’s strategy. 

Covid-19 impact 

Throughout the pandemic, Amati remained committed to its strategy of ‘running winners’ and continued to back its strongest performers. The team has focused on supporting its existing portfolio, particularly companies it believes can make the most of difficult economic circumstances, such as those in the healthcare sector. 

Deal flow remained strong throughout 2020 and 2021, despite the initial market volatility caused by the pandemic. The team saw more deals in 2021 than in any year since 2015. The VCT considered 72 VCT-qualifying opportunities in 2021 and participated in 16 (including four follow-on investments).  

The VCT showed strong performance through 2020, achieving a NAV total return of 37.2%. This momentum continued into the first half of 2021 but suffered in the latter half, following disappointing results from several of the portfolio’s larger holdings. This resulted in a NAV total return of 1.88% for 2021. Past performance is not a guide to the future.

Current portfolio overview

The VCT has a diversified portfolio of 73 holdings with a net asset value of £247.1 million (January 2022).

A good proportion of the portfolio is held in mature, revenue-generating companies. Approximately 20% is invested in companies with market capitalisations of £1 billion or more. The top ten investments currently represent 44% of the VCT’s value (January 2022). 

For new investments, Amati favours three themes: environmental and technology services, healthcare, and information technology – the latter are currently the two largest sectors within the portfolio (representing 26.7% and 24.3% respectively – January 2022). However, Amati will not rule out other sectors if it sees an attractive opportunity. 

The VCT will also occasionally invest in non-qualifying holdings to help provide diversification, liquidity and access to potentially higher dividend yields. The VCT has one non-qualifying holding at present, the TB Amati UK Smaller Companies Fund, which currently accounts for 6.2% of total assets (January 2022), making it the VCT’s largest holding.

Sector breakdown (%)

Source: Amati, as at 31 January 2022.

Market capitalisation breakdown (%)

Source: Amati, as at 31 January 2022.

Examples of portfolio companies

Polarean – Amati AIM VCTPolarean Imaging Plc 

Historically, MRI scans on lung health could only provide limited information. Polarean has addressed this by developing a drug-device combination that provides a stronger signal.

Patients inhale polarised Xenon, a harmless inert gas. The hyperpolarised gas improves the image signal by a factor of 100,000, allowing clinicians to identify lung structure and ventilation patterns more effectively. This improved visibility could be vital for early disease detection as well as progression monitoring.

The company has continued to make good progress and already generates sales in excess of $1 million a year – mostly to researchers. Polarean successfully completed its Phase III trial and lodged its pre-new drug application with the US Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) in December 2020. This was followed by significant share price gains. However, the submission was subsequently rejected, due to technical and manufacturing issues, hitting the shares hard. Management believes the issues can be resolved, and the company can fund the necessary work out of existing cash resources.

Polarean is now the trust’s largest qualifying holding representing 5.9% of the portfolio (January 2022). 

Keywords Studios – Amati AIM VCTKeywords Studios

Based in Dublin, Keywords Studios (“Keywords”) provides creative and technical services to the video game industry and is now one of the biggest game development outsourcing companies in the world. 

Keywords started life as a localisation company, preparing business software for specific local markets. In the early 2000s, it moved into the video games industry but became heavily reliant on a single client for the majority of its contracts. However, following the appointment of Andrew Day as CEO in 2009, the company shifted focus towards securing new clients and diversifying its services through an aggressive acquisition strategy. Keywords acquired more than 50 companies since its IPO in 2013. 

Today, Keywords aims to be the “go-to” provider for the gaming industry, offering a broad suite of services that covers everything from concept art to speciality engineering requirements. This has helped the company secure partnerships with 23 of the top 25 most prominent game companies in the world, with names such as Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo on its books. 

The VCT invested in Keywords through its IPO in 2013 and it is now the trust’s second-largest qualifying holding, representing 5.2% of the portfolio (January 2022).

Saietta Group - Amati AIM VCTSaietta Group

Saietta Group is an engineering business specialising in motors for a wide range of electric vehicles. Unlike conventional electric motors, which are cylindrical in shape, Saietta’s motor has a disc-like shape so it can fit inside each wheel rim, leading to a more efficient transfer of power. Saietta aims to transform the light motorbike market in Asia, where the business is in discussions with leading motorbike manufacturers. In India alone, 20 million heavily polluting light motorbikes are sold every year. 

The Oxfordshire-based company was admitted to AIM in July 2021, raising £37.5 million to establish a motor durability testing facility and pilot production facility with the goal of manufacturing 100,000 units per annum within three years.

Amati invested £2.6 million into the business in April 2021 in the form of pre-IPO equity and a convertible loan. The VCT added to its holding at IPO, bringing its total investment to £5.1 million. Saietta is now the VCT’s fifth-largest qualifying holding, accounting for 4.6% of total assets (January 2022). 

appScatter Group

As is to be expected, not all investments work out. appScatter is an example. App distribution and management platform appScatter integrates with 50 of the world’s top app stores. The company’s technology can automatically determine suitable stores depending on an individual app’s specifications. The entire process is automated from registration to submission.

Amati originally invested £1.2 million at IPO in 2017. However, it exited its position after the company failed to live up to expectations. The investment team will exit any holding where the position is not considered to be recoverable in the short term, particularly for sub-scale investments.

Performance and dividends

The AIM market has been turbulent in recent years and Amati AIM VCT has not been immune to this volatility. 

Despite disruption, 2020 was a strong year for the VCT, which achieved a NAV total return of 37.2%. 2021 proved equally volatile with disappointing results from Frontier Developments and Polarean Imaging, both top 10 holdings, offset by more encouraging news from the likes of Saietta Group, Water Intelligence, and MaxCyte. The VCT ended 2021 up 1.88%. 

Over the previous ten years to December 2021, Amati AIM VCT has produced a NAV total return of 241.99%. Past performance is not a guide to the future; dividends are variable and not guaranteed.

The VCT targets an annual dividend of around 5% of NAV. In 2021, the VCT paid 11.5p per share in dividends. Over the past five years, the average annual dividend payment has been 8.6p per share.

NAV and cumulative dividends per share over five years (p)


Source: Morningstar. Past performance is no guide to the future. Dividends are variable and not guaranteed. The bar chart shows net asset value and cumulative dividends per share for the period 31 December 2016 – 31 December 2021.

Dividend payments in the calendar year

Source: Morningstar. Past performance is not a guide to the future. Dividends are variable and not guaranteed. Dividends paid per calendar year to 31 December 2021.

Average dividend yield (% of NAV) history

Calendar year Dividend as % of NAV
2017 5.18%
2018 5.21%
2019 5.04%
2020 4.87%
2021 5.48%

Source: Morningstar. Average dividend yields are based on the dividends paid over the period divided by the monthly average NAV of the VCT over the same period. Past performance is no guide to the future.

Charges and savings

A summary of the main charges and savings is shown below. The net initial charge shown includes the Wealth Club saving and any early bird discount. The investment may have additional charges and expenses: please see the provider documents including the Key Information Document for more details, offer price and share allotment calculation methodology.

Full initial charge 3%
Early bird discount
Wealth Club initial saving 2%
Existing shareholder discount
Net initial charge through Wealth Club (new investors) 1%
Net initial charge through Wealth Club (existing shareholders) 1%
Annual management charge 1.75%
Annual administration charge See offer documents
Performance fee
Annual rebate from Wealth Club

More detail on the charges

Deadlines

This offer is now closed.

Dividend Reinvestment Scheme (DRIS)

There is a Dividend Reinvestment Scheme that allows shareholders to reinvest future cash dividend payments in new shares if desired. As these are new shares they should be eligible for tax relief (you will need to claim this on your tax return or directly with HMRC) and the shares will count towards the VCT annual subscription limit.

Share buyback policy

Amati offers a share buy-back policy. The company may repurchase shares investors wish to sell. Please note, any purchase is at the discretion of the board and is subject to the company having the necessary cash resources and distributable reserves available for the purchase. 

In the 12 months to 31 January 2021, 2,039,377 shares in the Company were bought back for an aggregate consideration of £3.2 million at an average price of 155p per share, representing 1.8% of the shares in issue at 31 January 2021. The average discount was 8.52%.

Discount history

VCT shares are traded on the London Stock Exchange. Similar to investment trusts, the share price can fluctuate and can be different from the VCT’s net asset value (NAV), i.e. the value of the VCT’s underlying investments. The difference between the share price of a VCT, and its net asset value per share, is called a discount.

The chart shows the five-year discount to net asset value history of Amati AIM VCT based on the closing share price at the end of each month, divided by the latest net asset value at the time. Past performance is not a guide to the future. Investors looking to sell their VCT shares may get a better price using the VCT’s share buyback facility, although this is not guaranteed.

Average five year discount to NAV history

Source: Morningstar, 31 December 2021. Discount is the closing share price at the end of each month, divided by the latest net asset value at the time. Rolling 12 month average is this figure averaged over the year.

Annual rebate when you invest through Wealth Club

There is no annual rebate for Wealth Club investors.

Risks – important

This, like all investments available through Wealth Club, is only for experienced investors happy to make their own investment decisions without advice. 

VCTs are high-risk so should only form part of a balanced portfolio and you should not invest money you cannot afford to lose. They also tend to be illiquid and hard to sell and value. Before you invest, please carefully read the Risks and Commitments and the offer documents to ensure you fully understand the risks. 

To retain the tax benefits, VCTs should be held for at least five years. If you sell VCT shares and reinvest in new shares of the same VCT (including any mergers) within six months, tax relief can be restricted. Tax rules can change and benefits depend on circumstances.

VCTs can now only invest new money in growth capital deals. Management buyouts, replacement capital deals and investments in mature companies are no longer permitted. This results in considerably higher risks.

Unlike VCTs investing in unquoted companies, AIM VCTs have a more natural exit route for shares as they are listed. However, dealing in large volumes of shares could be difficult. The size of the VCT could make this more of a problem.

AIM shares can be very volatile and could suffer extreme volatility if the market falls sharply. The difference between the buying and selling price of AIM-quoted companies is often wider than those listed on the main market. 

Our view

Amati is a well-known, highly regarded fund manager with a good track record of investing in smaller quoted businesses in the UK. The trust has a diversified portfolio of holdings across a range of sectors, with a bias towards healthcare and technology. 

Over the last five years, the trust has performed strongly; notwithstanding the volatility of AIM. This reflects Amati’s focus on growth companies, particularly within the technology and healthcare sectors. Remember, past performance is not a guide to the future. 

As an investment house, Amati Global Investors has experienced significant growth in 2021, assets under management increased by £500 million, enabling further expansion of the fund management team with the appointment of Scott McKenzie, an experienced senior fund manager.

In our view, Amati AIM VCT is a high-quality offering for experienced investors comfortable with the volatility of the AIM market.

Wealth Club aims to make it easier for experienced investors to find information on – and apply for – tax-efficient investments. You should base your investment decision on the provider's documents and ensure you have read and fully understand them before investing. This review is a marketing communication. It is not advice or a personal or research recommendation to buy the investment mentioned. It does not satisfy legal requirements promoting investment research independence and is thus not subject to prohibitions on dealing ahead of its dissemination.

The details

Type
AIM
Target dividend
-
Initial charge
-
Initial saving via Wealth Club
-
Net initial charge
-
Annual rebate
Funds raised / sought
£25.0 million / £25.0 million
Deadline
CLOSED
Last updated: 20 February 2022

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