Hargreave Hale AIM VCT

Offer now closed – fully subscribed

As at 10:20am on Friday 22 October we are advised the offer has reached capacity and is now closed.

Applications already received are processed on a first-come, first-served basis. 

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Hargreave Hale AIM VCT is an established VCT that launched in 2004. It is managed by Hargreave Hale, a subsidiary of Canaccord Genuity, a C$94.9 billion wealth management business (June 2021). 

The VCT gives investors access to a well diversified portfolio of predominantly AIM-quoted companies. However, the investment manager also invests in unquoted companies on an opportunistic basis, as well as the Marlborough Special Situations Fund, UK main market equities, fixed income securities and cash. 

The VCT has net assets of £228.8 million (31 July 2021). The current offer is seeking to raise up to £20 million with an overallotment facility of £20 million. On 23 September 2021, the VCT announced it is using its overallotment facility.

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

  • Managed by one of the UK's best-resourced small and micro-cap investment teams
  • Diverse portfolio of AIM-quoted, unquoted and main market equities 
  • Bias towards technology and healthcare sectors
  • Dividend target of 5% of NAV a year, paid bi-annually – not guaranteed
  • 0.10% annual rebate for three years

The manager

Hargreave Hale is a well established fund manager that specialises in smaller UK companies. It has been managing AIM VCTs since 2004. It is also responsible for many of the highly regarded Marlborough unit trusts, including the £1.6 billion Special Situations Fund, the UK Micro-Cap Growth Fund and the Multi-Cap Income Fund.

In 2017, Hargreave Hale was acquired by Canaccord Genuity Wealth Management, the UK arm of Canaccord Genuity, a global investment group headquartered in Canada. In total, Canaccord manages C$94.9 billion (June 2021). In March 2018, Hargreave Hale AIM VCT 1 merged with Hargreave Hale AIM VCT 2 to form Hargreave Hale AIM VCT. 

In July 2019, Oliver Bedford assumed the role of lead manager of the VCT. Oliver joined the Hargreave Hale in 2004 after nine years in the British Army. Oliver also supports the management of the unit trusts. 

Watch a video interview with manager Oliver Bedford:

 

Lucy Bloomfield serves as co-manager of the trust. Lucy joined in 2018, after spending two years as a small and mid-cap fund manager with one of Europe’s top small and mid-cap investors, Ennismore Fund Management. 

In 2020, the team hired Barbara Walshe as legal counsel to assist with due diligence on an increasing number of private company opportunities. In December 2020, Giles Hargreave stepped back from his co-management role but remains available in an informal capacity to support the VCT if required. 

Hargreave Hale's fund management team comprises 18 fund managers and analysts and is responsible for £6.3 billion. Hargreave Hale believes the scale of its investment into smaller companies, its track record, and the breadth and reach of its team could help the VCT attract deal flow. 

Investment strategy

The VCT will focus on managing a diversified portfolio of VCT-qualifying companies but also target non-qualifying investments on an opportunistic basis. The primary focus will be on AIM; however, there will also be investments in private companies and those planning to trade on AIM.

The VCT may also invest in non-qualifying exposure to UK and international equities, fixed income securities and cash. A proportion of funds raised will be invested into the Marlborough Special Situations Fund to maintain exposure to small companies pending investment into VCT-qualifying companies.

The investment team follows a stock-specific, rather than sector-specific, investment approach and is more likely to provide growth and development capital than seed capital. 

Covid-19 impact 

The VCT has not been immune to the volatility caused by Covid-19. The VCT’s net asset value fell from 72p as at 31 January 2020 to a low of 53p in March 2020. However, the VCT has since enjoyed a significant recovery as its exposure to technology and healthcare businesses provided a fillip to performance. The NAV per share has recovered materially to 99.73p as at 31 July 2021. In addition, the VCT has paid 5.4p in dividends. Past performance is not a guide to the future.

Like other AIM VCTs, Hargreave Hale has reported buoyant levels of investment activity in 2020, which appears to be continuing into 2021. 

Current portfolio overview

The VCT has a well diversified portfolio split between AIM-quoted companies, unquoted companies, the Marlborough Special Situations Fund, UK main market equities, fixed income securities and cash. The VCT has a net asset value of £228.8 million (as at July 2021). The top ten investments currently represent 31.6% of the VCT’s net asset value. 

Source: Hargreave Hale, July 2021.

74.8% of the portfolio is in qualifying investments, with a bias towards the Technology (30.6%) and Healthcare (28.7%) sectors (July 2021).

Source: Hargreave Hale, July 2021.

Examples of portfolio companies

Hargreave Hale AIM VCT – GoustoGousto (largest holding, unquoted)

Gousto is the VCT’s largest qualifying holding, representing 5.6% of the portfolio as at July 2021.

Gousto has created food delivery technology to offer a weekly box of healthy, responsibly sourced ingredients, providing everything needed in the right quantities to cook delicious meals, helping limit space and food waste. The company claims the scale of its data means it can predict what each customer will choose to cook for dinner.

This approach has enabled the business to grow rapidly: in 2020 the business grew revenues by 129% to £189 million, and underlying profits rising to £18.2 million, from a loss of £9.1 million in 2019. In late 2020, Gousto joined the ranks of the UK’s increasing number of unicorns, private companies achieving a valuation in excess of $1 billion.

The business is reported to be hiring an additional 1,000 staff as it looks to double sales again by 2022, and open two new fulfilment centres. 

The VCT has invested £2.5 million into the business. As at July 2021, its stake is valued at £12.7 million. Please note, past performance is not a guide to the future.

Learning Technologies Group – Hargreave Hale AIM VCTLearning Technologies Group plc (AIM-quoted)

Learning Technologies Group (“LTG”) is a market leader in digital learning and talent management.

Since its admission to AIM in 2013, the company has focused on a ‘buy and build’ strategy. At present, the group includes 12 complementary brands that offer solutions across the entire employee lifecycle, covering everything from recruitment to analytical insights. This allows LTG to partner with clients through every step of their learning and talent management strategies.

The business is divided into two key divisions. The first, Software and Platforms, accounts for approximately 70% of Group revenues and sells multi-year SaaS licences with high customer retention rates. The second, Content & Services, delivers short-term, fixed-price projects to clients.

Over the last five financial years, the company has grown revenues from £28.26 million to £132 million as a result of strong organic growth and strategic acquisitions. Furthermore, the company is set to announce revenues of £82.5 million for the six months to June 2021, a rise of 29% year-on-year. Past performance is not a guide to the future. 

Trellus – Hargreave Hale AIM VCTTrellus Health Plc (recent investment, AIM-quoted) 

Trellus Health Plc is a spinout from EKF Diagnostics Holdings Plc, an AIM-quoted global medical manufacturer of Point-of-Care (POC) and Central Laboratory technology. Trellus Health has developed a platform for coordinating and connecting multidisciplinary and personalised care for complex chronic conditions. The company’s first target market is the Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) in the US, where 3 million people live with IBD, Crohn’s disease, or Ulcerative Colitis, with over 70,000 new cases of IBD each year. Research by Mount Sinai School of Medicine has shown the underlying clinical methodology employed by Trellus Health has led to an 88% reduction in hospitalisations and emergency department visits for patients.

Hargreave Hale invested £1.0 million as part of an IPO that raised £28.5 million in May 2021. It also received 184,000 shares, worth £120k, in Trellus Health via an in-specie transfer of dividend shares from its holding in EKF Diagnostics. Proceeds are expected to be used to continue to develop Trellus Health’s platform and for commercialisation, marketing and business development. 

Escape Hunt

As is to be expected, not all investments work out. Escape Hunt is currently one such example. It operates ‘escape games’, games in which a team of players cooperatively discover clues, solve puzzles, and accomplish tasks to achieve a specific goal in a limited amount of time, e.g. to escape from the ‘escape room’. 

The business seeks to capitalise on the growing experiential leisure sector and is engaged in a capital-intensive plan to roll out its escape rooms experience across the globe. The business has faced challenges in rolling out this strategy, and its share price has performed poorly since IPO. Last year, the business raised additional capital to fund the continued roll-out of its sites, and for working capital. The VCT has maintained a small holding in the company.

Performance and dividends

The whole AIM market suffered from two periods of substantial volatility over the last five years: the first due to concerns over Brexit and US/China trade relations, the second, the global pandemic. Despite this, long-term shareholders have been well rewarded: the VCT has achieved a NAV total return of 91.2% over five years to 30 June 2021. 

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 Dec 2015 – 30 Jun 2021.

Source: Morningstar. Past performance is not a guide to the future. Dividends are variable and not guaranteed. The bar chart shows dividends per share paid in the period 31 Dec 2015–30 Jun 2021.

The VCT aims to pay a 5% dividend p.a. (based on year-end NAV) through semi-annual distributions, not guaranteed. The ability to pay dividends will be subject to the performance of investments, the available reserves and cash resources. In years when performance is particularly strong, the directors may consider a higher dividend payment. Conversely, in poorer years, the directors may opt to reduce or declare no dividends at all. 

Over the last five years to June 2021, the VCT has paid total distributions of 20.8p per share, equivalent to 26.7% of the monthly average net asset value over the period. 

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-listed companies is often wider than those listed on the main market. 

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.

Please note, capacity – for the offer or any early bird savings – can be reached early, and we may not be notified of this by the VCT in real time.

Full initial charge 3.5%
Early bird discount ENDED
Wealth Club initial saving 1%
Existing shareholder discount
Net initial charge through Wealth Club (new investors) 2.5%
Net initial charge through Wealth Club (existing shareholders) 2.5%
Annual management charge 1.7%
Annual administration charge
Performance fee
Annual rebate from Wealth Club 0.10%

More detail on the charges

Deadlines

  • Deadline for receipt of applications for final allotment in 2022/23 tax year will be no later than 12pm on 12 August 2022, unless the offer has been fully subscribed by this date

Dividend Re-investment Scheme 

The VCT started offering a dividend re-investment scheme (“DRIS”) in 2020. This 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 buybacks

Hargreave Hale AIM VCT operates a share buyback policy to improve the liquidity in its ordinary shares and control the discount, aiming to maintain a discount of approximately 5% of the last published NAV per share. The discount is measured against the mid-price per share as listed on the London Stock Exchange and reflects the price at which the VCT buys its shares off the market makers. The VCT publishes its unaudited NAV per share on a weekly basis.

The VCT has maintained its buyback policy throughout the three-month period to 30 June 2021, buying back 2,911,741 shares.

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 charts show the five-year discount to net asset value history of the Hargreave Hale 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.

Source: Morningstar, 30 June 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

Hargreave Hale AIM VCT includes an annual rebate for Wealth Club investors, payable for the first three years. 

This is a rebate of our renewal commission and should be equivalent to 0.1% of the Net Asset Value of the Offer Shares issued to you when you invest. Terms and conditions apply.

Our view

Launched in 2004, the Hargreave Hale AIM VCT is an established offer from a well regarded fund management house. 

The Hargreave Hale AIM VCT is differentiated from other AIM VCTs in our view. The manager has allowed itself the freedom to invest in unquoted opportunities as they arise. This makes the VCT less reliant on the AIM market for generating quality deal flow, although the strategy is not without its risks. It also has a large allocation to main market equities and is less concentrated than some of its peers. 

Covid-19 has had a substantial impact on financial markets, which we expect to remain volatile. However, the AIM market’s exposure to innovative technology and healthcare businesses has enabled it to recover strongly, sectors that feature heavily within the VCT. Fundraising activity on AIM has been strong in 2021 and Hargreave Hale has echoed the views of other AIM VCTs, citing a strong pipeline of opportunities. 

The VCT has maintained its dividend policies, to pay 5% of net assets based on year-end NAV. It has also maintained its share buyback policy, so the discount has remained tightly controlled, a feature some investors may appreciate. 

Investors may find the diversification appealing. The trust could complement a wider VCT investment portfolio.

How to invest

The Hargreave Hale AIM VCT offer that opened on 2 Sep 2021 is now fully subscribed, having raised £40 million including the overallotment facility.

There is no information currently on when the next share offer might be.

Compare other VCTs available now »

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
£40.0 million / £40.0 million
Deadline
CLOSED
Last updated: 3 September 2021

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