ICG Enterprise Trust plc (LON:ICGT) reported another strong year to end-January 2023. The NAV per share was 1,903p, up from 1,690p in January 2022. The NAV total return was 14.5%, driven by the local-currency portfolio return of 10.5%, its 14th consecutive year of double-digit growth. Realisations and new investments were in line with historical averages. On exit, ICGT saw an average 24% uplift, despite the challenging market conditions. It has a progressive dividend policy (up 11%), is doing share buybacks (£5.2m), and has a new, reduced management fee. ICGT’s investee companies offer good risk-adjusted returns and defensive characteristics, giving investors both growth and resilience.
- Defensive growth, long-term-value: ICG Enterprise Trust’s strategic approach has given investors market-beating returns and just three down quarters out of 28 since the manager was appointed. In both good and bad years, the model has consistently proved that it can deliver resilient returns, driven by underlying company EBITDA growth.
- Management fee and cost reduction: ICGT has negotiated a tiered cap to management fee, effective from 1 February 2023. If this had been effective over the last year, it would have saved over £1m. In addition, the manager is now absorbing various costs, saving 25%-30% (we estimate £0.5m p.a.) of ICGT’s other expenses.
- Valuation: ICGT’s NAV valuations are conservative, demonstrated by continued realisations above reported book values. The ratings are undemanding. The 40% discount to NAV is anomalous, we believe, with defensive, market-beating returns, and is above the levels seen pre-COVID-19. The 2024E yield is 2.9%.
- Risks: Private equity (PE) is an above-average cost model, but post-expense returns have consistently beaten public markets. Actual experience has been of continued NAV outperformance in economic downturns, but sentiment may be adverse. ICGT’s permanent capital structure is right for unquoted/illiquid assets.
- Investment summary: ICG Enterprise Trust has consistently generated superior returns, by adding value in an attractive market, having a strategic focus on defensive growth and leveraging synergies from being part of ICG since 2016. Valuations appear conservative, and governance is strong. ICGT focuses on delivering resilient, risk-adjusted returns, and balancing risk and reward. The risks are primarily sentiment-driven on costs, cyclicality and the underlying assets’ liquidity. A 40% discount to NAV appears anomalous with ICGT’s performance.