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SLI's A-rated Zverev: what the market is missing on Lloyds

SLI's A-rated Zverev: what the market is missing on Lloyds

Mikhail Zverev, Standard Life Investments' global equities head, said the market is missing a key point about Lloyds' journey to recovery.

The last 12 months have seen the state-backed lender sell down its unwanted assets, netting around £1 billion from the sale of a private equity portfolio and close to £540 million via the disposal of Australian and Irish loan books.

The sales have helped Lloyds shore up its balance sheet and reduce its exposure to risk, a strategy boss António Horta-Osório believes will create a 'stronger and safer' bank.

However, A-rated Zverev, who runs SLI's Global Equity Unconstrained fund, says the market is cumulately overlooking the fact this capital will eventually be redeployed, in his eyes making Lloyds a stand-out pick within the financials sector and where he has ploughed around 2% of his vehicle's assets.

Zverev said: 'The thing the market has missed is that when Lloyds releases that capital it gets redeployed to domestic lending, and that's where it makes a difference.

'The market is not trusting them to do this,'  Zverev added, pointing out this fear is being reflected in Lloyds' book price.

Lloyds, currently trading at  54.7p, is not the only financial where the market has been slow to recognise good news.  

Barclays has been drip feeding investors with upbeat announcements on profit and has pledged to change its culture, yet even after it posted a 26% year-on-year rise in adjusted pre-tax profit on Tuesday, the market took time to digest the news before strong trading triggered a 9% rise in shares.

Jupiter's Guy de Blonay took advantage of this scepticism and in the 40 minutes before this surge de Blonay boosted his existing position in the bank, held in his Financial Opportunities fund.

But although other managers at SLI would agree with de Blonay and argue Barclays is the place to be, in the global field Zverev said he prefers Lloyds and another holding, Lazard.

'We think M&A volumes are coming back.  There's a lot of money on corporate balance sheets and, interest rates are at zero, but [at present] they lack confidence to spend,' Zverev argued.

'When this comes back we think Lazard can make some share.'

He pointed out that a number of players in this space shrunk their merger and acquisition operations when business dried up in the crisis, yet Lazard has remained committed and is ready to pounce when confidence is restored.

Zverev has been at the helm of SLI's Global Unconstrained fund since July 2010, and last September he was named head of global equities following the departure of Lance Phillips, who moved from the asset manager to Legal and General Investment Management.

Versus his typical global equity peer, Zverev has outperformed, and delivered 20.3% compared to the average manager's 13.5%, using three-year data to the end of January.

His Global Equity Unconstrained vehicle has also performed well, returning 48% over the same time horizon versus 36.2% by the FTSE World Total Return Index.

This strong run has helped earn Zverev his first Citywire A-rating.

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