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Newton’s Frikkee raises cash to Lehmans level on valuation fears

by Annabelle Williams on Oct 23, 2012 at 09:31

Newton’s Frikkee raises cash to Lehmans level on valuation fears

Investors are failing to pay heed to the serious risk in 2013 earnings forecasts, says Newton’s Tineke Frikkee, who has a near all-time high cash position in her Newton Higher Income fund .

Despite markets reacting positively in the days following rounds of quantitative easing, Frikkee said she doesn’t see the money printing programme having ‘any significant effect’, mostly since the consumer is still holding back.

As such, she is adamant corporate earnings growth forecasts for next year – currently at around 10% – are simply too high, and she has been reorientating the portfolio towards companies that have less forecast risk.

‘The more cyclical stocks are issuing profit warnings, those sectors that are exposed to the more discretionary end. People aren’t buying them any more, earnings forecasts are just too high,’ she said.

‘We do think the market is expensive, we think there is too much forecast risk and that is why we have a low number of stocks.’

Frikkee is currently running just 51 positions in her £2.2 billion fund that has returned 15.81% compared to 13.96% in the FTSE 350 Higher Yield TR benchmark over the past 12 months.

Some 85% of the fund is invested in the FTSE 100, but Frikkee’s concern over future profit warnings has seen her up her cash weighting to 8%, close to the 9% high it reached in September 2008 in the aftermath of the collapse of Lehmans Brothers.

Some of this has come from taking profits off a significant overweight to a number of water companies, including United Utilities and Severn Trent. ‘They still fit the box for us in that they are relatively non-discretionary products but you would be surprised, the demand for water is going down. We had big overweights in them and we wanted to take some out.’

Money has also been taken out of Vodafone, although it remains a significant holding. ‘We felt earlier in the year it had done very well and it is a well-managed company but earnings forecast risk has started to creep up on it,’ she said. 

Profits have also been taken on Imperial Tobacco, as while its latest trading statement showed ‘quite comfortable’ results, Frikkee is concerned about smokers switching to cheaper brands. ‘The affordability [of cigarettes] in the UK is starting to get quite stretched. We are still overweight though, as we think the valuation is okay.’

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