November | Bond market wrap- winners & losers

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Since the beginning of the year the Sterling bond markets have rallied strongly as concern over a no deal Brexit subsided. But who were the winners and losers?

YTD performance *

YTD Performance has been exceptionally strong. We see bond performance continuing to be solid in 2020 and with greater issuance than in 2019.

The companies whose bonds performed the most strongly during the year were those considered riskier and which fell in price at the end of last year (on Brexit concerns) but who had strong financial performance in 2019 or were affected by events, such as mergers. For example Lowell (Garfunkelux) 11% bonds have returned 38% YTD, Unique pub co. bonds (owned by Enterprise Inns) jumped on merger talks with Stonegate returning 36% YTD given the 2032 maturity and call protection (prevents company from repaying bonds early). Petrobras, the Brazilian oil giant also generated 22% on the back of oil price increases. Kirs, Shop Direct, New Day, John Lewis, and Travelex also performed well while Refinitiv jumped on acquisition news.

Banks and Financials show their strength

Banks and financial companies with high yield/perpetual bonds all generally performed strongly (Travelex, Cabot, New Day, Ardonagh, Lowell, Together, Barclays, Shawbrook, Pension Insurance, Clydesdale/Virgin Money) and we expect this industry sector to continue to perform well next year as it has done over the last 10 years.

Investment-grade performs strongly across the board

Strong and highly rated companies (investment grade/cross-over) such as Vodafone, Dubai Ports, William Hill, TP ICAP, Ocado, Virgin Media, Tesco also performed very well as the price of their bonds was bid up on strong demand. But with the price rise, returns for new buyers are now lower so new bond buyers should factor that in.

Short-dated high yield did well

In addition, shorter-dated bonds (maturing in 1-2 years) presented a compelling buying opportunity. Vue Entertainment 7.75%s (now repaid), Premium Credit 7.0%s, Intergen 7.5%s, and Domestic General 7.875%s (refinanced) all generated high single-digit returns.

But poor financial performance dragged down some companies

Those companies with weaker ratings or higher amounts of debt and which have had weaker financial performance have languished or fallen in price. Companies such as Yell, Aston Martin, Atalian and Debenhams are such candidates.

But for new bond pickers experienced at assessing financial performance and specific risk factors, these companies may be potentially interesting to take a look at.

Going forward a few of the sectors for investors to watch out for include the retail, advertising, construction, automotive, cyclical or consumer cyclical industries especially in weaker economic conditions.

Which bonds do you think will be the winners and losers next year – let us know in our forum.

*Annualised returns (IRR) as at 22.11.19 presented taking into account price change, coupon payments and accrued interest. Capital at risk. Pre-tax and service fees. Remember Fractional Bonds are investments, not savings. This material is sales and trading commentary prepared by one or more members of sales and trading personnel on behalf of WiseAlpha Technologies Limited and does not constitute investment research. You should always take independent financial advice if required.

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