There is a changing of the guard in the asset management industry. The most recent senior figure to declare his intention to step aside from the sentry box is Edward Bonham Carter, chief executive of Jupiter Fund Management. He follows John Fraser at UBS, Graeme Dell at Ashmore and Neil Woodford at Invesco.
Not that Mr Bonham Carter, who guided Jupiter through a management buyout in 2007 and flotation in 2010, is hanging up his red tunic and bearskin. He will stay at Jupiter as executive vice-chairman and report to his successor, Maarten Slendebroek, head of distribution and strategy, who, at present, reports to him.
It is not only corporate governance anoraks who will see the potential for messiness here. On balance, however, in a collegiate organisation some continuing role for Mr Bonham Carter is probably better for the share price (almost unchanged) than a complete exit would have been.
Jupiter’s formal statement says that Mr Bonham Carter will “engage with key stakeholders”. In real life, that probably means schmoozing the international clients that Jupiter hopes will become ever more important; and keeping in close touch with the UK and European regulators who look set to become ever more important, whatever Jupiter may hope. Four days a week of these two activities sounds like plenty.
For Mr Slendebroek, who joined from BlackRock in September last year, the mission is to build on what Jupiter is already doing to reduce its dependence on the UK and on equities. Almost nine in 10 of Jupiter’s clients are UK-based and even though this number includes some large London-based multinationals, that concentration is a sign of how long it will take the group to demonstrate a broader geographical spread.
In a difficult environment, a greater mix of business is becoming a common goal for asset managers. Acquisitions can be a quick way to acquire it – as Aberdeen Asset Management’s purchase of the investment arm of Scottish Widows demonstrates. But stellar managers are often footloose and easily lured away by rivals. Homegrown diversity is a better but more difficult way forward. Mr Slendebroek will do well if he achieves it.
Kentz sees value in Valerus
The market seems to like the thought of Kentz doing a deal whichever side of the table the oil services group is occupying.
In August, Kentz’ share price hit one of its peaks for the year in the wake of takeover interest from Amec and M+W Group: not exactly unexpected. Much less predictable was the favourable response on Monday to the news that Kentz plans to buy Valerus Field Services, a specialist gas-handling group for $435m cash.
The enthusiasm is pretty straightforward to understand. First, Kentz is doing what it said it would do – always popular, provided that the strategy is sensible or better – albeit on a slightly larger scale than it had originally intended.
Second, Valerus offers higher margins and new geographies and markets – Latin America and US shale gas. It should be earnings accretive in the first year.
Third, there seems little risk that Kentz management will be distracted by the challenge of integrating the business or that promised synergies will prove illusory. Christian Brown and his team intend to allow Valerus to go its own way (it is a couple of years at least before they envisage joint projects, even) and so have not factored synergies into the sums.
At Monday’s close of 630p, Kentz is trading at its highest level since it gained a premium listing in 2011, giving it a forward p/e of just under 10 times 2014 earnings. The deal looks an attractive one all ways round except – perhaps – for prospective suitors who may now find the group too big and expensive.
“Who gets paid what” is often the only part of an annual report that attracts an audience beyond its author. But some of those currently being assembled in corporate engine rooms will have another must-read section: the part dealing with the risk from Scottish independence.
Minds have been concentrated for a few weeks, since company secretaries expressed an impressive insouciance about the prospect of a Scottish split. In the Financial Times-ICSA Boardroom Bellwether survey, two-thirds said that independence would make no difference.
Really? That might be true for the oil sector but retailers cannot be the only consumer businesses looking at what separation might mean. It looms larger still for the residents of Charlotte Square.
Underpinned by real numbers and signed off by advisers, the corporate risk assessments should be a substantive contribution to the debate. Can’t wait.
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