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BLACKROCK NORTH AMERICAN INCOME TRUST PLC - Final Results

BlackRock North American Income Trust plc

Annual results announcement

For the year ended 31 October 2015

Financial Highlights

Attributable to ordinary shareholders  31  October 
2015 
31 October 
2014 
Net assets (£’000)¹ 98,046  121,199 
Net asset value per ordinary share 122.50p  120.76p 
Ordinary share price (mid-market) 113.00p  112.00p 
Discount to cum income net asset value 7.8%  7.3% 
Performance
Net asset value per share (with income reinvested) +4.9%  +11.8% 
Russell 1000 Value Index (total return) +4.1%  +16.9% 
Share price (with income reinvested) +4.7%  +2.4% 

¹ The change in net assets reflects market movements, the tender offer and share buybacks during the year.

31  October 
2015 
31 October 
2014 
Change
%
Revenue
Net revenue after taxation (£’000) 3,883  4,256 -8.8
Revenue return per ordinary share 4.54p 4.25p +6.8
Interim dividends
1st interim 1.00 1.00 -
2nd interim 1.10 1.00 +10.0
3rd interim 1.10 1.00 +10.0
4th interim 1.10 1.00 +10.0
Total dividends paid 4.30 4.00 +7.5

Chairman’s statement

Overview

U.S. Equity markets made further progress in the financial year ending 31 October 2015, although returns were modest compared with last year. For the most part economic indicators continue to suggest that the U.S. economy appears to be on track to continue its recent trend of moderate growth. However, concerns over Chinese growth which in turn have impacted most commodities have reinforced concerns about the outlook for many emerging market economies. A strong U.S. dollar has also weighed on corporate earnings growth in the year under review.     

August and September brought considerable market volatility, largely driven by concerns over the extent of the economic slowdown in China and other emerging market economies. Oil prices also featured in the headlines as, after a brief revival in the early summer, prices again slumped. Other headwinds remained, including the continued fall in commodity prices given the fundamental mismatch between supply and demand, and further concerns over Greek sovereign debt.

Markets rallied during the month of October, logging their biggest monthly rise in years and shrugging off the global growth fears that had unsettled the market during the summer. The S&P 500 Index rose almost 9%, the best performance since its rally in October 2011.

Performance

For the twelve months ended 31 October 2015, the Company’s net asset value per share (NAV) outperformed the benchmark returning +4.9%, compared with a return of +4.1% from the Russell 1000 Value Index. The share price returned +4.7% (all percentages calculated in sterling terms with income reinvested).

Since the year end and up until the close of business on 14 January 2016, the Company’s NAV has increased by 0.7% and the share price has decreased by 2.2%.

Earnings and dividends

The Company’s revenue earnings per share for the year ended 31 October 2015 amounted to 4.54p (2014: 4.25p). A quarterly dividend of 1.0p per share was paid on 7 April 2015 and three further dividends of 1.1p per share were paid on 1 July 2015, 7 October 2015 and 5 January 2016.

It is the Directors’ intention to pay dividends amounting to at least 1.1p per share each quarter for the year ending 31 October 2016. The ability to match or exceed this target will depend on portfolio dividend distributions and option writing from our underlying portfolio. This should not be interpreted as a profit forecast.

Investment management fee

Following a review of the investment management fee, the Board agreed with the Manager that with effect from 1 November 2015, the beginning of the Company’s current financial year, the existing rate of 1.0% of the Company’s market capitalisation would be replaced with a rate of 0.75% of net assets.

Change to investment policy

The published investment policy of the Company contains a restriction that no more than 25% of the gross assets of the Company, at the time of investment, shall be exposed to any one sector. The Board is proposing an amendment to the investment policy to increase the maximum permitted in any one sector, at the time of investment, to 35% of the gross assets of the Company.

The Board believes that the proposed change will allow the Investment Manager greater flexibility to invest the portfolio in a broad range of companies within the different industry groups that comprise the sector groupings, whilst at the same time spreading risk within a diversified portfolio. The amended investment policy will apply, subject to shareholder approval, with effect from the date of the Company’s Annual General Meeting on 18 February 2016. Full details of the amended investment policy are set out in the appendix on page 71 of the Annual Report.      

Policy on share discount and continuation vote

Your Board believes that shareholders should have the opportunity to vote on the continuation of the Company as an investment trust at regular intervals. Accordingly, an ordinary resolution to shareholders that the Company should continue as an investment trust has been included in the agenda for the forthcoming Annual General Meeting and it is proposed that, if passed, similar resolutions will be put to shareholders at every third Annual General Meeting thereafter.

Your Board unanimously recommends voting in favour of the Company continuing as an investment trust and intends to vote in favour of the resolution in respect of their own shares. The investment trust structure, which includes the ability to use reserves to provide more predictable dividends, is particularly well suited to the equity income sector. Given that U.S. equities represent approaching 60% of the MSCI World index by market capitalisation it is surprising how few UK closed end funds are devoted to this region. Your Board therefore believes that demand for investment trusts which provide an attractive dividend income from U.S. equities should continue to appeal to a wide range of potential investors in the future.

Changes to the portfolio management team have resulted in improved performance and in the Board’s view the Manager’s strategy, which is to deliver above market returns through the cycle by investing in high quality, dividend paying companies, is well positioned to deal with the prevailing market conditions.

The Directors also recognise the importance to shareholders that the market price of the Company’s shares in the stock market should not trade at a significant discount to the underlying NAV. Therefore, the Board has concluded that the Company’s share buy back and share issuance powers will, in normal market conditions, be used to ensure that the share price does not trade at a significant discount to the underlying NAV per share. As a consequence, and in line with the conclusions from the shareholder consultation exercise in April 2015, your Board will not be seeking authority from shareholders to implement discretionary semi-annual tenders at the forthcoming Annual General Meeting.   

Any shares repurchased by the Company may be held in treasury and, subsequently be reissued to satisfy market demand, but only at a premium to the estimated NAV at the time of issue. The Directors have the authority from shareholders to buy back up to 14.99% of the Company’s issued share capital. This authority to buy back shares expires at the conclusion of the 2016 Annual General Meeting and a resolution will be put to shareholders to renew it.

Annual General Meeting

The Annual General Meeting of the Company will be held at BlackRock’s offices at 12 Throgmorton Avenue, London EC2N 2DL on Thursday, 18 February 2016 at 12.00 noon. Details of the business of meeting are set out in the Notice of Meeting on pages 66 to 69 of the Annual Report. The Portfolio Managers will make a presentation to shareholders on the Company’s performance and the outlook for the year ahead.

Outlook

The Federal Reserve has kept investors guessing about the eventual timing of the first interest hike in nine years, having held rates at the near-zero levels set during the financial meltdown in 2008. Federal Reserve officials have been carefully monitoring the U.S. economy for an economic upturn. At their meeting on 16 December they announced the first rate increase since the middle of 2006. The start of a tightening cycle, even a gentle one, should benefit those quality stocks held within the Company’s portfolio, with high profitability, stable earnings growth and low financial leverage.

Simon Miller

18 January 2016

Strategic report

The Directors present the Strategic Report of the Company for the year ended 31 October 2015.

Principal activity

The Company carries on business as an investment trust and its principal activity is portfolio investment.

Objective and investment policy

The Company’s investment objective is to provide an attractive and growing level of income return with capital appreciation over the long term, predominantly through investment in a diversified portfolio of primarily large-cap U.S. equities. The Company will invest predominantly in a diversified portfolio of equity securities quoted in the U.S., with a focus on companies that pay and grow their dividends. The Company may invest through an active options overlay strategy utilising predominantly covered call options and may also hold other securities from time-to-time including, inter alia, convertible securities, fixed interest securities, preference shares, non-convertible preferred stock and depositary receipts. The Company may also invest in listed large-cap equities quoted on exchanges outside the U.S., subject to the restrictions set out below, and may invest in securities denominated in U.S. dollars and non-U.S. dollar currencies.

Strategy

In order to achieve the Company’s investment objective, the Manager will adopt a stock specific approach in managing the Company’s portfolio, selecting investments that it believes will both increase in value over the long term and provide income. The Company will not invest in companies which are not listed, quoted or traded at the time of investment, although it may have exposure to such companies where, following investment, the relevant securities cease to be listed, quoted or traded. Typically it is expected that the investment portfolio will comprise of between 80 and 120 securities (excluding its active options overlay strategy).

Business model and investment policy

The Company may invest through derivatives for efficient portfolio management and may, for investment purposes, employ an active options overlay strategy utilising predominantly covered call options. Any use of derivatives for efficient portfolio management and options for investment purposes will be made on the basis of the same principles of risk spreading and diversification that apply to the Company’s direct investments. For the avoidance of doubt, the Company will not enter into physical or synthetic short positions or write any uncovered options.

Portfolio risk will be mitigated by investing in a diversified spread of investments. In particular, the Company shall observe the following investment restrictions: no single investment (including for the avoidance of doubt, any single derivative instrument) shall, at the time of investment, account for more than 10% of the gross assets; no more than 20% of the gross assets, at the time of investment, shall be invested in securities issued outside of the U.S.; no more than 25% of the gross assets, at the time of investment, shall be exposed to any one sector; and no more than 20% of the Company’s portfolio shall be under option at any given time.

The Board proposes to amend the wording of this policy to increase the maximum exposure permitted to any one sector, at the time of investment, to 35% of gross assets. The amended investment policy will apply, subject to shareholder approval, with effect from the date of the Company’s Annual General Meeting on 18 February 2016. Full details of the amended investment policy are set out in the appendix on page 71 of the Annual Report.

The Company's foreign currency investments will not be hedged to sterling as a matter of general policy. However, the investment team may employ currency hedging, either back to sterling or between currencies (i.e. cross-hedging of portfolio investments). 

In order to comply with the current Listing Rules, the Company also complies with the following investment restrictions (which do not form part of the Company's investment policy): the Company will not conduct any trading activity which is significant in the context of its group as a whole; the Company will not invest more than 10% of its gross assets in other listed closed-ended investment funds, whether managed by the Manager or not, except that this restriction shall not apply to investments in listed closed-ended investment funds which themselves have stated investment policies to invest no more than 15% of their gross assets in other listed closed-ended investment funds; and the Company will not invest more than 15% of its gross assets in other listed closed-ended investment funds, notwithstanding whether or not such funds have stated policies to invest no more than 15% of their gross assets in other closed-ended investment funds.  

The Company may borrow up to 20% of its net assets (calculated at the time of draw down), although the Board intends only to utilise borrowings representing up to 10% of net assets at the time of draw down. Borrowings may be used for investment purposes. The Company has entered into a multi-currency overdraft facility with its custodian for this purpose. The Company may enter into interest rate hedging arrangements.

Information regarding the Company’s investment exposures is contained within the schedule of investments on pages 13 to 16 of the Annual Report. Further information regarding investment risk and activity throughout the year can be found in the Investment Manager’s Report.

No material change will be made to the investment policy without the approval of shareholders by ordinary resolution.

Performance

Over the year ended 31 October 2015, the Company’s net asset value returned +4.9% compared with a return of +4.1% in the Russell 1000 Value Index. The ordinary share price returned +4.7% (all percentages are calculated in sterling terms with income reinvested). The Investment Manager’s Report includes a review of the main developments during the year, together with information on investment activity within the Company’s portfolio.

Results and dividends

The results for the Company are set out in the Statement of Comprehensive Income. The total return for the year, after taxation, was £5,671,000 (2014: £12,654,000) of which the revenue return amounted to £3,883,000 (2014: £4,256,000) and the capital return amounted to £1,788,000 (2014: £8,398,000).

The Company pays dividends quarterly and for the year ended 31 October 2015 the target was to pay dividends amounting to at least 4.0p per share. One quarterly interim dividend of 1.0p per share was paid on 7 April 2015 and three quarterly dividends of 1.1p per share were paid on 1 July 2015, 7 October 2015 and 5 January 2016. Total dividends of 4.0p per share were paid in the year to 31 October 2014.

Key performance indicators

The Directors consider a number of performance measures to assess the Company’s success in achieving its objectives. The key performance indicators (KPIs) used to measure the progress and performance of the Company over time and which are comparable to those reported by other investment trusts are set out below.

Year ended 
31 October 
2015 
Year ended 
31 October 
2014 
Net asset value per share 122.50p  120.76p 
Share price 113.00p  112.00p 
Benchmark index¹ 4.1%  16.9% 
Dividends per share 4.3p  4.0p 
Discount to net asset value 7.8%  7.3% 
Ongoing charges² 1.24%  1.31% 

¹ Russell 1000 Value Index.

² Ongoing charges represent the management fee and all other operating expenses excluding interest as a % of average shareholders’ funds.

The ongoing charges ratio has decreased in the year due to a lower management fee as the ordinary shares were trading at a discount; lower expenses; and market movements during the year.

Performance is assessed on a total return basis for both the NAV and the share price. The performance of the benchmark is assessed on a total return basis.

The Board monitors the above KPIs on a regular basis. Additionally, it regularly reviews a number of indices and ratios to understand the impact on the Company’s relative performance of the various components such as asset allocation and stock selection. The Board also reviews the performance of the Company against its peer group of investment trusts with similar investment objectives.

Share rating

The Directors recognise the importance to investors that shares should not trade at a significant discount to their prevailing net asset value. Accordingly, the Board has concluded that the Company’s share buy back and share issuance powers will, in normal market conditions, be used to ensure that the share price does not trade at a significant discount to the underlying net asset value per share. In the year under review, the Company’s shares have traded at a discount in the range of 2.3% to 11.2% on a cum income basis and were trading at a discount of 10.4% as at close of business on 14 January 2016.

Principal risks

The key risks faced by the Company are set out below. The Board has put in place a robust process to assess and monitor the principal risks of the Company. A core element of this is the Company’s risk register, which identifies the risks facing the Company and assesses the likelihood and potential impact of each risk and the quality of the controls operating to mitigate the risk. A residual risk rating is then calculated for each risk based on the outcome of this assessment. This approach allows the effect of any mitigating procedures to be reflected in the final assessment.

The register, its method of preparation and the operation of the key controls in the Manager’s and other third party service providers systems of internal control, are reviewed on a regular basis by the Audit and Management Engagement Committee. In order to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the Manager’s and other third party service providers’ risk management processes and how these apply to the Company’s business, the Audit and Management Engagement Committee periodically receives presentations from BlackRock’s Internal Audit and Risk & Quantitative Analysis teams and reviews Service Organisation Control (SOC 1) reports from the Company’s service providers.

In relation to the 2014 update to the UK Corporate Governance Code, the Board is comfortable that the procedures that the Company has in place are sufficient to ensure that the necessary monitoring of risks and controls has been carried out throughout the reporting period.

The current risk register includes 44 risks spread between performance risk, income/dividend risk, regulatory risk, operational risk, market risk, financial and gearing risk. The principal risks and uncertainties faced by the Company during the year, together with the potential effects, controls and mitigating factors, are set out below.

  • Performance risk – The Board is responsible for deciding the investment strategy to fulfil the Company’s objectives and for monitoring the performance of the Investment Manager. An inappropriate strategy may lead to underperformance against the benchmark index and the Company’s peer group. To manage this risk the Investment Manager provides an explanation of significant stock selection decisions and the rationale for the composition of the investment portfolio. The Board monitors and mandates an adequate spread of investments in order to minimise the risks associated with particular countries or factors specific to particular sectors, based on the diversification requirements inherent in the Company’s investment policy. The Board also receives and reviews regular reports showing an analysis of the Company’s performance against the Russell 1000 Value Index and other similar indices.
     
  • Income/dividend risk – The amount of dividends and future dividend growth will depend on the Company’s underlying portfolio and option income earned by the Company. Any change in the tax treatment of the dividends or interest received by the Company (including as a result of withholding taxes or exchange controls imposed by jurisdictions in which the Company invests) may reduce the level of dividends received by shareholders. The Board monitors this risk through the receipt of detailed income forecasts and considers the level of income at each meeting.
     
  • Regulatory risk – The Company operates as an investment trust in accordance with the requirements of Chapter 4 of Part 24 of the Corporation Tax Act 2010. As such, the Company is exempt from capital gains tax on the profits realised from the sale of its investments. The Investment Manager monitors investment movements, the level and type of forecast income and expenditure and the amount of proposed dividends, if any, to ensure that the provisions of Chapter 4 of Part 24 of the Corporation Tax Act 2010 are not breached and the results are reported to the Board at each meeting. Following authorisation under the Alternative Investment Fund Managers’ Directive (AIFMD), the Company and its appointed Alternative Investment Fund Manager (AIFM or Manager) are subject to the risks that the requirements of the Directive are not correctly complied with. The Board and the Manager also monitor changes in government policy and legislation which may have an impact on the Company.
     
  • Operational risk – In common with most other investment trust companies, the Company has no employees. The Company therefore relies upon the services provided by third parties and is dependent on the control systems of the Manager, BNY Mellon Trust & Depositary (UK) Limited (the Depositary) and the Bank of New York Mellon (International) Limited, who maintain the Company’s assets, dealing procedures and accounting records. The security of the Company’s assets, dealing procedures, accounting records and maintenance of regulatory and legal requirements, depend on the effective operation of these systems. These have been regularly tested and monitored throughout the year which is evidenced through their SOC 1 Reports to provide assurance regarding the effective operation of internal controls which are reported on by their service auditors. The Board also considers succession arrangements for key employees of the Manager and the business continuity arrangements for the Company’s key service providers.
     
  • Market risk – Market risk arises from volatility in the prices of the Company’s investments. It represents the potential loss the Company might suffer through realising investments in the face of negative market movements. Changes in general economic and market conditions, such as interest rates, rates of inflation, industry conditions, tax laws, political events and trends can also substantially and adversely affect the securities and, as a consequence, the Company’s prospects and share price. The Board considers asset allocation, stock selection and the level of gearing on a regular basis and has set investment restrictions and guidelines which are monitored and reported on by the Investment Manager. The Board monitors the implementation and results of the investment process with the Investment Manager.
  • Financial risk – The Company’s investment activities expose it to a variety of financial risks which include market risk, currency risk, interest rate risk, market price risk, liquidity risk and credit risk. Further details are disclosed in note 14 to the Financial Statements on pages 51 to 59 of the Annual Report, together with a summary of the policies for managing these risks.
     
  • Gearing risk – The Company has the power to borrow money (gearing) and does so when the Investment Manager is confident that market conditions and opportunities exist to enhance investment returns. However, if the investments fall in value, any borrowings will magnify the extent of this loss. All borrowings require the approval of the Board and gearing levels are discussed by the Board and Investment Manager.

Viability statement

In accordance with provision C.2.2 of the 2014 UK Corporate Governance Code, the Directors have assessed the prospects of the Company for a period of three years. In its assessment of the viability of the Company the Directors have noted that:

  • the Company invests in highly liquid, large listed companies so its assets are readily realisable;
  • the Company is not exposed to any one investment or sector because it sets parameters for its investments;
  • the Company has limited gearing and no concerns around facilities, headroom or covenants; and
  • the business model should remain attractive for much longer than three years, unless there is significant economic or regulatory change.

The Directors have also reviewed:

  • the Company’s principal risks and uncertainties as set out above;
  • the impact of a significant fall in U.S. equity markets on the value of the Company’s investment portfolio;
  • the ongoing relevance of the Company’s investment objective, business model and investment policy in the current environment; and
  • the level of demand for the Company’s shares.

As noted in the Chairman’s Statement, the Board has decided to undertake a continuation vote at the forthcoming Annual General Meeting and has also reviewed the potential impact that this may have on the Company’s viability. The Board is confident that the continuation vote will pass and have prepared the viability statement under this assumption.   

The Directors have also considered the Company’s revenue and expense forecasts and the fact that expenses and liabilities are relatively stable. The Directors reviewed the assumptions and considerations underpinning the Company’s existing going concern assertion which are based on:

  • processes for monitoring costs;
  • key financial ratios;
  • evaluation of risk management and controls;
  • compliance with the investment objective;
  • portfolio risk profile;
  • share price discount;
  • gearing; and
  • counterparty exposure and liquidity risk.

These were extended forward for the three years and based on the results of this analysis the Directors have concluded that there is a reasonable expectation that the Company will continue in operation and meet its liabilities as they fall due over the period of their assessment.

Future prospects

The Board’s main focus is to provide an attractive and growing level of income return with capital appreciation over the long term and the future of the Company is dependent upon the success of the investment strategy. The outlook for the Company is discussed in both the Chairman’s Statement and in the Investment Manager’s Report.

Social, community and human rights issues

As an investment trust, the Company has no direct social or community responsibilities. However, the Company believes that it is in shareholders’ interests to consider environmental, social and governance factors and human rights issues when selecting and retaining investments. Details of the Company’s policy on socially responsible investment are set out on page 28 of the Annual Report.

Directors, gender representation and employees

The Directors of the Company on 31 October 2015, all of whom held office throughout the year, are set out in the Directors’ biographies on page 17 of the Annual Report. The Board consists of three male Directors and one female Director. The Company does not have any employees.

The information set out on pages 10 to 16 of the Annual Report, including the Investment Manager’s Report, forms part of this Strategic Report. The Strategic Report was approved by the Board at its meeting on 18 January 2016.


By order of the Board

BlackRock Investment Management (UK) Limited

Company Secretary

18 January 2016

Related party transactions

BlackRock Fund Managers Limited (BFM) was appointed as the Company’s AIFM with effect from 2 July 2014. BFM has (with the Company’s consent) delegated certain portfolio and risk management services and other ancillary services to BlackRock Investment Management (UK) Limited (BIM (UK)) and to the U.S. based equity income investments’ team who are employed by BlackRock Investment Management LLC. Details of fees payable to BFM are set out in note 4. Further details of the investment management contract are disclosed in the Directors’ Report on page 18 of the Annual Report.

The investment management fee due to BFM for the year ended 31 October 2015 amounted to £977,000 (2014: £1,092,000). At the year end, £448,000 was outstanding in respect of the management fee (2014: £356,000). The management fee was until 2 July 2014 payable to BIM (UK) and thereafter to BFM.

In addition to the above services, BlackRock has provided the Company with marketing services. The total fees paid or payable for these services for the year ended 31 October 2015 amounted to £28,000 excluding VAT (2014: £77,000). Marketing fees of £105,000 (2014: £77,000) were outstanding at 31 October 2015.

The Board consists of four non-executive Directors, all of whom are considered to be independent of the Manager by the Board. None of the Directors has a service contract with the Company. For the year ended 31 October 2015, the Chairman received an annual fee of £30,000, the Chairman of the Audit and Management Engagement Committee received an annual fee of £25,000 and each of the other Directors received an annual fee of £21,000.

The related party transactions with the Directors are set out in the Directors’ Remuneration Report on pages 24 and 25 of the Annual Report. At 31 October 2015, £8,000 (2014: £9,489) was outstanding in respect of Directors’ fees.

Statement of Directors’ Responsibilities in respect of the Annual Report and Financial Statements

The Directors are responsible for preparing the Annual Report and Financial Statements in accordance with applicable United Kingdom law and regulations. Company law requires the Directors to prepare financial statements for each financial year. Under that law, the Directors have elected to prepare the financial statements under IFRS as adopted by the European Union.

Under Company law, the Directors must not approve the financial statements unless they are satisfied that they give a true and fair view of the state of affairs of the Company as at the end of each financial year and of the profit or loss of the Company for that period.

In preparing those financial statements, the Directors are required to:

  • present fairly the financial position, financial performance and cash flows of the Company;
  • select suitable accounting policies in accordance with IAS 8: Accounting Policies, Changes in Accounting Estimates and Errors and then apply them consistently;
  • present information, including accounting policies, in a manner that provides relevant, reliable, comparable and understandable information;
  • make judgements and estimates that are reasonable and prudent;
  • state whether the financial statements have been prepared in accordance with IFRS as adopted by the European Union, subject to any material departures disclosed and explained in the financial statements;
  • provide additional disclosures when compliance with the specific requirements in IFRS as adopted by the European Union is insufficient to enable users to understand the impact of particular transactions, other events and conditions on the Company‘s financial position and financial performance; and
  • prepare the financial statements on the going concern basis unless it is inappropriate to presume that the Company will continue in business.

The Directors are responsible for keeping adequate accounting records that are sufficient to show and explain the Company’s transactions and disclose with reasonable accuracy at any time the financial position of the Company and enable them to ensure that the financial statements comply with the Companies Act 2006. They are also responsible for safeguarding the assets of the Company and hence for taking reasonable steps for the prevention and detection of fraud and other irregularities.

The Directors are also responsible for preparing the Strategic Report, Directors’ Report, the Directors’ Remuneration Report, the Corporate Governance Statement and the Report of the Audit and Management Engagement Committee in accordance with the Companies Act 2006 and applicable regulations, including the requirements of the Listing Rules and the Disclosure and Transparency Rules. The Directors have delegated responsibility to the Manager for the maintenance and integrity of the Company’s corporate and financial information included on the BlackRock website. Legislation in the United Kingdom governing the preparation and dissemination of financial statements may differ from legislation in other jurisdictions.

Each of the Directors, whose names are listed on page 17 of the Annual Report, confirm to the best of their knowledge that:

  • the financial statements, which have been prepared in accordance with IFRS as adopted by the European Union, give a true and fair view of the assets, liabilities, financial position and net return of the Company; and
  • the Strategic Report contained in the Annual Report and Financial Statements includes a fair review of the development and performance of the business and the position of the Company, together with a description of the principal risks and uncertainties that it faces.

The 2014 UK Corporate Governance Code also requires Directors to ensure that the Annual Report and Financial Statements are fair, balanced and understandable. In order to reach a conclusion on this matter, the Board has requested that the Audit and Management Engagement Committee advise on whether it considers that the Annual Report and Financial Statements fulfil these requirements. The process by which the Committee has reached these conclusions is set out in the Audit and Management Engagement Committee’s report on pages 29 to 31 of the Annual Report. As a result, the Board has concluded that the Annual Report and Financial Statements for the year ended 31 October 2015, taken as a whole, are fair, balanced and understandable and provide the information necessary for shareholders to assess the Company’s performance, business model and strategy.

For and on behalf of the Board

Simon Miller

Chairman

18 January 2016

Investment manager’s report

Market overview

For the year ended 31 October 2015, U.S. large cap stocks, as represented by the S&P 500 Index, advanced 5.19% (in U.S. dollar terms). During this period, the U.S. economy has continued to demonstrate tangible improvements including employment growth and stronger consumer confidence. In the first half of the reporting period, divergent monetary policies dominated media headlines as quantitative easing measures in Europe and Japan stood in contrast to the Federal Reserve setting the stage for higher interest rates in the U.S. This dynamic created volatile conditions in the currency markets and exerted upward pressure on the U.S. dollar. Additionally, volatility in the U.S. equity markets spiked higher by mid August, reflecting investor concerns about the pace of global growth, plunging commodity prices and continued uncertainty regarding U.S. interest rate policy. In fact, the S&P 500 Index experienced a decline of over 11% in just seven trading days during August before rebounding back to pre sell-off levels by the end of the reporting period. We do not believe the recent market volatility is a harbinger of a bear market for U.S. stocks. Bull markets tend to end when the economy goes into a recession and, in our view, the odds of a recession are low given the absence of the typical signals such as rising commodity prices and higher interest rates. Rather, we believe the U.S. economy is likely to continue its slow growth trajectory. We continue to see resilient economic data in the U.S. as housing remains solid and employment growth remains generally positive. Additionally, consumer confidence remains healthy; consumer balance sheets are strong, wages are slowly beginning to improve and gasoline prices are low. As such, we believe the recent equity market weakness is more likely a mid-cycle correction than the beginning of a bear market.

Portfolio overview

The largest contributor to relative performance was a combination of stock selection and an underweight to the energy sector. Notably, our selective exposure to integrated oil & gas operators and our underweight to the oil services industry proved to be beneficial as WTI crude oil prices declined by over 52% for the twelve month period. Stock selection in the industrials sector also contributed positively as aerospace & defence manufacturers Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin outperformed on stronger than expected quarterly earnings and robust forward guidance. Lastly, stock selection in consumer staples and consumer discretionary sectors boosted relative returns for the year.

The largest detractor from relative performance was stock selection in the health care sector. Notably, not owning benchmark holdings Eli Lilly and Cigna proved to be costly. In regards to Cigna, the company outperformed due to merger and acquisition activity during the period; we do not own Cigna due to the firm’s diminutive dividend. A combination of stock selection and an overweight to materials also dampened relative performance. Notably, portfolio holding E I. du Pont de Nemours underperformed, primarily due to concerns about the sustainability of growth in its agriculture segment. Despite recent weakness, we continue to own the stock given our expectation for above-consensus strength in the company’s specialty chemical segment. Lastly, stock selection in telecommunications services and an underweight to financials also detracted modestly from relative returns for the year.

Below is a comprehensive overview of our allocations at the end of the year.

Industrials – 2.9% overweight
(13.1% of portfolio)

The Company’s overweight to industrials is concentrated in the aerospace & defence industry. We are particularly bullish on the defence stocks given their solid balance sheets, strong free cash flows and the potential for an upward inflection in defence spending. We also maintain exposure to industrial conglomerates such as General Electric (3.0% of the portfolio) and Honeywell International (1.5% of the portfolio) given their diverse revenue streams, stable growth profiles and healthy dividend yields.

Consumer Discretionary – 2.1% overweight
(7.5% of portfolio)

The balance sheet for U.S. consumers continues to improve, aided by a recovering domestic housing market, solid jobs growth, lower gas prices and the beginning of wage growth. Although this is undoubtedly a positive for the economy and consumer related spending, the Company’s overweight position in the consumer discretionary sector is premised on stock specific factors. Our largest position in this sector is Home Depot (2.4% of the portfolio).

Health Care – 2.2% overweight
(13.8% of portfolio)

The Company’s overweight position in health care is concentrated in the pharmaceuticals and managed care industries. In pharmaceuticals, valuations are more expensive than in previous years, but we believe the industry remains attractively priced relative to other defensive, higher-yielding sectors. Underlying fundamentals are also strong, with companies offering robust drug pipelines, improved research and development efficiency, strong free cash flow generation and lower patient expirations going forward. In the managed care industry, we initiated positions in UnitedHealth Group (2.2% of the portfolio) and Anthem (0.8% of the portfolio) during the first quarter of 2015.

Materials – 1.3% overweight
(4.2% of portfolio)

Our exposure to the materials sector is based on the premise that infrastructure development and spending will continue to be a critical part of the investment landscape, both domestically and abroad. Recent weakness in the commodities complex remains a near term headwind, although we are encouraged by a renewed emphasis on operational efficiency by companies we cover in the sector. Ultimately, we believe companies with scale and high quality assets in geographies close to developing markets will be able to reap the benefits of high barriers to entry within local industries and deliver attractive long term growth.

Consumer Staples – 1.1% overweight
(7.8% of portfolio)

The Company has traditionally maintained an overweight position in consumer staples due to the sector’s recurring purchase theme, solid-brand leadership, stable earnings and dividend growth potential. Although these characteristics remain long term positives, we are now only modestly overweight, after paring our holdings in the sector due to concerns about valuations and the potential for slowing earnings and dividend growth.

Telecommunication Services – 0.1% overweight
(2.6% of portfolio)

Within the sector, our allocation remains concentrated in diversified telecommunication bellwethers such as Verizon Communications. Wireless operations continue to drive revenue in the sector and the proliferation of data-heavy smartphones should help certain companies in the space strengthen margins. Service bundling has led to stickier consumers, better earnings visibility and less customer churn, all of which are positives for the industry.

Utilities – equal weight
(6.1% of portfolio)

Our exposure to utilities has been dominated primarily by regulated names, given their durable dividend profiles and resilience in slow growth environments. From a fundamental standpoint, we believe the sector is increasingly bifurcated in terms of the differences between strong and weak companies. As such, we are focused on owning firms with clear plans for future growth that are trading at attractive valuations. We also prefer to invest in firms that are not entirely dependent on demand and are in a unique position to focus on strategic capital expenditures. We believe these factors will be increasingly important given slowing demand and declining electricity usage rates across the industry.

Information Technology – 1.9% underweight
(9.7% of portfolio)

Although the Company remains underweight in information technology, we are increasingly positive on the sector, with a preference for large-cap, mature companies. Valuations remain attractive and companies such as Oracle (1.0% of the portfolio), Qualcomm (1.4% of the portfolio), Microsoft (2.3% of the portfolio) and Intel (2.4% of the portfolio) offer a compelling mix of healthy balance sheets, strong free cash flow generation and growing dividend streams.

Energy – 4.2% underweight
(9.2% of portfolio)

Despite near term weakness in crude oil prices, we are exercising patience within the sector and are focused on the changing catalysts behind current supply and demand dynamics. Ultimately, we believe the longer term fundamentals for the sector remain positive. We favour oil-weighted companies over those levered to natural gas, as well as large cap integrated companies and independent oil and gas producers due to their diverse revenue streams and balance sheet strength. At the industry level, strong competitive positioning, operating specialisation and pricing power remain most desirable from an investment perspective.

Financials – 3.7% underweight
(26.0% of portfolio)

While underweight relative to the benchmark index, financials is the Company’s largest sector allocation on an absolute basis and we maintain a high level of conviction in the sector. We are particularly bullish on U.S. banks and capital markets stocks based on improving balance sheets, low credit losses, high capital levels and attractive valuations in these industries. In addition, we believe the headwinds from litigation and regulation are diminishing. As such, we think these stocks are well positioned for future dividend growth.

Positioning and outlook

We have positioned the Company to benefit from the maturing U.S. business cycle and the slow growth environment we see unfolding over time. Notably, the Company’s largest sector exposures are in the financials, health care and industrials sectors. During the trailing twelve month period, we have increased exposure to information technology given favourable underlying fundamentals, attractive valuations and the prospects for future dividend growth. More recently, we have also added opportunistically to the Company’s energy and utilities allocations and trimmed exposure to strong performers in the health care and consumer discretionary sectors. As always, the Company continues to emphasize investment in high quality dividend paying companies with consideration toward balancing capital appreciation and current income over time.


Tony DeSpirito and Bob Shearer

BlackRock Investment Management LLC

18 January 2016

Ten largest investments as at 31 October 2015

JPMorgan Chase: 4.1% (2014: 3.4%) is a U.S. based diversified financial company with over $2.4 trillion in assets and operations in dozens of countries. JPMorgan’s capital base remains one of the strongest in the industry and it provides a measure of safety and financial flexibility. Overall, we believe JPMorgan offers investors the potential for future earnings power through broadening customer relationships, increasing loan growth and efficient management of expenses.

Wells Fargo: 3.9% (2014: 3.7%) is a U.S. diversified bank with a strong west coast franchise and growing national footprint. Wells boasts a strong and stable management team, led by CEO John Stumpf, who has been with the firm for over 30 years. Wells Fargo is an industry leader in cross-selling financial products and services, which has built deep customer relationships and added to the bank’s pricing and earnings power. The bank has a strong focus on capital return with above average dividends and buybacks versus peers.

Citigroup: 3.2% (2014: 1.6%) is a U.S. based money centre bank with $1.8 trillion in assets and a global footprint. We believe Citigroup is attractively valued on both a price-to-earnings and book value basis. The firm has demonstrated an ability to achieve its efficiency targets and cut costs, which we believe will ultimately contribute to stronger earnings power and increasing capital return to shareholders.

General Electric (GE): 3.0% (2014: 2.7%) is a diversified industrials conglomerate with operations in technology infrastructure, energy infrastructure, home and business services and capital services. In April 2015, GE announced plans to divest the majority of its GE Capital business, the firm’s financial arm. We are positive on the decision and believe the transaction adds financial flexibility and enables the firm to focus on growing its core industrial units moving forward. GE’s strong management team, depth and breadth of products, and ability to secure pricing, continue to make it a desirable long term holding.

Pfizer: 2.9% (2014: 2.3%) is a diversified pharmaceutical firm with a history of generating returns in excess of its cost of capital, which has translated to strong free cash flow generation and an attractive and consistent dividend yield over time. We are positive about the company’s prospects for future growth given their pipeline of early Phase I and II drugs with blockbuster potential. Additionally, we believe Pfizer’s recent acquisition of Hospira will strengthen their global established pharma (GEP) business and position the company for share gains in biosimilars, a growth segment of the pharma market.

Exxon Mobil: 2.6% (2014: 2.1%) is an integrated oil and gas company based out of the U.S. The firm is one of only a few companies in the U.S. to boast an AAA credit rating. Exxon’s geographic footprint and diversified operations continue to make it an industry leader, with the scale and experience to weather volatility in commodity prices. Management remains committed to generating shareholder returns, paying almost $40 billion in dividends and repurchasing approximately $130 billion worth of stock over the last five years.

Intel Corporation: 2.4% (2014: 2.0%) is a designer and manufacturer of digital technology platforms. Intel is a dominant player in the computer microprocessor market and we are particularly bullish on the firm’s growth potential in its data centre business segment.

Home Depot: 2.4% (2014: 2.6%) is the world’s largest home improvement retailer with over 2,200 warehouse-format stores. Home Depot has shown an ability to drive market share gains, currently owning a 20% share of the home improvement space. We remain encouraged by the company’s focus on the in-store shopping experience and emphasis on controlling costs through utilising new technology to assist its inventory management. Overall, we are positive on the stock given the company’s strong execution and the ongoing recovery in consumer home improvement spending and the domestic housing market.

Microsoft: 2.3% (2014: 2.3%) is a global technology leader that is engaged in developing and licensing both software and hardware products & services. We view Microsoft as an attractive long term investment given the firm’s overall ‘ecosystem’, which should drive pricing power and efficient free cash flow generation over time. Ultimately, we believe Microsoft has the right mix of assets and enterprise business relationships to drive topline growth moving forward.

UnitedHealth Group: 2.2% (2014: nil) is one of the largest managed-care organizations in the U.S. serving approximately 45 million members. UnitedHealth operates a diversified business across product lines, geography and customer types. Central to our investment thesis is that the managed care industry is now stronger post Obamacare, with positive tailwinds including new membership growth, manageable cost trend and industry consolidation. Ultimately, we believe UnitedHealth is a quality earnings compounder and an attractive long term holding.

All percentages reflect the value of the holding as a percentage of total investments. Percentages in brackets represent the value of the holding as at 31 October 2014. Together the ten largest investments represent 29.0% of the Company’s portfolio (31 October 2014: 26.9%). All data in U.S. dollar terms.

Investments as at 31 October 2015

Company  Country  Sector  Securities  Market value 
£’000 
% of total 
portfolio 
JPMorgan Chase United States  Financials  Ordinary shares  3,954   4.1 
Wells Fargo United States  Financials  Ordinary shares  3,743   3.9 
Options  (12)
Citigroup United States  Financials  Ordinary shares  3,056   3.2 
General Electric United States  Industrials  Ordinary shares  2,907   3.0 
Options  (43)
Pfizer United States  Health Care  Ordinary shares  2,659  2.9 
Options  (1)
Exxon Mobil United States  Energy  Ordinary shares  2,496   2.6 
Options  (11)
Intel Corporation United States  Information Technology  Ordinary shares  2,330   2.4 
Options  (27)
Home Depot United States  Consumer Discretionary  Ordinary shares  2,285   2.4 
Options  (10)
Microsoft United States  Information Technology  Ordinary shares  2,215   2.3 
Options  (55)
UnitedHealth Group United States  Health Care  Ordinary shares  2,130   2.2 
Options  (2)
Merck United States  Health Care  Ordinary shares  2,051   2.1 
Options  (19)
Raytheon United States  Industrials  Ordinary shares  1,939   2.0 
Options  (29)
Procter & Gamble United States  Consumer Staples  Ordinary shares  1,841   1.9 
Options  (19)
SunTrust Banks United States  Financials  Ordinary shares  1,755   1.8 
Options  (17)
Verizon Communications United States  Telecommunication Services  Ordinary shares 1,693 1.8 
Options  (15)
Johnson & Johnson United States  Health Care  Ordinary shares  1,653   1.7 
Options  (10)
US Bancorp United States  Financials  Ordinary shares  1,639   1.7 
Options  (5)
Occidental Petroleum United States  Energy  Ordinary shares  1,649   1.7 
Options  (23)
Dollar General United States  Consumer Discretionary  Ordinary shares  1,540   1.6 
Options  (6)
American International Group United States  Financials  Ordinary shares  1,532   1.6 
Comcast United States  Consumer Discretionary  Ordinary shares  1,519   1.6 
Options  (10)
Total France  Energy  Ordinary shares  1,478   1.5 
Options  (4)
Honeywell International United States  Industrials  Ordinary shares  1,484   1.5 
Options  (19)
Bank of America United States  Financials  Ordinary shares  1,430   1.5 
Northrop Grumman United States  Industrials  Ordinary shares  1,465   1.5 
Options  (37)
Lockheed Martin United States  Industrials  Ordinary shares  1,316   1.4 
Options  (11)
MetLife United States  Financials  Ordinary shares  1,305   1.4 
Options  (7)
Kroger United States  Consumer Staples  Ordinary shares  1,305   1.4 
Options (10)
Qualcomm United States  Information Technology  Ordinary shares  1,290   1.4 
Prudential Financial United States  Financials  Ordinary shares  1,299   1.4 
Options  (12)
DuPont United States  Materials  Ordinary shares  1,226   1.3 
Options  (11)
NextEra Energy United States  Utilities  Ordinary shares  1,206   1.3 
Options  (6)
Marathon Petroleum United States  Energy  Ordinary shares  1,150   1.2 
Options  (8)
Travelers Companies United States  Financials  Ordinary shares  1,129   1.1 
Options  (42)
Dominion Resources United States  Utilities  Ordinary shares  1,088   1.1 
Options  (2)
United Parcel Service United States  Industrials  Ordinary shares  1,086   1.1 
Options  (1)
Morgan Stanley United States  Financials  Ordinary shares  1,053   1.1 
Samsung Electronics South Korea  Information Technology  Ordinary shares  1,050   1.1 
Dow Chemical United States  Materials  Ordinary shares  1,007   1.1 
Options  (6)
Chevron United States  Energy  Ordinary shares  1,006   1.0 
Options  (6)
Goldman Sachs United States  Financials  Ordinary shares  996   1.0 
Oracle United States  Information Technology  Ordinary shares  976   1.0 
Quest Diagnostics United States  Health Care  Ordinary shares  933   1.0 
Coca-Cola United States  Consumer Staples  Ordinary shares  921   1.0 
Options  (4)
Gap United States  Consumer Discretionary  Ordinary shares  907   1.0 
International Paper United States  Materials  Ordinary shares  902   0.9 
Options  – 
America Water Works Association United States  Utilities  Ordinary shares  859   0.9 
Options  (5)
Motorola Solutions United States  Information Technology  Ordinary shares  850   0.9 
Options  (6)
McDonald's United States  Consumer Discretionary  Ordinary shares  863   0.9 
Options  (20)
CME United States  Financials  Ordinary shares  836   0.9 
Options  (3)
Bristol-Myers Squibb United States  Health Care  Ordinary shares  834   0.9 
Options  (8)
Diageo United Kingdom  Consumer Staples  Ordinary shares  754   0.8 
Options  (4)
Anthem United States  Health Care  Ordinary shares  750   0.8 
Altria Group United States  Consumer Staples  Ordinary shares  721   0.7 
Options  (12)
Reynolds American United States  Consumer Staples  Ordinary shares  710   0.7 
Options  (7)
Becton Dickinson United States  Health Care  Ordinary shares  628   0.7 
Options  (4)
Union Pacific United States  Industrials  Ordinary shares  586   0.6 
Options  – 
Mondelez International United States  Consumer Staples  Ordinary shares  580   0.6 
Options  (5)
CMS Energy United States  Utilities  Ordinary shares  549   0.6 
Options  (3)
Praxair United States  Materials  Ordinary shares  537   0.6 
Options  (5)
AbbVie United States  Health Care  Ordinary shares  532   0.6 
Options  (3)
ACE United States  Financials  Ordinary shares  520   0.5 
Philip Morris International United States  Consumer Staples  Ordinary shares  505   0.5 
Options  (9)
Nielsen United States  Industrials  Ordinary shares  483   0.5 
Options  (1)
WEC Energy United States  Utilities  Ordinary shares  478   0.5 
Options  (1)
AstraZeneca United Kingdom  Health Care  Ordinary shares  477   0.5 
Options  – 
Public Service Enterprise United States  Utilities  Ordinary shares  473   0.5 
Options  (1)
SK Telecom South Korea  Telecommunication Services  Ordinary shares  468  0.5 
Options  (1)
Exelon United States  Utilities  Ordinary shares  437   0.5 
Options  – 
Weyerhaeuser United States  Financials  Ordinary shares  431   0.5 
Options  (2)
Tyco International United States  Industrials  Ordinary shares  424   0.4 
Options  (1)
Marathon Oil United States  Energy  Ordinary shares  408   0.4 
Options  (1)
ConocoPhillips United States  Energy  Ordinary shares  406   0.4 
Options  (2)
3M United States  Industrials  Ordinary shares  404   0.4 
Options  (1)
Schlumberger United States  Energy  Ordinary shares  399   0.4 
Options  – 
Abbott Laboratories United States  Health Care  Ordinary shares  397   0.4 
Options  (4)
Rockwell Automation United States  Industrials  Ordinary shares  374   0.4 
Options  (3)
Spectra Energy United States  Utilities  Ordinary shares  370   0.4 
Options  – 
American Express United States  Financials  Ordinary shares  331   0.3 
Options  – 
BHP Billiton Australia  Materials  Ordinary shares  329   0.3 
Options  – 
United Technologies United States  Industrials  Ordinary shares  311   0.3 
Options  (1)
BCE Canada  Telecommunication Services  Ordinary shares 295  0.3 
Options  (1)
ITC Holdings United States  Utilities  Ordinary shares  257   0.3 
Options  (1)
Lenovo China  Information Technology  Ordinary shares  254   0.3 
Unilever Netherlands  Consumer Staples  Ordinary shares  220   0.2 
Options  (3)
International Business Machines United States  Information Technology  Ordinary shares  185   0.2 
Nvidia United States  Information Technology  Ordinary shares  117   0.1 
 --------------   -------------- 
Portfolio 95,318   100.0 
 ========   ======== 

All investments are in ordinary shares unless otherwise stated. The number of holdings as at 31 October 2015 was 87 (31 October 2014: 90). The total number of individual open options as at 31 October 2015 was 151 (31 October 2014: 130).

The negative valuation of £618,000 in respect of options held represents the notional cost of repurchasing the contracts at market prices as at 31 October 2015
(31 October 2014: £746,000).

At 31 October 2015, the Company did not hold any equity interests comprising more than 3% of any company’s share capital.

Financial statements

Statement of comprehensive income for the year ended 31 October 2015

Notes  Revenue 
2015 
Revenue 
2014 
Capital 
2015 
Capital 
2014 
Total 
2015 
Total 
2014 
£’000  £’000  £’000  £’000  £’000  £’000 
Gains on investments held at fair value through profit or loss –  –  2,572  9,067  2,572  9,067 
(Losses)/gains on foreign exchange –  –  (175) 13  (175) 13 
Income from investments held at fair value through profit or loss 2,814  3,123  –  –  2,814  3,123 
Other income 2,425  2,670  –  –  2,425  2,670 
 ---------------   --------------   ------------   ---------   --------   -------- 
Total income 5,239  5,793  2,397  9,080  7,636  14,873 
    ---------------   --------------   ------------   ---------   --------   -------- 
Expenses
Investment management fees (244) (273) (733) (819) (977) (1,092)
Other operating expenses (329) (386) (25) (37) (354) (423)
    ---------------   --------------  ------------   --------   --------   -------- 
Total operating expenses (573) (659) (758) (856) (1,331) (1,515)
 --------------   --------------   --------   --------   --------   -------- 
Net profit on ordinary activities before finance costs and taxation 4,666  5,134  1,639  8,224  6,305  13,358 
Finance costs –  (2) (1) (6) (1) (8)
    ========   ========   ========   ========   ========   ======== 
Net profit on ordinary activities before taxation 4,666  5,132  1,638  8,218  6,304  13,350 
Taxation (783) (876) 150  180  (633) (696)
    ========   ========   ========   ========   ========   ======== 
Net profit on ordinary activities after taxation 3,883  4,256  1,788  8,398  5,671  12,654 
    ========   ========   ========   ========   ========   ======== 
Earnings per ordinary share 7 4.54p  4.25p  2.10p  8.38p  6.64p  12.63p 
    ========   ========   ========   ========   ========   ======== 

The total column of this statement represents the Company’s Statement of Comprehensive Income, prepared in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) as adopted by the European Union. The supplementary revenue and capital columns are both prepared under guidance published by the Association of Investment Companies (AIC). All items in the above statement derive from continuing operations. No operations were acquired or discontinued during the year.

The Company does not have any other recognised gains or losses. The net profit for the year disclosed above represents the Company’s total comprehensive income.

Statement of changes in equity for the year ended 31 October 2015

Note  Called up 
share 
capital 
Share 
premium 
account 
Capital 
redemption 
reserve 
Special 
reserve 
Capital 
reserves 
Revenue 
reserve 
Total 
£’000  £’000  £’000  £’000  £’000  £’000  £’000 
For the year ended 31 October 2015
At 31 October 2014 1,004  36,774  1,460  63,213  17,402  1,346  121,199 
Total comprehensive income:
Net profit for the year –  –  –  –  1,788  3,883  5,671 
Transaction with owners, recorded directly to equity:
Ordinary shares purchased into treasury pursuant to a tender offer –  –  –  (24,737) –  –  (24,737)
Share issue and purchase costs –  –  –  (233) –  –  (233)
Ordinary shares purchased into treasury –  –  –  (287) –  –  (287)
Dividend paid 6 –  –  –  –  –  (3,567) (3,567)
 --------   ----------   --------   ----------   ----------   --------   ---------- 
At 31 October 2015 1,004  36,774  1,460  37,956  19,190  1,662  98,046 
 --------   ----------   --------   ----------   ----------   --------   ---------- 
For the year ended 31 October 2014
At 31 October 2013 994  35,671  1,460  63,213  9,004  947  111,289 
Total comprehensive income:
Net profit for the year –  –  –  –  8,398  4,256  12,654 
Transaction with owners, recorded directly to equity:
Issue of ordinary shares 10  1,108  –  –  –  –  1,118 
Share issue costs –  (5) –  –  –  –  (5)
Dividend paid 6 –  –  –  –  –  (3,857) (3,857)
    --------------   ---------------   ---------------   --------------   --------------   ---------------   -------------- 
At 31 October 2014 1,004  36,774  1,460  63,213  17,402  1,346  121,199 
    ========   ========   ========   ========   ========   ========   ======== 

Statement of financial position as at 31 October 2015

Notes  31 October 
2015 
 31 October 
2014 
£’000  £’000 
Non current assets
Investments designated as held at fair value through profit or loss 95,936  121,965 
    --------   -------- 
Current assets
Other receivables 2,755  218 
Cash and cash equivalents 2,003  923 
    --------   -------- 
4,758  1,141 
    --------   -------- 
Current liabilities
Derivative financial liabilities held at fair value through profit or loss (618) (746)
Other payables (2,030) (1,161)
    --------   -------- 
(2,648) (1,907)
    --------   -------- 
Net current assets/(liabilities) 2,110  (766)
    --------------   -------------- 
Net assets 98,046  121,199 
    ========   ======== 
Capital and reserves
Called-up share capital 1,004  1,004 
Share premium account 36,774  36,774 
Capital redemption reserve 1,460  1,460 
Special reserve 37,956  63,213 
Capital reserves 19,190  17,402 
Revenue reserve 1,662  1,346 
 --------------   -------------- 
Total equity shareholders’ funds 98,046  121,199 
    ========   ======== 
Net asset value per share 122.50p  120.76p 
    ========   ======== 

Cash flow statement for the year ended 31 October 2015

Year ended 
31 October 
2015 
Year ended 
31 October 
2014 
 £’000  £’000 
Operating activities
Profit before taxation 6,304  13,350 
Add back interest paid
Less: gains on investments held at fair value through profit or loss (2,572) (9,067)
Net movement on foreign exchange 175  (13)
Sales of investments held at fair value through profit or loss 101,048  91,353 
Purchases of investments held at fair value through profit or loss (72,575) (91,551)
(Increase)/decrease in other receivables (16) 88 
(Decrease)/increase in other payables (3) 89 
(Increase)/decrease in amounts due from brokers (2,523) 129 
Increase/(decrease) in amounts due to brokers 1,090  (351)
 --------------   -------------- 
Net cash inflow from operating activities before interest and taxation 30,929  4,035 
 --------------   -------------- 
Interest paid (1) (8)
Taxation on investment income included within gross income (626) (720)
 --------------   -------------- 
Net cash inflow from operating activities 30,302  3,307 
 --------------   -------------- 
Financing activities
Dividends paid (3,567) (3,857)
Proceeds from issue of ordinary shares –  1,796 
Shares purchased into treasury pursuant to tender offer (24,737) – 
Shares purchased into treasury (287) – 
Share issue and share purchase costs paid (456) (8)
 --------------   -------------- 
Net cash outflow from financing activities (29,047) (2,069)
 --------------   --------------
Increase in cash and cash equivalents 1,255  1,238 
 -------------   -------------
Cash and cash equivalents at start of the year 923  (328)
Effect of foreign exchange rate changes (175) 13 
 -------------- ---------------
Cash and cash equivalents at end of the year 2,003  923 
 --------------  ---------------
Comprised of:
Cash and cash equivalents 2,003  923 
--------------  --------------
2,003  923 
 ========   ======== 

Notes to the financial statements

1. Principal activity

The principal activity of the Company is that of an investment trust company within the meaning of section 1158 of the Corporation Tax Act 2010.

2. Accounting policies

The principal accounting policies adopted by the Company are set out below.

(a) Basis of preparation

The financial statements have been prepared under the historical cost convention modified by revaluation of financial assets and financial liabilities held at fair value through profit or loss and in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards as adopted by the European Union (IFRS), International Financial Reporting Interpretations Committee interpretations and as applied in accordance with the provisions of the Companies Act 2006. All of the Company’s operations are of a continuing nature. The Company’s financial statements are presented in sterling because that is the currency of the Company’s share capital, the currency of the country in which the majority of shareholders reside and the currency in which the shareholders’ dividend distributions will be made. All values are rounded to the nearest thousand pounds (£’000) except where otherwise indicated.

The assets of the Company consist of securities that are readily realisable and, accordingly, the Directors believe that the Company has adequate resources to continue in operational existence for the foreseeable future. Consequently the Directors have determined that it is appropriate for the financial statements to be prepared on a going concern basis.

Insofar as the Statement of Recommended Practice (SORP) for investment trust companies and venture capital trusts issued by the AIC, revised in January 2009, is compatible with IFRS, the financial statements have been prepared in accordance with the guidance set out in the SORP.

A number of new standards, amendments to standards and interpretations are effective for annual periods beginning on or after 1 November 2015, and have not been applied in preparing these financial statements (major changes and new standards issued are detailed below). None of these are expected to have a significant effect on the measurement of the amounts recognised in the financial statements of the Company.

IFRS 9 Financial Instruments (2014) replaces IAS 39 and deals with a package of improvements including principally a revised model for classification and measurement of financial instruments, a forward looking expected loss impairment model and a revised framework for hedge accounting. In terms of classification and measurement, the revised standard is principles based depending on the business model and nature of cash flows. Under this approach instruments are measured at either amortised cost or fair value, though the standard retains the fair value option allowing designation of debt instruments at initial recognition to be measured at fair value.

The standard is effective from 1 January 2018 with earlier application permitted but has not yet been endorsed by the European Commission. The Company does not plan to early adopt this standard.

IFRS 14 Regulatory Deferral Accounts (effective 1 January 2016) allows first time IFRS adopters to continue to account for ‘regulatory deferral account balances’ in accordance with previous GAAP.

The Company has no such accounts and, therefore, the provisions of this standard are not applicable.

IFRS 15 Revenue from Contracts with Customers (effective 1 January 2018) specifies how and when an entity should recognise revenue and enhances the nature of revenue disclosures.

Given the nature of the Company’s revenue streams from financial instruments, the provisions of this standard are not expected to be applicable.

Amendments to IFRS 10, IFRS 12 and IAS 28 (effective 1 January 2016) are in relation to applying the consolidation exception for investment entities.

The Company does not control any of its investments or have any subsidiaries, hence the provisions of this statement are not applicable.

Amendments to IAS 1 (effective 1 January 2016) require changes to the presentation of financial instruments.

The amendments are not expected to have a significant effect on the measurement of amounts recognised in the financial statements of the Company.

(b) Presentation of the Statement of Comprehensive Income

In order to better reflect the activities of an investment trust company and in accordance with guidance issued by the AIC, supplementary information which analyses the Statement of Comprehensive Income between items of a revenue and a capital nature has been presented alongside the Statement of Comprehensive Income.

(c) Segmental reporting

The Directors are of the opinion that the Company is engaged in a single segment of business being investment business.

(d) Income

Dividends receivable on equity shares are recognised as revenue for the year on an ex-dividend basis. Where no ex-dividend date is available, dividends receivable on or before the period end are treated as revenue for the period. Provision is made for any dividends not expected to be received. Special dividends, if any, are treated as a capital or a revenue receipt depending on the facts or circumstances of each particular case. The return on a debt security is recognised on a time apportionment basis so as to reflect the effective yield on the debt security. Interest income and expenses are accounted for on an accruals basis.

Options may be purchased or written over securities held in the portfolio for generating or protecting capital returns, or for generating or maintaining revenue returns. Where the purpose of the option is the generation of income, the premium is treated as a revenue item. Where the purpose of the option is the maintenance of capital, the premium is treated as a capital item.

Option premium income is recognised as revenue evenly over the life of the option contract and included in the revenue column of the Statement of Comprehensive Income unless the option has been written for the maintenance and enhancement of the Company’s investment portfolio and represents an incidental part of a larger capital transaction, in which case any premia arising are allocated to the capital column of the Statement of Comprehensive Income.

(e) Expenses

All expenses, including finance costs, are accounted for on an accruals basis. Expenses have been charged wholly to the revenue column of the Statement of Comprehensive Income, except as follows:

  • expenses which are incidental to the acquisition of an investment are included within the cost of the investment. Details of transaction costs on the purchases and sales of investments are disclosed within note 9 on pages 49 and 50 of the Annual Report;
  • expenses are treated as capital where a connection with the maintenance or enhancement of the value of the investments can be demonstrated; and
  • the investment management fees and finance costs of borrowing borne by the Company have been allocated 75% to the capital column and 25% to the revenue column of the Statement of Comprehensive Income in line with the Board’s expectations of the long term split of returns, in the form of capital gains and income, respectively, from the investment portfolio.

(f) Taxation

The tax expense represents the sum of the tax currently payable and deferred tax. Tax payable is based on the taxable profit for the year. Taxable profit differs from profit before tax as reported in the Statement of Comprehensive Income because it excludes items of income or expense that are taxable or deductible in other years and it further excludes items that are never taxable or deductible. The Company’s liability for current tax is calculated using tax rates that have been enacted or substantively enacted by the balance sheet date.

Deferred taxation is recognised in respect of all temporary differences that have originated but not reversed at the financial reporting date, where transactions or events that result in an obligation to pay more tax in the future or right to pay less tax in the future have occurred at the financial reporting date. This is subject to deferred tax assets only being recognised if it is considered more likely than not that there will be suitable profits from which the future reversal of the temporary differences can be deducted. Deferred tax assets and liabilities are measured at the rates applicable to the legal jurisdictions in which they arise.

(g) Investments held at fair value through profit or loss

The Company’s investments are classified as held at fair value through profit or loss in accordance with IAS 39 – ‘Financial Instruments: Recognition and Measurement’ and are managed and evaluated on a fair value basis in accordance with its investment strategy.

All investments are initially recognised as held at fair value through profit or loss. Purchases of investments are recognised on a trade date basis. Sales of investments are recognised at the trade date of the disposal. Proceeds are measured at fair value, which is regarded as the proceeds of sale less any transaction costs.

The fair value of the financial investments is based on their quoted bid price, or as otherwise stated at the financial reporting date, without deduction for the estimated selling costs. This policy applies to all current and non current asset investments held by the Company.

Changes in the value of investments held at fair value through profit or loss and gains and losses on disposal are recognised in the Statement of Comprehensive Income as ‘Gains or losses on investments held at fair value through profit or loss’. Also included within the heading are transaction costs in relation to the purchase or sale of investments.

(h) Other receivables and other payables

Other receivables and other payables do not carry any interest and are short term in nature and are accordingly stated at their nominal value.

(i) Dividends payable

Interim dividends are recognised when paid to shareholders. Final dividends, if any, are only recognised after they have been approved by shareholders.

(j) Foreign currency translation

Transactions involving foreign currencies are converted at the rate ruling at the date of the transaction.

Foreign currency monetary assets and liabilities are translated into sterling at the rate ruling on the financial reporting date. Foreign exchange differences arising on translation are recognised in the Statement of Comprehensive Income as a revenue or capital item depending on the income or expense to which they relate.

(k) Cash and cash equivalents

Cash comprises cash in hand and on demand deposits. Cash equivalents are short term, highly liquid investments that are readily convertible to known amounts of cash and that are subject to an insignificant risk of changes in value.

(l) Bank overdrafts

Bank overdrafts are recorded as the proceeds received. Finance charges are accounted for on an accruals basis in the Statement of Comprehensive Income using the effective interest rate method and are added to the carrying amount of the instruments to the extent that they are not settled in the period in which they arise.

(m) Derivatives

Derivatives are held at fair value based on the bid/offer prices of the options written to which the Company is exposed. The value of the option is subsequently marked-to-market to reflect the fair value of the option based on traded prices. Where the premium is taken to revenue, an appropriate amount is shown as capital return such that the total return reflects the overall change in the fair value of the option. When an option is closed out or exercised, the gain or loss is accounted for as a capital gain or loss.

3. Income

2015
£’000
2014
£’000 
Investment income:
UK listed dividends 26 35
Overseas listed dividends 2,788 3,088
 --------  --------
2,814 3,123
 --------   --------
Other income:
Deposit interest 2 4
Option premium income 2,423 2,666
 --------  --------
2,425 2,670
 --------  --------
Total 5,239 5,793
 =====   =====

During the year, the Company received premiums totalling £2,348,000 (2014: £2,747,000) for writing covered call options for the purposes of revenue generation. Option premiums of £2,423,000 (2014: £2,666,000) were amortised to income including unamortised option premiums of £238,000 as at 31 October 2014 (31 October 2013: £157,000). All derivative transactions were based on constituent stocks in the Russell 1000 Value Index. At 31 October 2015, there were 151 (2014: 130) open positions with an associated liability of £618,000 (2014: £746,000).

4. Investment management fee

2015 2014 
Revenue
£’000
Capital
£’000
Total
£’000
Revenue
£’000
Capital 
£’000 
Total
£’000
Investment management fee 244 733 977 273 819  1,092
 --------  --------  --------  --------  --------   --------
Total 244 733 977 273  819  1,092
 ====   ====  ====   ====  ====   ====

The investment management fee was payable in quarterly arrears, calculated at the rate of one-quarter of 1.0% per quarter of the Company’s market capitalisation. With effect from 1 November 2015, the rate is 0.75% of net assets.

5. Other operating expenses

2015
£’000
2014
£’000
Custody fee 4 5
Auditors’ remuneration:
– audit services 27 26
– other non-audit services 6
Registrar’s fee 26 30
Marketing fees 28 77
Directors’ emoluments 101 104
Other administration costs 143 138
 --------  --------
329 386
 ====  ====

The Company’s ongoing charges, calculated as a percentage of average net assets and using expenses, excluding interest costs, were 1.24% (2014: 1.31%).

Fees for non audit assurance services were £nil (2014: £6,000 excluding VAT paid to Ernst & Young LLP for the review of the interim financial statements whilst auditors to the Company).

For the year ended 31 October 2015, expenses of £25,000 (2014: £37,000) were charged to the capital column of the Statement of Comprehensive Income relating to transaction costs paid to custodians.

6. Dividends

The Directors declared a fourth interim dividend of 1.1p per share. The dividend was paid on 5 January 2016, to shareholders on the Company’s register on 20 November 2015 (ex dividend date 19 November 2015). The fourth interim dividend has not been recognised as a liability in the financial statements as interim dividends are not recognised in the financial statements until they are paid. They are also debited directly to revenue reserves.

The interim dividends paid in respect of the year ended 31 October 2015 meet the requirements of section 1158 of the Corporation Tax Act 2010 and section 833 of the Companies Act 2006.

Dividends on equity shares:

2015 
£’000 
2014 
£’000 
4th interim dividend of 1.0p paid for the year ended 31 October 2014 (2013: 1.0p) 1,004  845 
1st interim dividend of 1.0p paid for the year ended 31 October 2015 (2014: 1.0p) 803  1,004 
2nd interim dividend of 1.1p paid for the year ended 31 October 2015 (2014: 1.0p) 880  1,004 
3rd interim dividend of 1.1p paid for the year ended 31 October 2015 (2014: 1.0p) 880  1,004 
 --------   -------- 
Accounted for in the financial statements 3,567  3,857 
4th interim dividend of 1.1p paid on 5 January 2016 for the year ended 31 October 2015 (2014: 1.0p) 880  1,004 
 --------   -------- 
4,447  4,861 
 =====   ===== 

   

7. Earnings and net asset value per ordinary share 2015  2014 
Net revenue profit attributable to ordinary shareholders (£’000) 3,883  4,256 
Net capital profit attributable to ordinary shareholders (£’000) 1,788  8,398 
 --------------   --------------- 
Total profit attributable to ordinary shareholders (£’000) 5,671  12,654 
 --------------   --------------- 
Total equity attributable to shareholders (£’000) 98,046  121,199 
 --------------   ---------------- 
The weighted average number of ordinary shares in issue during the year, on which the earnings per ordinary share was calculated was: 85,447,775  100,180,757 
 --------------   ---------------- 
The actual number of ordinary shares in issue at the year end, on which the net asset value per ordinary share was calculated was: 80,039,044  100,361,305 
 --------------   ---------------- 
Revenue earnings per share 4.54p  4.25p 
Capital earnings per share 2.10p  8.38p 
 --------------   ---------------- 
Total earnings per share 6.64p  12.63p 
 --------------   ---------------- 
Net asset value per share - basic and diluted 122.50p  120.76p 
 --------------   ---------------- 
Share price (mid-market) 113.00p  112.00p 
 ========   ======== 

Basic and diluted earnings per share and net asset value per share are the same, as the Company does not have any dilutive securities outstanding.

8. Called up share capital

Number of 
ordinary 
shares in 
issue 
Treasury 
shares 
Total 
shares 
Nominal 
value 
£’000 
Allotted, called up and fully paid share capital comprised:
Ordinary shares of 1 pence each
Allotted, issued and fully paid:
At 31 October 2014 100,361,305  –  100,361,305  1,004 
Shares repurchased and held in treasury pursuant to tender offer on 4 February 2015 (20,072,261) 20,072,261  –  – 
Shares repurchased and held in treasury (250,000) 250,000  –  – 
 ----------------   ---------------   ----------------   -------------- 
At 31 October 2015 80,039,044  20,322,261  100,361,305  1,004 
=========   =========   =========   ======== 

During the year ended 31 October 2015, the Company purchased 20,322,261 (2014: nil) shares for a total consideration of £25,257,000 including tender costs. During the year ended 31 October 2015, the Company did not issue any shares (2014: 1,000,000 shares issued for a total consideration of £1,103,000 after deduction of issue costs). Since 31 October 2015, and up to the date of this report, the Company has purchased an additional 3,050,000 ordinary shares for a total consideration of £3,441,000.

9. Contingent liabilities

There were no contingent liabilities at 31 October 2015 (2014: nil).

10. Publication of non-statutory accounts
The financial information contained in this announcement does not constitute statutory accounts as defined in the Companies Act 2006.  The Annual Report and Financial Statements for the year ended 31 October 2015 will be filed with the Registrar of Companies after the Annual General Meeting.

The figures set out above have been reported upon by the auditors, whose report for the year ended 31 October 2015 contains no qualification or statement under section 498(2) or (3) of the Companies Act 2006.

The comparative figures are extracts from the audited financial statements of BlackRock North American Income Trust plc for the year ended 31 October 2014, which have been filed with the Registrar of Companies. The report of the auditors on those financial statements contained no qualification or statement under section 498 of the Companies Act.

11. Annual Report
Copies of the Annual Report will be published shortly and will be available from the registered office, c/o The Company Secretary, BlackRock North American Income Trust plc, 12 Throgmorton Avenue, London EC2N 2DL.

12. Annual General Meeting
The Annual General Meeting of the Company will be held at the offices of BlackRock, 12 Throgmorton Avenue, London EC2N 2DL on Thursday, 18 February 2016 at 12.00 noon.

ENDS

The Annual Report will also be available on the BlackRock website at blackrock.co.uk/brna. Neither the contents of the Manager’s website nor the contents of any website accessible from hyperlinks on the Manager’s website (or any other website) is incorporated into, or forms part of, this announcement.

For further information please contact:

Simon White, Managing Director, Investment Trusts - 020 7743 5284
Emma Phillips, Media & Communications - 020 7743 2922
BlackRock Investment Management (UK) Limited

12 Throgmorton Avenue

London

EC2N 2DL

18 January 2016
 


Source: PR Newswire (January 18, 2016 - 11:28 AM EST)

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