Sunday 17 December 2017

Fidelity betting big on stock recovery as Ireland outpaces world

Fidelity Worldwide eyeing up stock investments in Ireland, including the Dalata group, whose hotels include the Clayton Dublin Airport
Fidelity Worldwide eyeing up stock investments in Ireland, including the Dalata group, whose hotels include the Clayton Dublin Airport
Traders look at financial data on computers screens as they sit at their desks on the Bank of Ireland Plc Global Finances trading floor in Dublin. Photo: Bloomberg

Dara Doyle

Fidelity International has been trawling Ireland as the economy grows more quickly than anywhere else in the developed world.

The company's €3.7bn Special Situations Fund is investing in Irish stocks including Bank of Ireland, hotelier Dalata and homebuilder Cairn Homes, tapping into an economy growing about 7pc this year.

The financial giant has been buying into the Irish recovery through stocks in domestically focused public companies.

The Irish stock index is among the best performers in Europe, gaining more than 28pc as the revival sparked by the presence of companies like Google in Dublin spreads through the economy, dubbed a "phoenix from the ashes" by Commerzbank this month.

"What we are seeing now is the beginnings of a recognition that Ireland is a very attractive place to invest for domestic exposure as well as a place to locate your multinational headquarters," Matthew Jennings, an investment director at Fidelity's UK equities team, said in an interview this month.

"These stocks have been totally overlooked for an extended period of time."

A renewed appetite for Irish equities adds another leg to Ireland's renaissance among international investors, seven years after the financial crash sent them running for the exit.

Franklin Templeton led the way by snapping up sovereign debt and later shares starting in 2011, while others including Blackstone Group focus on buying real estate assets.

International investors largely dumped Irish stocks from 2008, amid one of the worst real-estate market collapses in history. The legacy lingers on, with unemployment only recently falling below 10pc and personal debt among the highest in the Eurozone.

Still, the economy is bounding along again and the Fidelity fund returned about 11pc in the 12 months though November, according to Morningstar, which ranks it in the top 31pc among its peers. The manager of the fund, Alex Wright, wasn't available to comment.

The Special Situations Fund, which was set up and run by Anthony Bolton for almost 30 years, had focused on DCC and UDG Healthcare, Irish companies but dependent on the UK economy, Jennings said. After shares in both companies surged, the company reduced its stakes as it hunted domestic plays.

Bank of Ireland, the country's largest, has gained 8.3pc this year. London-listed Cairn advanced 20pc, while Dalata, which operates more than 40 hotels, jumped more than 70pc this year in Dublin.

Matthew Jennings said the number of hotels in Dublin is the same as 2010 even with visitor numbers 30pc higher.

"You don't have to be a maths genius to figure out the pricing environment is strong," said Mr Jennings.

Fidelity's move echoes a big push into Irish shares by Franklin Templeton in 2013.

The asset management fund's global "small and mid cap" equities team based in New York bought hundreds of millions of euro in Irish shares in the likes of in drinks maker C&C, Grafton, DCC and Irish Continental Group and Green REIT right at the dawn of the economic revival here. (Bloomberg)

Irish Independent

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