Alliance Trust defends investment strategy

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Image caption,
The group's profits before tax, including capital, were down from £473m to £456m

A Dundee-based investment trust has issued a defence of its strategy with its annual results.

Alliance Trust reported its return to shareholders stood at 19% for the year to January 31,compared with more than 20% in the previous year.

It also highlighted the share price reached a three-year high in January, with net asset value increasing by 11.9% in the second half of last year.

The company is striving to see off a challenge from an activist investor.

Chairwoman Lesley Knox said the asset management business saw a sharp increase in third party funds under its management, up from £12m to £83m by the end of the year, and up to £100m since then.

The group's profits before tax, including capital, were down from £473m to £456m.

These are some of the figures being used in the battle with hedge fund Laxey Partners, which owns an eighth of Alliance Trust equity, and which wants to force a buy-back of shares as a means of raising the share price.

It is pressing other shareholders to back its campaign to overturn the management strategy at the company's annual general meeting on 20 May.

It argues the share price has been trading at nearly 20% below net asset value of Alliance Trust funds, and it wants that brought below a 10% discount.

Alliance Trust's chairwoman said the company's performance was in the median range for its corporate peer group.

"Through regular engagement with our shareholders, we believe that we have a good understanding of their long-term investment priorities," she said.

"We are focused on managing the trust in the best interests of these long-term shareholders - not those who are motivated purely to make a short-term gain."

Chief executive Katherine Garrett-Cox said there was already a share buyback under way, with nearly £9.6m put into supporting the Tayside company's share price.

Near-term prospects for stock markets remain "clouded" by uncertainties, including rising commodity prices and consumers' debt burden, she added.

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