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Ideas of the Week Review 2021

Our 2021 ideas outperformed the market in aggregate, but the misses can teach us as much as the hits
Ideas of the Week Review 2021
  • Rising interest rates are meant to be good for value investors…
  • …but the evidence is scant
  • Could higher rates kill the remaining support for traditional value investing?
  • There is another way.
  • Loads of new idea-generating data.

Reviewing the buy and sell recommendations from the Investors’ Chronicle over the course of a year is awkward. And no, I’m not talking about the awkwardness of the inevitable howlers. Well there is that too, and we’ll talk about the blush-worthy moments from 2021 in hushed tones a bit later. But the 'awkward' I’m referring to here is the contortions required to try to put a single, coherent performance number on all those different recommendations. 

One of the biggest complications of summing up the year is that when a magazine makes recommendations every week there are a lot of different time periods over which to assess all those buy and sell calls. In the case of this review there are 48 periods. The reason it is not 52 – ie the number of weeks in a year – is that our Ideas of the Year will get separate scrutiny in next week’s issue; and we also have a two-weeks-in-one bumper issue over Christmas and the two ideas in this issue are too young to be assessed. 

All this means the average period over which recommendations are judged in this review is six months as opposed to the year that one may intuitively assume. Individual time periods range from almost a full year to less than a week. 

Our recommendations also come from many different parts of the UK market – blue-chips, mid-caps, tiddlers and Aim companies – as well as overseas markets. To judge whether a recommendation is doing well, it is important to judge it against the wider market performance. A 5 per cent gain is a very different outcome when the market has risen by 20 per cent than when the market has fallen by 20 per cent. And to represent “the market”, it is important to try to compare a recommendation’s performance with the index that is most relevant to the share in question. 

The UK indices against which we track recommendations are the FTSE 100, FTSE 250, FTSE All Small and FTSE Aim All Share. Our overseas tips tend to be liquid shares in large companies, which means we are able to track them against the relevant country’s blue-chip index. In the case of US tech shares, we use the Nasdaq 100 as a benchmark.

Readers may be starting to get an impression of the smorgasbord of considerations we’re dealing with in this review. I can make no claim that my efforts to square this particular circle are perfect, but they represent my best shot at it all. 

With that in mind, let’s put a number on how we have done with our recommendations in 2021. In fact, there are two numbers to report, one for our buy recommendations and one for the sells. The numbers are 1.7 per cent for the buys and -16.1 per cent for the sells. 

That is to say, based on all those different time periods, and tallied against all those different indices, the average buy recommendation outperformed by 1.7 per cent and the average sell recommendation underperformed (we want sells to underperform) by 16.1 per cent. As we will see, we did not make very many sell recommendations this year so that very impressive result needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.

The performance numbers do not take account of dividends or spreads (the difference between the price a share can be bought and sold at). These are important real world considerations. The buys had a relatively wide spread of 0.5 per cent, and on average the dividend yield of these recommendations was about 0.5 per cent below that of the relevant indices. That means the 1.7 per cent outperformance probably overstates the case by about a percentage point. For the sells, the average spread was 0.2 per cent and the average yield a full 2.2 per cent lower than the market. 


What to make of it?

For our buys, it was something of a 50:50 year. To be precise, 51:49. Or to be colloquial, a smidgen over half of these recommendations beat their benchmark index. However, those that beat their index did so by a more impressive amount than the losers lost. So we’ve seen modest outperformance overall. The accompanying chart showing the distribution of relative performance gives a bit more colour.

While our sells look stunning with a 100 per cent hit rate and substantial underperformance of the index, this has to be viewed in light of the fact that we have only made three such recommendations in 2021. We’ll look to increase the volume of 'sells' next year. The low number in part reflects a format change to how we make recommendations.

In 2020, as part of our 160th anniversary relaunch, the Investors’ Chronicle adopted a less-is-more approach to our recommendations. We decided to move to producing two more in-depth pieces each month rather than the four articles we previously produced. While some have been critical of our focus on more in-depth analysis, we hope that our two-tip format is helping readers develop a deeper understanding of the stocks we cover in the ideas section. 

Not only are buy and sell decisions improved by a deeper understanding of a stock (whether it be based on agreement or rejection of IC writers’ arguments), but it is easier to react to new developments. And ultimately, while our writers can offer their opinions on stocks based on their own research efforts and interpretations, the actual act of investing is very much out of our hands. Indeed, there are strict rules that require our writers to have no interest in the stocks they write about. For anyone that doubts whether this is a good idea, a well-documented psychological phenomenon known as the endowment effect suggests it very much is. 


Hammers and knives

But no matter what level of integrity and thoroughness is employed by our writers, there are always stock recommendations we make that go on to get utterly hammered. So it proved at the end of the year when three buy recommendations almost immediately cratered after the ink dried on our articles. 

The problems stemming from an acquisition made by mask, helmet and body armour maker Avon Protection proved more deep-seated than we had anticipated. Launch delays experienced by computer game company Frontier Development were repeated rather than rectified following our buy call on that stock. And the warnings we made about the business model of influencer-focused retailer In The Style were to prove far more influential on performance than the model’s strengths, which we’d put more emphasis on. 

With hindsight, we certainly should have heeded the old adage about not catching falling knives. The numbers reported in this report would certainly have benefited substantially from avoiding the catalogue of painful injuries in the final months of the year. The events could also point to the dangers investors face from relatively high valuations following the strong recovery of markets from lockdown lows and the decade-long bull market that preceded. It’s not that a high valuation necessarily debunks an investment case in itself, but it can make things more painful if something else debunks it.

But we had some very good buy calls too. Our UK large and mid-cap picks showed impressive outperformance, as did the handful of Aim companies we highlighted during the year. Small-caps were the major weakness, though, and our overseas ideas performed largely in line with the market. This is illustrated in the accompanying charts along with the breakdown of the parts of the market the recommendations came from.


The pudding

As they say, the proof is in the pudding, and for this review that means the performance table below. It details all our buy and sell recommendations for the year, bar this week's, and both their absolute performance in share price terms and their performance relative to the index.


2021 Buys
NameTIDMTip DateIndexOut/UnderperformancePerformance
Thungela Resources LimitedTGA25/06/21FTSE All-Small104%100%
Safestore Holdings plcSAFE11/06/21FTSE 25049%47%
Focusrite PLCTUNE26/03/21FTSE AIM All-Share47%44%
Ashtead Group plcAHT05/02/21FTSE 10040%55%
Wm Morrison Supermarkets plcMRW12/02/21S&P 50040%67%
Sirius Real Estate LimitedSRE19/02/21FTSE 25039%48%
Pfizer Inc.PFE-US28/05/21S&P 50036%52%
Costco Wholesale CorporationCOST-US22/01/21S&P 50027%56%
South32 Ltd.S3216/04/21FTSE 10022%25%
Vietnam Enterprise Investments Ltd Red.ShsVEIL27/08/21FTSE 25021%13%
ICG Enterprise Trust PLC GBPICGT23/07/21FTSE 25020%18%
Touchstone Exploration IncTXP30/04/21FTSE AIM All-Share19%7.5%
Hill & Smith Holdings PLCHILS18/06/21FTSE 25019%19%
Daily Mail & General Trust plc Class ADMGT09/04/21FTSE 25017%18%
Macfarlane Group PLCMACF23/04/21FTSE All-Small16%18%
Entegris, Inc.ENTG-US14/05/21S&P 50015%30%
AbbVie, Inc.ABBV-US12/02/21FTSE 10015%25%
Sage Group plcSGE23/07/21FTSE 10014%16%
Ricardo plcRCDO03/09/21FTSE All-Small12%7%
dotDigital Group plcDOTD15/01/21FTSE AIM All-Share11%10%
Clipper Logistics PLCCLG26/03/21FTSE 25011%15%
Rit Capital Partners PLCRCP25/06/21FTSE 2509.9%8.9%
PRS REIT PlcPRSR15/01/21FTSE All-Small9.4%25%
Diageo plcDGE29/10/21FTSE 1009.2%8.2%
Grainger plcGRI21/05/21FTSE 2508.8%9.0%
Fidelity European Trust PLC GBPFEV09/07/21FTSE 2508.8%6.5%
Electrocomponents plcECM04/06/21FTSE 1008.6%10%
NIKE, Inc. Class BNKE-US07/05/21S&P 5006.9%19%
Aberdeen Standard European Logistics Income PlcASLI29/10/21FTSE All-Small5.0%1.8%
Harworth Group PLCHWG17/09/21FTSE All-Small4.9%0.6%
Etsy, Inc.ETSY-US02/07/21NASDAQ-100 Index4.9%16%
Herald Investment Trust PLCHRI19/08/21FTSE 2504.8%-0.4%
Serco Group plcSRP27/08/21FTSE 2504.7%-2.3%
BT Group plcBT.A26/11/21FTSE 1004.5%6.4%
Luceco PLCLUCE01/10/21FTSE All-Small4.5%1.8%
Treatt plcTET02/07/21FTSE 2504.4%3.0%
Brooks Macdonald Group plcBRK15/10/21FTSE All-Small4.0%0.8%
CRH PlcCRH09/07/21FTSE 1003.5%4.3%
Henry Boot PLCBOOT26/11/21FTSE All-Small3.5%2.9%
Team17 Group PLCTM1705/03/21FTSE AIM All-Share1.3%1.4%
Anglo American plcAAL22/01/21FTSE 1001.2%8.4%
Redrow plcRDW28/05/21FTSE 2501.1%0.0%
Derwent London plcDLN30/04/21FTSE 2501.0%0.7%
JPMorgan Russian Securities PLCJRS06/08/21FTSE All-Small0.8%-2.8%
Bridgepoint Group PlcBPT19/08/21FTSE 2500.5%-4.5%
Montanaro European Smaller Companies Trust PLCMTE03/12/21FTSE All-Small0.3%-0.2%
iShares Global Clean Energy UCITS ETFINRG21/05/21FTSE 2500.1%0.2%
Aberdeen Standard OEIC II - ASI UK Ethical Equity Fund Accum GBPM67P3S.F04/06/21FTSE All-Small-0.1%-1.5%
Accsys Technologies PLCAXS10/12/21FTSE All-Small-0.3%-2.3%
CentralNic Group PlcCNIC05/11/21FTSE All-Small-0.7%-4.8%
UNITE Group plcUTG29/01/21FTSE 250-0.7%10%
Hollywood Bowl Group PlcBOWL15/10/21FTSE All-Small-0.9%-4.0%
Target Healthcare REIT PLCTHRL05/03/21FTSE 250-0.9%6.0%
Fidelity Emerging Markets Limited Red Pref Shs GBPFEML12/11/21FTSE 250-1.2%-5.9%
MFM UK Primary Opportunities Fund Accum.Shs Class A GBPG0WZWX.F08/10/21FTSE 100-1.5%-0.4%
S&U plcSUS10/12/21FTSE All-Small-1.8%-3.7%
Rathbones Group PLCRAT10/09/21FTSE 250-1.9%-7.3%
Phoenix Group Holdings plcPHNX24/09/21FTSE 100-2.1%-0.4%
Rentokil Initial plcRTO09/04/21FTSE 100-2.1%1.5%
Biotech Growth Trust PLCBIOG24/09/21FTSE All-Small-2.6%-7.0%
Numis Corporation PlcNUM30/07/21FTSE AIM All-Share-2.7%-9.5%
Intuitive Surgical, Inc.ISRG-US23/04/21NASDAQ-100 Index-2.7%14%
Infineon Technologies AGIFX-DE19/02/21Germany DAX (TR)-2.8%7.5%
Smith & Williamson Investment Funds PLC - Sanlam Artificial Intelligence Fund Accum B GBPCG1MFG.F-IE22/10/21FTSE 100-2.8%-3.3%
Genus plcGNS02/04/21FTSE 250-4.5%-1.4%
Spirent Communications plcSPT13/08/21FTSE 250-4.7%-10%
Games Workshop Group PLCGAW12/03/21FTSE 250-5.5%-1.5%
Dunelm Group plcDNLM17/09/21FTSE 250-5.6%-10%
Workspace Group PLCWKP02/04/21FTSE 250-5.6%-2.5%
Endeavour Mining PLCEDV13/08/21FTSE 250-5.8%-11%
Renalytix PlcRENX03/12/21FTSE AIM All-Share-6.4%-7.8%
Publicis Groupe SAPUB-FR07/05/21France CAC 40-6.7%1.2%
Tharisa PlcTHS12/11/21FTSE All-Small-7.7%-12%
IP Group plcIPO19/03/21FTSE 250-7.8%-3.5%
Just Group plcJUST29/01/21FTSE 250-9.2%0.7%
De La Rue plcDLAR16/07/21FTSE All-Small-10%-11%
Johnson & JohnsonJNJ-US12/03/21S&P 500-10%7.2%
Autodesk, Inc.ADSK-US11/06/21S&P 500-12%-2.1%
MJ Hudson Group PlcMJH16/07/21FTSE All-Small-13%-14%
Align Technology, Inc.ALGN-US26/02/21S&P 500-14%6.2%
HSS Hire Group PLCHSS19/11/21FTSE All-Small-14%-17%
Caledonia Mining Corporation PLCCMCL14/05/21FTSE All-Small-15%-14%
Rolls-Royce Holdings plcRR22/10/21FTSE 100-16%-16%
tinyBuild Inc.TBLD30/07/21FTSE AIM All-Share-17%-22%
Hargreaves Lansdown plcHL26/02/21FTSE 100-22%-14%
Medtronic PlcMDT-US06/08/21NASDAQ-100 Index-24%-18%
Frontier Developments PlcFDEV19/11/21FTSE All-Small-27%-30%
Okta, Inc. Class AOKTA-US16/04/21NASDAQ-100 Index-29%-18%
Gap, Inc.GPS-US08/10/21S&P 500-33%-28%
Hunting PLCHTG19/03/21FTSE All-Small-50%-46%
Shanta Gold LimitedSHG05/02/21FTSE All-Small-50%-44%
Avon Protection PLCAVON05/11/21FTSE All-Small-51%-53%
In the Style Group PlcITS10/09/21FTSE All-Small-53%-55%


2021 sells
NameTIDMTip DateIndexOut/UnderperformancePerformance
IWG PlcIWG01 October 2021FTSE 250-13.3%-15.3%
London Stock Exchange Group plcLSEG03 September 2021FTSE 100-16.8%-16.5%
WH Smith PLCSMWH18 June 2021FTSE 250-19.7%-19.3%
Source: FactSet