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Witan appoints new managers for investment trust

Witan has appointed two new managers for its investment trust with Comgest and Orbis taking on the trust’s Asia ex-Japan and Australasian portfolios respectively.

The move marks the group’s first formal review of its underlying investment managers since moving to a multi-manager structure back in October 2004.

Both new underlying managers will replace APS Asset Management with immediate effect, with the Board of Witan citing underperformance and a shift in investment strategy within the Asia ex-Japan portfolio.

Of the £76m mandate, Comgest will take on £56m in a segregated mandate, while the remaining £20m is to be managed by Orbis in the Orbis/SM Australian equity fund.

Comgest is a Paris-based Asian and emerging markets specialist with some £4.3bn out of a total £5.5bn in those markets. Since launch in April 1989, its Asia ex-Japan portfolio has produced compound returns of 10.18 per cent against the MSCI AC Asia ex-Japan benchmark returns of 2.93 per cent.

Witan has made the decision to move into both Australia and New Zealand as the board believes it is not well-correlated with other markets in the pan-Asia region. The Orbis/SM Australia equity fund is managed by Simon Marais, and adopts a bottom-up approach in selecting some 30 to 50 stocks for the portfolio.

Witan Investment Trust plc chief executive officer Jim Horsburgh says:
“A key advantage of Witan’s open architecture is the Board’s ability to replace managers – in this instance APS – with minimal disruption to the Trust as a whole. It also offers the flexibility to engage top-ranking fund managers to which UK investors wouldn’t normally have access.

“Over the coming months Witan will be in a position to implement further changes to its portfolio emanating from its recent strategic review.”


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