Last month’s column ended with Portmeirion on the brink of expulsion from the Share Sleuth portfolio. I feared the company, which owns popular tableware brands including Portmeirion Botanic Garden, Spode Christmas Tree and Royal Worcester, might be drifting strategically.
News that Science has acquired 9% of Frontier Smart Technologies has sealed the former company’s fate as far as the Share Sleuth portfolio is concerned. On 28 May, I liquidated the shareholding.
This month, I have added RM, a company I profiled in the May issue’s Share Watch pages, to the Share Sleuth portfolio. I was cautious about it back then, but digging into its history has emboldened me.
RM supplies schools with equipment and IT, and examination boards with e-marking software. These businesses are not obviously natural bedfellows, which means the company is complex and has to do lots of things well – one reason for my caution.
This month, I have refrained from trading, although I might have added shares in Anpario had I realised the portfolio had enough cash to add a small holding. The company briefly strayed into value territory and now sits right on the cusp by my estimation. Like Porvair, Anpario has been on my watch list for many years.
In what must be the most active start to a year in Share Sleuth’s near 10-year history, I have traded for a third time in 2019, swapping a fraction of the portfolio’s holding in Solid State for a small shareholding in Quartix.
Following on from last month’s trades, I have again removed or reduced my holding in two of the portfolio’s shares in order to increase or add holdings in two others.
A few days into 2019, I removed Finsbury Food and MS International from the Share Sleuth portfolio and recycled the loot into XP Power and Goodwin, two existing constituents I believe are substantially undervalued. It is the first stage in a minor restructuring of the portfolio.
I experienced one of those “Aha!” moments last Saturday, when I was reading an interview with novelist and author Matt Haig in the money section of The Times. Asked whether he invests in shares, he replied: “No. Too many numbers and indices. It seems a dull hobby and an inexact pseudoscience, like astrology. It’s like gambling without the stigma.”
This article was written in November for the December 2018 print edition of Money Observer. Market data and share prices are likely to have since changed.
One of the mantras I see wielded by people seeking to improve their performance, be they sportsmen and women, musicians, business people or investors, is the idea of focusing on ‘process over outcome’.