· Strong growth in net assets delivers 24.8 per cent increase in total dividends for 2013 (in Euros)
· Significant outperformance of net asset value total return (28.2 per cent in Sterling) compared to the benchmark, the HSBC Smaller Europe (ex UK) Index (17.0 per cent) over the year.
· Continued policy of 6 per cent yield level on net asset value per share for annual distribution to shareholders.
· Total dividends for 2013 of Euro 0.5502 per share (2012: Euro 0.441) to be paid in three equal instalments.
The Board is pleased to confirm that the Company's stated distribution policy will be continued such that the annual dividend will be equivalent to 6 per cent of the net asset value per share at the end of the preceding year. The net asset value per share has recorded an increase over the year which results in a 24.8 per cent increase in the total 2013 dividends for the Company to Euro 0.5502 per share (2012: Euro 0.441 per share, net). The 2013 dividends will be paid in three equal instalments of Euro 0.1834 per share on 31 January, 31 May and 30 August 2013. The January dividend payment of Euro 0.1834 will be paid to shareholders on the register on 11 January 2013, having an ex-dividend date of 9 January 2013. Dividends are declared in Euros and paid in Euros (bearer shares) or in Sterling (registered shares).
Shareholders may elect to receive dividends by way of further shares in the Company rather than cash. Where shareholders so elect, they will receive shares based on the net asset value of the Company; the shares may trade in the market at a discount or premium to net asset value. Subject to personal circumstances, UK resident individual shareholders who receive a scrip dividend should not be liable to UK income tax but UK capital gains tax rules should apply.
Investment Performance and Review
The Company's net asset value total return (capital performance with dividends reinvested) per share was 28.2 per cent in Sterling (32.0 per cent in Euros) for the year to 31 December 2012 (unaudited). This compares favourably with the benchmark, the HSBC Smaller Europe (ex UK) Index, which produced a total return of 17.0 per cent in Sterling (20.4 per cent in Euros).
Despite a year dominated by negative sentiment towards the region, Europe managed to produce good returns for investors, driven by a strong second half rally. Mario Draghi's July statement that the European Central Bank is ready to do 'whatever it takes' to preserve the Euro, proved to be the catalyst that drove markets higher. Further details on a European wide banking union, additional liquidity injections from the central banking authorities globally, and a resolution to the US elections all helped to reduce risk and provide impetus to equity markets. The current macro-economic situation might be uncertain, but it has created a fertile environment for stock picking, particularly in Europe where valuations are low.
Our strong Net Asset Value total return performance has produced a better return over the year than the S&P 500 Index, the FTSE 100 Index, the Shenzhen China Index and indeed the majority of bond indices. Disappointingly though, most investors remain on the sidelines. Our performance this year was driven by stock picking and the outlook remains encouraging in this regard. While allocations to European small and medium-sized companies remain at record lows, we are seeing increasing interest in the asset class. As we have argued for some time now, the best determinant of future returns is the value at which assets are bought, and the cash flows they generate. By taking advantage of the uncertainties and low valuations prevailing in the market today, we are optimistic we can generate good returns for our shareholders.
For further information contact:
Sam Cosh (Investment Manager) Tel +44 (0)207 628 8000
Michael Campbell (Company Secretary) Tel +44 (0)207 628 8000
F&C Investment Business Limited
Wilbert van Twuijver (Managing Director)
FCA Management BV, Rotterdam Tel +31 (0)10 201 36 25
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