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The fledgling Europe fund that's shot to the top

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The fledgling Europe fund that's shot to the top
 

As Carlos Moreno and Thomas Brown approach three years at the helm of Miton European Opportunities, their fund is sitting far out in front of rivals.

The managers have returned 70% since the launch of the fund which launched in December 2015, amassing nearly £400 million in assets in the process.

That's well ahead of rivals in the Investment Association's Europe excluding UK sector, with the closest, Marlborough European Multi-Cap, up 57%.

It marks a strong start for the pair, hired by Miton in late 2015, in their most high profile fund management roles. They worked together at Thames River, the fund group bought by F&C in 2010, with Moreno a manager on the group's European Dynamic Growth fund and Brown an analyst.

Moreno left to join JO Hambro Capital Management in 2011 where he ran a fund of the same name, and, as at Thames River, serving alongside lead manager Trygve Tøraasen. 

While both funds were strong performers, neither hit the performance heights Moreno and Brown have reached in their first lead manager roles.

Like many, the fund was hit hard by October's stock market sell-off, falling 9%, but Moreno is unfazed.

He said there was ‘no getting away’ from the fact the fund endured a poor month but ‘we are having a pretty good year and the fund had a strong run into summer’.

Moreno (pictured) said that after a stronger summer, in part thanks to a weakening euro that benefited exporters, European markets were ‘a little cooler’ but business sentiment remained ‘pretty positive’.

‘Europe is not roaring ahead but it is functioning and businesses are fairly positive,’ he said. ‘Things have cooled a little since the peak but there had been a very long run of positive macro news… and now it has just reverted to the mean.’

Moreno and Brown have a 'mid-cap' focus, targeting stocks with a market capitalisation of between £1 billion and £10 billion with strong returns on capital.

‘We look for great businesses and that starts at return on capital – twice that of the market…is the place to start,’ said Moreno.

‘Businesses that are highly profitable have options. If the economy turns down and if you’re a really nice business you have room to make change. If you are an autoparts supplier with moderate returns you have no options. We want companies that can reinvest in themselves and grow over the medium term.’

One stock that Moreno is particularly positive on is Ferrari (RACE.MI), which joined the Milan stock exchange in 2016 as an add-on to its main listing in the US, completing the brand’s spin-off from former parent Fiat Chrysler.

The Italian sports car manufacturer is ‘going to be a lot larger company in the future’, he said.

He added that as a spin-off brand, Ferrari was ‘statistically attractive’ and has ‘done well for us’.

‘It’s a lovely story. It has low utilisation in plants and the business is basically copying Porsche and rolling out new models,’ said Moreno.

‘[Ferrari] actually produce just a few thousand cars – 8,500 a year – and Porsche is at the 250,000 level, and produces 45,000 911s [each year].’

He said the brand is ‘excellent’ and it was ‘early on monetising it’.

‘It has done very well but it’s a stock I can see owning for the next five years. It’s got incredible barriers to competition in the sense of its brand… it has very good profits, a good balance sheet, and lots of options.’

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