Slump in sterling presents huge buying opportunities in UK

Financial markets have moved in strange ways since Brexit but the most pronounced shift has been an advance in US equity valuations and a sharp decline in the exchange rate between sterling and the dollar.

That, if elongated, creates a huge opportunity for US investors to seize the opportunity to acquire high-quality assets in the UK that have long-term positive prospects.

This dynamic may not just be confined to US investors.

Large amounts of Chinese wealth is tied up in US Treasuries for a number of years.

With the rising dollar, and few signs of a significant pick-up in US interest rates, the attraction of using that money to acquire UK assets has grown since Brexit.

Add to this mix the fact that borrowing costs, especially for high-quality companies, have fallen to record lows.

Some multinationals can borrow long term money for less than 1% at present.

This cocktail of financial inputs present management teams and boards with a treasure trove that can be deployed smartly over coming quarters.

Whatever you might think about the state of affairs in Britain currently, and it is hard to be generous on that front, the fact remains it is a large developed economy that will remain an important centre of business activity for the long haul.

For sure, short term trends appear to be heading in a decidedly negative direction and that will have consequences for employment, profits and shareholder value.

However, it is a society that operates an economic model which respects company law while operating shareholder rights akin to those in the US and Ireland.

While that point may appear arcane, it is important for long-term investors who have a wide range of options to consider when deploying capital.

With debt costs low and valuations high we have to believe shrewd investors are doing the maths on a variety of UK-centric assets.

With sterling 11% lower than it was just four weeks ago targets are already attractive.

Add to that mix the fact that many sectors have seen material share price declines since June and you have a double whammy of dropped valuations and a weak currency.

The words fish and barrel come to mind.

Of course investing, as always, requires an element of guts.

There are more hurlers on the ditch in financial markets than at local club derby games.

Analysis paralysis is a term we use for endless wittering about whether or not to buy an asset.

Ultimately, grown-ups have to make their own decisions about whether or not to buy.

In 2009 a similar scenario existed.

The economy was keeling over and share prices had been smashed, yet there were as many arguments in favour of selling rather than buying at that time.

Moreover, a strong view existed that the safest way to proceed was to keep all your money on deposit and do nothing.

Seven years later those who stuck to deposits have about €110 for every €100 put in the bank.

Those who bought the Irish equity index in 2009 have over €200 in value now and collected an extra €20 in dividends during the same period.

Fortune favours the brave, they say, and right now Britain looks like an attractive hunting ground for investors.

An Asian investor I met shortly after Brexit described London as being akin to Hong Kong for Chinese investors in 1997.

He meant that city, which was adjusting to the drama of moving under Chinese control, threw up tremendous value in quality assets for investors focused on the very long term.

The key is to research equities and other assets, including property, that can provide a reasonable risk-adjusted return.

At the risk of being zombie-like repetitive, I would advise a search for companies and assets that have long records of paying dividends through thick and thin.

Coupled with strong balance sheets and conservative management teams businesses of this type should prove fruitful for those with an eye on long-term value creation. Tally Ho!

  • Joe Gill is director of corporate broking at Goodbody Stockbrokers. His views are personal.


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