Four Reasons to Watch UK Equities
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Four Reasons to Watch UK Equities

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The following content is sponsored by BlackRock.

Over the past several years, UK equities have traded at a relative discount compared to other developed markets. This was largely due to ongoing Brexit negotiations, where uncertainty around trade deals and other legislation created significant headwinds.

Fast forward to today, and much of the uncertainty has passed. Does this mean it’s time to invest in the UK?

Looking Ahead

This infographic from BlackRock covers four reasons for why investors should consider an allocation to UK equities.

UK Equities infographic

So, why should investors consider an allocation to UK equities?

#1: The UK Market Is Not the UK Economy

The UK equity market is represented by many leading multinational companies from a variety of sectors.

For example, consider the FTSE All-Share Index, which contains over 600 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange. As of March 31, 2021, 72.5% of these companies’ total revenue was derived from outside of the UK.

A large share of overseas revenue provides investors with exposure to a range of global themes, where outcomes are not dictated by the UK economy itself.

#2: Business Activity is Ramping Up

The confirmation of a Brexit trade deal has provided UK companies with clarity around the rules of engagement, as well as the confidence to look ahead.

As a result, the UK has been ranked as the most attractive place in Europe for future investment.

CountryWhich country do you believe will be
the most attractive for foreign investment in 2021?
(% of respondents) 
UK43%
France31%
Germany28%
Italy26%
Spain20%

Based on the results of 550 C-suite interviews. Source: EY (2021)

This optimism has also spread to the UK equity market, where initial public offering (IPO) issuance in the first half of 2021 has already exceeded the entirety of 2020.

YearNumber of IPOsMoney Raised
First half of 202147£3.5 billion
202035£3.1 billion
201933£2.9 billion

Source: London Stock Exchange (2021)

Among those 47 IPOs were a number of high profile tech companies including Moonpig (online greeting cards), Darktrace (cybersecurity), and Deliveroo (food delivery).

The UK’s venture capital scene is also thriving, with U.S.-based Sequoia opening its first European office in London. Sequoia was an early investor in world-class businesses such as Apple, Google, and Airbnb.

#3: UK Firms are ESG Leaders

UK companies have historically been early adopters of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) practices. In fact, 45% of FTSE 100 companies have begun integrating ESG metrics into their executive compensation schemes.

UK firms are also leaders in gender diversity, consistently tracking ahead of other developed markets.

Year% Director Seats Held by Women (UK)% Director Seats Held by Women (MSCI World Index)
201625.3%19.1%
201726.8%20.4%
201829.1%21.6%
201931.7%25.0%
202034.3%26.2%

Source: MSCI (2020)

This leadership may bring further interest to the UK equity market, especially as awareness around social issues continues to rise.

#4: UK Equities Can be a Compelling Source of Income

Over a 10-year time frame, UK dividends rates have exceeded those of other global markets.

Country/RegionDividend Yield (as of Sept. 30, 2021)Dividend Yield (10-year median) 
UK3.7%3.9%
Eurozone2.2%3.2%
Japan2.0%2.1%
EM2.2%2.7%
World1.7%2.5%
U.S.1.4%2.0%

Source: Barclays Research, Refinitive (2021)

This outperformance even lasted through the COVID-19 pandemic, when dividend rates around the world were rebased (a term used for dividend cuts).

Beware of Zombies

While these factors provide UK equities with an attractive backdrop, the presence of zombie companies has dragged down the performance of the overall market.

Zombie companies are ones that are close to insolvency and do not generate enough profits to pay off their debts. Their survival is only made possible due to record low interest rates, which allows them to continue borrowing instead of shutting down.

So how many zombie firms are operating in the UK equity market?

According to Onward, a UK-based think tank, roughly one-in-five UK companies had become zombified in March 2020. Because of this, investors may find an actively managed approach to be beneficial. Unlike an index ETF, actively managed funds have the ability to avoid unprofitable businesses.

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ESG Data: The Four Motivations Driving Usage

ESG controversies can damage a company’s value, but ESG data may be able to help manage this risk. What are other reasons for using ESG data?

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ESG Data: The Four Motivations Driving Usage

Data is key to the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) revolution. Access to granular ESG data can help boost transparency for market participants. Unfortunately, 63% of U.S. and European asset managers say a lack of quantitative data inhibits their ESG implementation.

Being clear on the potential application of this data is equally important.

  • Investors and banks can use ESG data for risk assessment, to spot opportunities, and to push companies for change.
  • Companies can publish their own ESG data, quantify progress on their ESG goals, and use data to inform decisions.
  • Policymakers can use ESG data to inform regulatory frameworks and measure policy effectiveness.

This graphic from ICE, the second in a three part series on the ESG toolkit, explores four primary motivations of ESG data users.

1. Right Thing

The objective: Having a positive social or environmental impact.

For investors, this can involve screening out companies that conflict with their values and selecting companies that align with their ESG objectives.

As another example, it can involve comparing the social impact of municipal bonds. One way investors can measure social impact is through scores that quantify the potential socioeconomic need of an area, using metrics like poverty and education levels. Here are the social impact scores for three actual municipal bonds issued in Florida.

StateBond IssuerSocial Impact Score
(Higher = larger potential impact)
FloridaIssuer #176.5
FloridaIssuer #266.6
FloridaIssuer #343.2

Issuer #1’s bond is projected to have a community impact that is nearly twice as high/positive as Issuer #3’s bond.

For companies, doing the right thing can include assessing their progress on ESG goals and benchmarking themselves to peers. For example, gender and racial representation is a growing area of focus.

2. Risk

The objective: Managing ESG risks, such as climate and reputational risks.

For investors, this can involve back-testing or analysis around specific risk events before they materialize. Here are the risk profiles of two actual municipal bonds in California. The shown bonds are practically identical in many ways, except their wildlife score.

 Issuer #1Issuer #2
Current Coupon Rate5.0%5.0%
Maturity DateAug 01, 2048August 01, 2048
S&P RatingAAAA
Price to Date (Call Date)Aug 01, 2027Aug 01, 2027
Price122.0122.0
Yield1.0%1.0%
Wildfire Score (Higher = more risk)3.62.7

Managing ESG risk can also involve analyzing a company’s policies and governance for weaknesses. This is important as an ESG controversy can have long-lasting effects on the valuation of a company.

In one study, companies with ESG controversies dropped more than 10% in value relative to the S&P 500. They hadn’t fully recovered a year after the incident.

3. Revenue

The objective: Targeting outperformance through ESG analysis.

Selecting companies with strong ESG data can align with long-term growth trends and may help boost performance. For heavy emitting industries, research indicates that European companies with lower emissions trade at much higher valuations. The chart below shows companies’ price-to-book ratio relative to the Stoxx 600* sector median.

 UtilitiesEnergyMaterials
Above Median Emission Intensity (Bad)1.91.12.0
Below Median Emissions Intensity (Good)2.71.92.1

*The Stoxx 600 Index represents large, mid and small capitalization companies across 17 countries of the European region: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Energy companies with low emissions trade at a valuation nearly two times higher than energy companies with high emissions.

4. Regulation

The objective: Understanding and complying with relevant ESG regulation.

The International Sustainability Standards Board has announced a global reporting proposal aligned with the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). In addition, a growing number of jurisdictions will require organizational reporting that aligns with the TCFD.

  • Brazil
  • European Union
  • Hong Kong
  • Japan
  • New Zealand
  • Singapore
  • Switzerland
  • UK

Not only that, a European Union regulation known as Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR) came into effect in 2021. It seeks greater transparency in disclosures from firms marketing investment products. Even firms located outside the EU could be impacted if they serve EU customers. In total, the market cap of these non-EU companies exposed to SFDR amounts to $3.2 trillion.

Matching ESG Data with Motivation

There will be growing demand for transparent data as ESG investing flourishes. To remain competitive, investors, policymakers, and companies need access to ESG data that meets their unique objectives.

In Part 3 of the ESG Toolkit series sponsored by ICE, we’ll look at key sustainability index types.

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The Hierarchy of Zero Waste

In a world that generates 2 billion tonnes of waste every year, waste management has become a global concern. Here are some strategies to help guide zero waste policies.

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The Hierarchy of Zero Waste

Many cities have set ambitious zero waste targets in the upcoming decades.

The idea is to have communities where waste generation is avoided, and products are shared, reused, or refurbished.

This graphic, sponsored by Northstar Clean Technologies, shows the main strategies and hierarchy to guide zero waste policies.

What is Zero Waste?

In a world that generates approximately 2 billion tons of waste every year, waste management has become a global concern. Thus, countries and cities are increasing efforts to reduce or even eliminate waste when possible.

The Zero Waste International Alliance defines zero waste as “the conservation of all resources  by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health.”

Becoming a zero waste community, however, is a complex task.

Currently, Sweden recycles 99% of locally-produced waste and is considered the best country in the world when it comes to recycling and reusing waste. However, such results only came after almost 40 years of recycling and reuse policies.

In line with this, here are seven commonly accepted steps you can use to achieve zero waste:

1. Rethink, Redesign Products

The global population consumes 110 billion tons of materials each year, but only 8.6% is reused or recycled. In a zero waste society, single-use products are avoided and products are designed with sustainable practices and materials.

2. Reduce

Consumption must be planned carefully to reduce the unnecessary use of materials. Consumers must choose products that maximize the usable lifespan and opportunities for continuous reuse. Companies must minimize the quantity and toxicity of materials used.

3. Reuse

The value of products is maintained by reusing, repairing, or refurbishing for alternative uses.

4. Recycle

Products are diverted from waste streams and recirculated into use. Resilient local markets are developed, allowing the highest and best use of materials.

5. Material Recovery

Component materials like cement, metals, or asphalt are recovered from mixed waste and collected for other applications.

In the U.S. alone, around 12 million tons of asphalt shingle tear-off waste and installation scrap are generated from roof installation each year. Currently, more than 90% of this is discarded in landfills. This material can be repurposed to create new products like liquid asphalt, fiber, and aggregate.

6. Residuals Management

Waste is biologically stabilized and sent to responsibly managed landfills.

7. Unacceptable

The production of materials that are not recoverable and can negatively impact the environment must be avoided.

Reducing our Climate Impact

Reducing, recycling, and recovering materials can be a key part of a climate change strategy to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, about 42% of all greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the production and use of goods, including food, products, and packaging.

Even though 100% zero waste may sound difficult to achieve in the near future, a zero waste approach is essential to reduce our impact on the environment.

Northstar Clean Technologies aims to become the leading recovery and reprocessing company for asphalt shingles in North America.

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