Wilson Asset Management founder Geoff Wilson says he will resist the temptation to super-size his new listed investment company WAM Global.
WAM Global, which will lodge its prospectus with the corporate regulator on Monday, will be WAM’s first foray into overseas equities.
It is seeking to raise $330 million at an issue price of $2.20 a share. The raising will be able to take $220 million in over subscriptions, but Mr Wilson will not follow the example of Melbourne fund manager L1, which sought to raise $600 million but has ended up with $1.33 billion.
“The whole idea of only raising $550 million is to make sure it’s a successful float,” Mr Wilson told The Australian Financial Review. About $165 million will be raised from existing shareholders in other WAM LICs.
Mr Wilson said clients had been pushing WAM to expand into global equites for a decade, but he had been convinced to push ahead with the move after being able to secure the services of fund manager Catriona Burns, who was WAM’s second ever employee and then went on to work in London for Hunter Hall, and for John Sevior’s Airlie Funds Management.
Mr Wilson said he had held discussions with Ms Burns for a number of years and he was thrilled to bring her back to run the new LIC.
“It’s proven that female fund managers are better fund managers than men,” Mr Wilson said.
“Some people say, is it the people or is it the process? It’s actually both. We are doing exactly what we do at WAM and have been doing for 20 years and that is buying undervalued growth companies, and buying them only when we can see a catalyst that will change that valuation.”
Ms Burns who has travelled recently to Japan, Hong Kong, Britain and Switzerland, said the timing of WAM Global was also supported by changes in the global regulatory landscape, particularly the new MIFID II rules in Britain that have forced the unbundling of fees for research and execution.
With this in mind, Mr Wilson said WAM Global would continue to focus on what had made WAM famous – small to mid-sized companies.
“We think the sweet spot for us is in companies worth between $1 billion and $5 billion. They are very under researched and have become more under researched because of the regulatory changes,” he said.
“Brokers and companies are incredibly enthusiastic to get new players in the space.”
“You just need to spend the time and have that company contact,” he said. “That’s what we’ve spent a lot of time on, that’s what Catriona learnt when she worked for us. She was involved in the development of our investment process.”
Ms Burns and Mr Wilson are also acutely aware that the LIC is launching in the later stages of a long bull market.
“One of the beauties of how WAM invests money is that we’re focused on preservation of capital. If we can’t find ideas we’re happy to hold cash,” Ms Burns said.
“If we do get a shakeout in markets we’ll be well positioned to take advantage.”
While WAM Global will be a bottom-up stock picker (focused first on companies rather than sectors or big trends) one thematic Ms Burns has noticed on her recent travels is a willingness of offshore companies to hunt deals.
Several of the companies she met with in Switzerland, for example, already have deals under way.
“They’re taking take advantage of low rates and balance sheets that have been repaired since the GFC.”
Mr Wilson also said he was not concerned by the rush among Australian fund managers to launch global share funds.
“The growth in global equites will continue. I think most Australians are underweight global equities, he said.
“I am putting $5.5 millon into WAM Global and I am still significantly underweight global equities.”