News Column

St James's Place goes from strength to strength

February 26, 2014

Nils Pratley, theguardian.com



Lloyds Banking Group sold too soon. The partially state-owned bank offloaded its 57% holding in St James's Place, the wealth manager, in three tranches last year at prices of 510p, 580p and 630p. Price now: 835p. That makes St James's worth a shade over 4bn. Entry into the FTSE 100 index is in sight.

One can't really be critical of Lloyds. First, the overhang of stock was probably depressing the price. Second, St James's started 2013 at 400p-ish, so getting the last slug away at 630p was not so terrible. Third, it would have been reasonable to wonder if St James's, in the age of DIY internet investment platforms, could continue to run at the same pace with a business model that relies on a 1.5% annual management fee and face-to-face meetings with customers.

The short answer to that one seems to be a definitive yes. Net inflows were 4.3bn last year, up 28%; funds under management have reached 44bn; and profits on all the various measures are flying. There seems to be demand for the old-school personal touch, even at that price.

Yesterday's intriguing development was the planned purchase of an adviser business for British expatriates in Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai. The deal is relatively small beer just 4,000 clients and 400m of funds under management but expatriates seem a natural route for expansion.

Shares in St James's itself now appear very expensive the dividend yield is just 1.9%, even after a 50% hike in the distribution but the business itself is reassuringly predictable. Hargreaves Lansdown, leader of the platform brigade, faces the stiffer competition.


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Source: Guardian Web


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