The Schiehallion Fund was given a low-key launch by Baillie Gifford in March 2019 as it was designed primarily for institutional investors. After a recent $700m fundraising, it’s now become one of Baillie Gifford’s largest investment trusts.
What Schiehallion does
This section from Schiehallion’s latest accounts sums things up pretty well:
We launched Schiehallion two years ago. Our thesis then was that we could create value for our shareholders in two ways.
Firstly, by investing in companies privately and benefiting from value creation up to the point where those businesses choose to list.
Secondly, by continuing to own those businesses once they list and in so doing, enjoy the benefit of further growth and compounding returns.
In short, creating value by being both early and patient.
Typically, the stakes Schiehallion buys are less than one per cent, making it a little different to most private equity trusts that usually take majority stakes in any business they invest in.
Schiehallion will often invest alongside several other firms and it could make several separate investments in the same company over a number of years, as and when further funding is required.
It prefers “later-stage” private companies, which in this context means they are valued at more than $500m. Nevertheless, given Baillie Gifford’s fondness for disruptive businesses, they will tend to be young operations and often will still be loss-making.
Since 2012, a few of Baillie Gifford’s other investment trusts have been putting significant sums of money into similar unquoted business, some of which have since gone public.
The list of names is impressive; Alibaba, Lyft, Spotify, Airbnb, SpaceX, Bytedance, and EPIC Games are among some of the best-known.
I think the maximum exposure any other Baillie Gifford trust has to unlisted companies right now is Scottish Mortgage at 20%.
The USP for Schiehallion is that it provides much more concentrated exposure to this type of investment.
Why the love for unlisted?
Baillie Gifford reckons many of the most attractive businesses are choosing to stay private a lot longer than they used to.
The classic example often given is the major tech companies. Facebook was a $100bn company when it floated in 2012. Google in 2004 was $23bn and Amazon’s 1997 debut was at a titchy $0.3bn.
There are many reasons given for this trend:
- it’s a lot easier to raise significant money as a private company these days;
- the regulations concerning IPOs in the US have become more restrictive;
- company founders want to retain control for longer;
- tech companies need fewer employees and less capital investment than more traditional businesses; and so on.
The widespread use of SPACs (special acquisition companies) in the US earlier this year might have reversed this trend for a while although it seems to have been a short-lived phenomenon. Tom Slater, lead manager at Scottish Mortgage, recently said this trend had pressurised some of its investments to go public earlier than he would like.
Baillie Gifford reckons its long-term approach and the scale at which it can invest means it gets invited to the most attractive unlisted opportunities.
Founders talk to each other and they seem to prefer investors that stay committed post-IPO and that have the cash and pre-disposition to make follow-on investments when it’s sensible to do so.
From the trust’s recent Prospectus:
In 2019, the BG Private Companies portfolio managers received their full allocations 95% of the time. For 2020, the figure was 96%. Baillie Gifford believes that this shows that there is significant demand among late-stage private companies for the kind of value-add it offers.
Schiehallion’s share price is quoted in US dollars. It raised $477m when it floated and a further $700m in a ‘C’ share issue a few months ago.
Currently, it trades at a 22% premium to net assets so its market cap is a shade under £1.3bn making it the fourth-largest of Baillie Gifford’s thirteen trusts.
It’s marginally smaller than Baillie Gifford’s global small-cap trust Edinburgh Worldwide but larger than Baillie Gifford US Growth, its two Japan trusts, and Scottish American.
What are ‘C’ shares?
Currently, Schiehallion has two classes of share – its Ordinary shares and its C shares.
C shares (the C stands for conversion) are often used by trusts that raise large sums of money and that invest in relatively illiquid assets.
As it takes time to invest all the new cash raised, it can be ring-fenced in a separate class of shares for a while. This means existing investors don’t suffer a “cash drag” on the shares they already hold while the new money is put to work.
After certain conditions are met or a set length of time has passed, the two classes of shares are merged (the C shares usually become ordinary shares) and the trust continues on its merry way.
In Schiehallion’s case, the conversion will take place once 85% of the new money raised is invested or three years have passed since the listing date of 26 April 2021, whichever comes sooner.
The conversion ratio applied will be based on the net asset value per share of the two different share classes at the time.
Schiehallion reckons two-thirds of the new money should be invested within two years and that was the expectation set for the money raised at its IPO as well.
As it turned out, 87% of the IPO money was invested within the first 22 months. Indeed, that prompted the recent C share issue to raise further firepower for future investments.
Pros and cons of C shares
I’ve not had to deal with C shares that much myself in the past and I’ve got no strong views on them. My sole VCT investment used a C share back in 2005 but I can’t recall another instance where I’ve had to deal with them personally.
Ignoring VCTs, there only a handful of other C shares around, namely the newly floated Cordiant Digital Infrastructure, KKV Secured Loan, and CATCo Reinsurance Opportunities.
KKV’s C shares date back to December 2016 and CATCo’s to December 2017. So, if things don’t go to plan, conversion may not take place for a long time.
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I suspect that’s unlikely to happen with Schiehallion but it’s worth being aware of as a risk.
In the meantime, until conversion takes place, you have to deal with two separate pools of assets and therefore slightly more complicated reporting.
The C shares will have a cash drag for a while, although that should lessen over time, so you’d expect their net asset growth to be slower than the Ordinary shares for a while. Likewise, any net asset value fall should be more muted.
I suspect the premium (or discount) the two classes trade at will be fairly similar reflecting the fact the two portfolios should be mashed together within a couple of years.
Key stats for The Schiehallion Fund
- Listed: March 2019 at $1.00 (Ords) and April 2021 at $1.00 (C shares)
- Domicile: Guernsey
- Continuation vote: No, unlimited life
- Managers: Peter Singlehurst (lead), Mark Urquhart and Robert Natzler (deputies) — all since launch
- Management firm: Baillie Gifford
- Ticker: MNTN (Ords) and MNTC (C shares), Schiehallion is a Scottish mountain, hence the ticker code MNTN.
- Sector: Growth capital (2nd out of 3 over 1 year)
- Benchmark: None mentioned, target of 3x over rolling 10-year periods
- Recent price: $1.87 (Ords) and $1.25 (C shares)
- Indicated spread: $1.83-$1.90 (Ords – 4%) and $1.20-$1.30 (C shares – 8%)
- Market cap: £1.26 bn (Ords and C shares combined)
- Net asset value: $1.531 (Ords) and $0.9925 (C shares) as of 31 May 21
- Premium to net assets: 22% (Ords) and 26% (C shares)
- Costs: 0.77% OCF, 0.77% KID
- Net cash: 7% (Ords) and 95% (C shares) as of 31 May 2021
- Number of holdings / top 10 holdings: 31 (4 listed and 27 unlisted) / 53% in top 10 for Ords, no details on the C portfolio yet
- Year-end: 31 January
- Results released: Mar (finals) and Sep (interims)
- Current dividend and yield: Nil
- Links: Website – AIC page
Price and related data as of 14 June 2021
Buying and selling Schiehallion
The minimum investment size for the recent C issue was $5 million, reflecting the fact the trust is designed for institutional investors.
Mere mortals can still buy and sell Schiehallion shares although it’s not available on all investing platforms. Some don’t list it at all while others may make you class yourself as a sophisticated investor before you can trade it.
Somewhat bizarrely, one platform I tried seemed to list the C shares but not the Ordinaries.
The Ordinary shares jumped to a 15% premium as soon as they started trading in March 2019 and have traded at a premium of between 10% and 30% for most of the time since then.
The C share issue a couple of months ago opened at a 25% premium and hasn’t moved much since.
You can see there is a chunky trading spread in the Ordinary shares and an even wider one in the C shares.
The LSE website reckons about £4m of Ordinary shares have traded on average each month so far in 2021, way higher than the £0.3m seen in the second half of 2020, so it looks like there’s a lot more liquidity right now.
There was a lot of trading in the C shares in the weeks following their issue but so far in June, the value of shares traded has been about a fifth that of the Ordinary shares.
Schiehallion’s investment policy
Schiehallion says it will only invest in private businesses that are considered to have some or all of the following features:
- the potential to grow revenue and earnings multiple fold over the long term;
- scalable business models that should enable those businesses to grow into their opportunity;
- robust competitive advantages;
- exceptional management teams;
- an entry price that significantly undervalues the long term opportunity for the business; and
- an ambition and ability to become standalone public companies.
“Multiple fold” is a pretty broad definition but we also know that “the Portfolio Manager will aspire to generate a net return for the Company of approximately three times invested capital over rolling 10-year periods”.
That works out at around 12% a year compounded. That’s not too aggressive given the 9-10% per annum that world markets have returned since the late 1980s. Many of Baillie Gifford’s funds target 2-3% a year above the return of world markets.
The minimum company valuation considered is $500m, as mentioned earlier, and no initial investment should account for more than 10% of the trust’s assets. Follow-on investments shouldn’t take a position over 20% of the trust’s assets.
In practice, initial investments are likely to be between 1.5% and 5% of net assets, with the portfolio consisting of anywhere between 20 and 60 investments. It’s around 30 now but could near that higher boundary once all the C share money is invested.
No structural gearing will be employed but short-term funding may be used to fund investments.
There’s no sector or region bias although the managers will be mindful of balancing such risks across the portfolio.
The annual report is a little light on information on the investment process but the Prospectus for the recent C share issue is more illuminating, particularly Parts I and II from pages 45 to 68.
For example, it lists out the 10 questions the trust’s managers ponder with respect to each investment:
1. Is there scope to substantially grow sales over the next five years?
2. What happens over ten years and beyond?
3. What is company X’s competitive advantage? How will it evolve?
4. How does company X’s business culture help it achieve the leadership’s long-term vision?
5. Why does company X’s customers like it? What is company X’s effect on society?
6. How will company X get to cash flow breakeven?
7. Will company X’s returns be worthwhile?
8. How does company X deploy capital?
9. How might our clients’ equity stake be worth 5x as much?
10. What is our competitive advantage in accessing and analysing this business?
It’s a fairly routine list but it does illustrate Baillie Gifford’s focus on the long-term prospects for each business and its lack of interest in short-term transient metrics.
What’s in the Schiehallion portfolio?
Time for a hilariously long table. This one shows the portfolio as of 31 January 2021 from the latest report and accounts.
There is a full portfolio listing on the Schiehallion website as of 31 May 2021 which looks like it gets updated monthly. There doesn’t seem to be a monthly factsheet produced as far as I can tell.
I collected a few data points together so the table shows both when Baillie Gifford first invested and when Schiehallion first invested. To date, about a third of Schiehallion’s investments are companies Baillie Gifford had invested in before.
It also shows the stake that Schiehallion owns, which is less than 1% of the company in all but four cases. And I used this figure and the value in the accounts to calculate an implied valuation for each company.
Given the percentage stakes are so small in many cases, there’s a pretty wide margin of error in my implied valuation numbers but it should give a broad overview of the mix of valuations.
|Company||What it does||Country||BG|
|% of NAV||Value|
|Affirm||Point-of-sale online credit||US||Mar-19||Aug-19||0.35||12.5||88.3||* 18.0|
|Bytedance||Social media (TikTok and Toutiao)||China||May-19||May-19||0.02||5.3||37.4||187.1|
|Stripe||Online payment processor for start-ups||US||Oct-19||Oct-19||0.04||5.3||37.4||93.5|
|Warby Parker||Direct-to-consumer eyewear||US||Apr-15||Oct-19||1.14||5.2||36.7||3.2|
|SpaceX||Space transportation with reusable rockets + Musk factor||US||Dec-18||Apr-19||0.05||5.1||36.0||72.0|
|Tempus||Genomic testing of tumours||US||Aug-18||May-19||0.36||4.3||30.4||8.4|
|TransferWise||International money transfers||UK||Feb-16||Jun-19||0.44||3.7||26.1||5.9|
|Oscar Health||Health insurance||US||Jun-20||Jun-20||0.21||3.3||23.3||* 5.2|
|EPIC Games||Video games (Fortnite, Gears of War)||US||Jun-20||Jun-20||0.12||3.2||22.6||18.8|
|Allbirds||Environmentally friendly footwear||US||Dec-19||Dec-19||1.19||3.1||21.9||1.8|
|Indigo||Improving crop yields using microbial expertise||US||Sep-17||Aug-19||0.32||2.6||18.4||5.7|
|Grail||DNA testing for cancer||US||Mar-17||Apr-20||0.24||2.5||17.7||7.4|
|Workrise Technologies (was RigUp)||Energy industry marketplace||US||Oct-19||Oct-19||0.67||2.2||15.5||2.3|
|Airbnb||Online accommodation portal||US||Jul-15||Dec-19||0.01||2.0||14.1||* 90.0|
|Graphcore||Semiconductors for AI and machine learning||UK||Feb-20||Feb-20||0.49||2.0||14.1||2.9|
|Cohesity||Data management software||US||Apr-20||Apr-20||0.44||1.8||12.7||2.9|
|Convoy||Digital freight brokerage platform||US||Oct-19||Oct-19||0.39||1.7||12.0||3.1|
|FlixMobility||Bus and train tech platform||Germany||Jul-19||Jul-19||0.48||1.5||10.6||2.2|
|Chime Financial||Online banking provider||US||Oct-20||Oct-20||0.07||1.4||9.9||14.1|
|Heartflow||Medical diagnostics for heart disease||US||Nov-17||Jun-19||0.63||1.4||9.9||1.6|
|Nuro||Delivery using autonomous vehicles||US||Nov-20||Nov-20||0.24||1.4||9.9||4.1|
|Zymergen||New materials using synthetic biology||US||Jul-20||Jul-20||0.45||1.4||9.9||* 4.4|
|Honor Technology||At-home care provider||US||Oct-20||Oct-20||0.64||0.7||4.9||0.8|
|T-Bills and cash||13.0||91.8|
* denotes the current market cap as this company is now listed.
This Unicorn list covers the top 700 or so unlisted companies valued at $1bn+ that have received outside equity investment.
It has 10 companies over $25bn and a further 22 between $10bn and $25bn. Schiehallion owns five of these 32 companies, including the three largest (Bytedance, Stripe, and SpaceX).
US businesses dominate the Schiehallion portfolio, as you would expect, accounting for just over 70% of net assets at this valuation point. The UK and China were 6% and 7% respectively with Germany and Sweden 1.5% each.
I suspect we’ll see a little more international diversification once the C share cash is fully invested.
The sectoral split isn’t that useful but, for what it’s worth, financials, IT, consumer discretionary, industrials, and healthcare are the five largest sectors accounting for 76% of net assets.
This chart from the C issue Prospectus is arguably more useful, showing the different themes by company and how they overlap:
Digital, data, sustainability, accessibility, and China cover most of the ideas.
Affirm (listed Jan 2021) and AirBnB (Dec 2020) were both publicly traded at the 31 January 2021 year-end but Oscar Health (Mar 2021) and Zymergen (Apr 2021) have since joined them.
The share price of Affirm is down by a third since it floated so it accounted for 7.2% of assets come May 2021 down from 12.5% at the end of January.
The Bytedance holding has been revalued from $37m to $54m so it’s now 7.2% of net assets with recent reports putting the company’s total value at $250bn.
There have also been notable valuation increases for EPIC Games, Tanium, Workrise, and Northvolt since 31 January 2021.
T-Bills and cash have dropped to 7% of net assets and there have been brand new $10m investments in Brex (business finance) and Masterclass (online education). Given the fall in the T-Bill/cash percentage, there may have been some follow-on investments, too.
On 17 June, Transferwise announced its intention to list on the London Stock Exchange so it could become the fifth Schiehallion investment to go public. Unusually for a UK-listed stock, it may have a dual share class.
As is often the case with unlisted investments, there is limited financial information on individual holdings. The notes to Schiehallion’s accounts just list turnover and profit figures for the two UK-based holdings. Similar information on unlisted US holdings is rarely publicly accessible.
A key thing I like to understand with trusts that invest in unlisted companies is the frequency with which their holdings are revalued.
Schiehallion looks to provide an updated net asset value per share every month, which is more frequent than many private equity trusts.
There have also been some mid-month net asset value updates recently. No reason seems to be given for these in the text of the announcements but I would guess they are related to either IPOs or significant revaluations after funding rounds.
On an individual investment basis, revaluations are made at least every three months but on a rolling basis. That means that, at any one time, some valuations will bang up to date while others could be one or two months old.
Schiehallion’s net asset value is therefore always likely to be a slightly lagging indicator.
Investors could see some fairly sharp net asset value movements due to the lumpy nature of updates. For example, net asset value was revised higher several times from $1.16 in late November 2020 to $1.52 by early February 2021.
Another useful thing to look at is the proportion of the portfolio valued at less than original cost or lower than the previous year-end. Given Schiehallion’s youth, you wouldn’t expect to see many such examples of this yet and that seems to be the case.
The latest accounts show Away, the luggage maker, has been written down by 25% while FlixMobility is down 8%. COVID seems to be the culprit in both cases.
In future, given the style of investing Baillie Gifford adopts, I would expect to see a much higher proportion of losing positions although, if the strategy works as intended, they should be more than offset by a few big winners.
Schiehallion compared to other Baillie Gifford trusts
There’s quite a lot of overlap between Schiehallion’s investments and Baillie Gifford’s other trusts, mainly Scottish Mortgage, Baillie Gifford US Growth, and Edinburgh Worldwide.
Monks also invests in unlisted companies but mainly through Schiehallion. It owns just under 10% of Schiehallion’s Ordinary shares and just over 10% of the C shares, making it Monks’ largest single position at 3.7% of its portfolio.
The two trusts Baillie Gifford has recently won the mandate for — Baillie Gifford China Growth and Keystone Positive Change — are both likely to have significant unlisted holdings at some point but they are only just starting down that path.
Here are the holdings that seem to overlap:
|% in unlisted||20%||14%||8%|
|Current authority||Up to 30%||Up to 50%||Up to 15%|
Scottish Mortgage has the greatest proportion of overlaps, which is not surprising given its wide brief and long-standing interest in unlisted companies.
Baillie Gifford US Growth may catch it up, though, given it has the authority to invest up to half of its portfolio in unlisted companies.
There are a few big-hitters, in the unlisted sense, that are in the Scottish Mortgage portfolio but not in Schiehallion’s. The ones I noted were Ant Financial, Ginkgo Bioworks, and Blockchain Technologies.
As you might expect, there could be occasions where there are a few Baillie Gifford trusts competing for the same funding rounds. It says there are policies in place “to fairly allocate unlisted investment between competing pools” although the specifics aren’t detailed.
Baillie Gifford’s track record in unlisted companies
The recent Prospectus has some useful information on how Baillie Gifford has done with respect to this style of investing:
This composite group of investments has generated a gross internal rate of return (IRR) of 32.1% as of 31 December 2020.
This IRR was generated from 83 investments made across the period, generating US$15.1 billion in value from US$7.4 billion of invested capital, US$5.1 billion of which was invested in companies while they were private, and a further US$2.3 billion of which was invested at IPO.
This gives a gross multiple of invested capital (MOIC) of 2.14.
The gross MOIC may appear to be low in the context of the IRR figure. This is because as Baillie Gifford has continually increased the amount of capital deployed into private companies, this gross multiple is heavily weighted towards investments made in more recent years that have not yet had time to increase significantly in value and that are still held in portfolios.
Of the 83 companies, as of March 2021, 23 have become listed and 18 of those are still held by Baillie Gifford.
Including costs (based on the highest charge of the fund that’s invested in each company) would reduce the IRR to 31.2%.
So the IRR to date for this strategy is a lot higher than the 12% ‘official’ annual return target. But it’s still early days for Baillie Gifford as an unlisted investor so we shouldn’t get carried away.
This chart shows all the percentage returns by company:
Eyeballing the chart, there are probably as many +400% gainers as they are 50%+ losers. Of course, it’s also worth noting that the investing environment for the last several years has suited Baillie Gifford’s approach to a tee.
Performance to date
Here’s a chart showing Schiehallion’s performance in US dollar terms compared to Scottish Mortgage, Baillie Gifford US Growth, and Edinburgh Worldwide since March 2019:
Schiehallion’s returns have been a lot lower but also much less volatile. How much of this is due to the fact that Schiehallion was only partially invested during this period is difficult to gauge.
Now that the Ordinary shares are pretty much fully invested, I would expect Schiehallion to track this trio more closely but perhaps to still be a little less volatile, given its assets aren’t revalued daily.
On a similar basis, the value of the C shares will probably be a lot less volatile than the Ordinaries for a couple of years, while Schiehallion works its way through the $700m of money it raised.
By the way, the share price gain of 66% shown for Schiehallion doesn’t include the initial pop from the IPO price of $1.00. The chart starts at $1.13 where the shares closed on their first day of trading. Including the first-day pop would take the share price gain to 87% in US dollar terms.
The currency risk is also worth highlighting here as the pound has gone from around $1.30 to $1.41 since Schiehallion IPO’d. Schiehallion’s pound-based share price return since its first-day close is 55%, compared to 66% in US dollar terms.
Lead manager Peter Singlehurst, interviewed here in June 2021, is still quite young having only graduated in 2009 and he hasn’t run any other public-facing trusts or funds as far as I can tell.
He has only worked at Baillie Gifford since leaving University but he appears to have been a key individual in the unlisted company strategy:
Peter is Head of the Private Companies Team at Baillie Gifford and manager of the Schiehallion Fund. He joined the firm in 2010 and initially spent time working in our Credit and UK Equity Teams, before moving to our Global Discovery Team, which focuses on identifying innovative and rapidly growing smaller companies around the world.
He moved to our Long Term Global Growth Team in 2014 at a time when the team was starting to invest in more private companies and became the first investor at Baillie Gifford to work exclusively on private company research. In September 2017, he moved to lead a newly formed Private Companies team, which is focussed on identifying high growth, late-stage private companies.
In parallel to company research, Peter has worked to build out Baillie Gifford’s internal infrastructure for investing in private companies and developed new fund structures, with an emphasis on long term alignment and low cost, to allow clients to access the universe of high growth private companies.
Peter graduated with a BA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics in 2008, and a MA in Philosophy in 2009 from Durham University.
Singlehurst doesn’t seem to be a Baillie Gifford partner yet but deputy manager Mark Urquhart is and has been since 2004.
Schiehallion’s other deputy, Robert Natzler, graduated in 2014 but has been involved with the Private Companies team for a large chunk of his time at Baillie Gifford.
The management charges here are tiered:
- 0.9% up to net assets of $650m;
- 0.8% between $650m and $1.3bn; and
- 0.7% above $1.3bn.
That results in an ongoing charges figure of 0.77% which is very competitive for a trust specialising in unlisted companies although comparable to other Baillie Gifford trusts of similar size.
Skin in the game and major shareholders
Unusually, the three directors of this trust don’t own any shares and there is no information on whether the three managers own any either.
However, we do know that, via Monks, Baillie Gifford owns around 10% of the share capital which I take as a major vote of confidence.
Prior to the C share issue, there were a few major holders:
- Florida Retirement System Trust (39.7%)
- Royal Bank of Canada (9.9% but indirectly)
- Winnipeg Civic Employees’ Pension Fund (8.8%)
- Textron Inc. Master Trust (7.3%)
- NAV Canada Pension Plan (5.2%)
Together with Monks, that meant 81% was owned by just six institutions.
The C share issue has reduced this concentration somewhat. Of the major six, only Baillie Gifford and Royal Bank of Canada took part in both the IPO and C share issue with a new major investor, BlackRock, taking 8% of the C shares.
Schiehallion seems to have made an excellent start and collected an impressively broad spread of businesses in its first two years.
Despite the fact it would seem to be at the riskier end of the Baillie Gifford ‘disruptive investing’ spectrum, its 29% year-to-date return is by far the best of all the Baillie Gifford trusts. Indeed, seven of the thirteen are down in 2021.
There’s always the risk the bar on new investments could be lowered now it has a fresh $700m to deploy but this type of strategy probably needs a lot more companies than it currently has to increase its chances of finding those few big winners.
Of course, having a few big winners could become an issue for the trust as well.
Affirm briefly crossed the 10% mark earlier this year but we could see a time when there are a handful of positions above this level. It’s not clear to me how Schiehallion intends to manage any such concentration risk but perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself.
However, it’s much harder to reduce a sizeable position in an unlisted company than it is in something highly liquid, like Amazon or Tesla.
Since last summer, Schiehallion has been issuing new Ordinary shares, with its share count rising from 477m to 490m. That seemed to narrow its premium for a little while, but it’s increased again in the last few months to over 20%. That’s racy, certainly compared to most private equity trusts which often trade on double-digit discounts, and another risk factor to be aware of.
Investing in the C shares rather than the Ordinaries might be a lower-risk way of getting acquainted with Schiehallion before the planned conversion takes place. However, the C shares do trade on a slightly higher premium and bid-offer spread.
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