JLEN cuts fees and proposes name change as continuation vote looms

Chair Ed Warner proposes a change of name to Foresight Environmental Infrastructure and cuts the management fee as the persistent discount triggers the fund's first continuation vote in September.

The board of JLEN Environmental Assets (JLEN ) has reduced the management fee and is proposing shareholders vote to change the fund’s name to Foresight Environmental Infrastructure at the September annual general meeting.

Chair Ed Warner said in the fund’s annual report that to ensure it was ‘as attractive as possible to current and potential shareholders’, fees would now be calculated using net asset value (NAV) rather than adjusted portfolio value, which includes assets bought with debt.

Shareholders in the fund, which has £769m in net assets, will now pay a 0.8% management fee, and if net assets exceed £1bn, a new 0.75% tier has been introduced. Ongoing charges over the year were 1.24%.

Foresight manager Chris Tanner told Citywire that the fee changes would have saved shareholders almost £1m in the 12 months to the end of March.

The board is proposing shareholders vote to change the fund’s name at the AGM to reflect it being five years since Foresight acquired the investment management team of John Laing that managed the fund.

‘The board has assessed the benefits available through a closer association with the investment manager - including the scale afforded by its broader marketing initiatives and strong market reputation - and believes that there are clear commercial benefits to renaming the company,’ Warner said.

The move comes as the trust, which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year, grapples with the shares trading at a 24% discount. This has triggered the trust’s first continuation vote as the shares traded below an average 10% discount over the year.

Warner said the board was making progress in the sale of several assets, with the first transaction expected to be completed in the coming months. Any proceeds would be put towards the first share buyback programme and paying down debt. Stifel has previously suggested this could rerate the shares.

The board refinanced a new £200m three-year revolving credit facility during the period, providing headroom for new investments and construction milestone payments. Net debt was £159m or 21% of net assets at the financial year end. Including project-level debt total leverage is 45% of NAV.

The board paid out a 7.57p dividend covered 1.3 times by revenues, which was supported by near-term fixed revenues, but the portfolio’s NAV fell 7.7% to 113.6p, knocked by falling power price forecasts and increased discount rates.

Tanner said that the targeted 2025 dividend of 7.8p, which marks a 3% increase, would remain covered by portfolio revenues, given 59% of revenues are fixed at 2022 highs over the short-term.

‘Over the very short term, only 19% of revenues are floating rate, which gives the portfolio protection in downside scenarios,’ Tanner (pictured) said.

Tanner and co-manager Ed Mountney expect several assets to come online this year, including the Norway-based aquaculture asset, which grows trout on land. The asset recycles virtually all the water it uses and provides a safer environment for trout than coastal pens, which are often rife with parasites and damage the seabed.

Tanner was bullish about the outlook for renewable infrastructure, which has been heavily impacted by rising interest rates, but emphasised that shareholders were considered at every stage.

‘We are very mindful of the environment we sit in and that shareholders face, so we’ll be predominately focused on the portfolio: bringing construction assets into operation to the extent that if we do make new investments, we will be highly selective. We have no intention of making new investments in the current environment over buying back shares and paying down debt.’

The portfolio comprises 42 assets, with wind making up 27%, waste and bioenergy constituting 24%, anaerobic digestion 18% and solar 14%. Low carbon and sustainable solutions, controlled environment and hydro assets have respective weightings of 9%, 7% and 1%. About 90% of these are in the UK, with the remainder in Norway, Germany and Italy.

The shares rose 0.7% to 87.3p on Friday, but have shed 16% over the last year, according to data from Deutsche Numis. 

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