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2020 has been undoubtedly the most tumultuous of my life and I am sure this is a sentiment shared by most of us. We have felt at once powerless to act, small, and insignificant in the face of the global pandemic which has brought so much devastation to society and the economy. Nevertheless, in the face of adversity, our portfolios, built to deliver sustainable prosperity to those stakeholders they touch, have proved resilient and performed strongly, with special mention for our Milltrust Global Emerging Markets Fund, The Climate Impact Asia Fund, and our ASEAN, Korea, China and India funds in particular.
We are also proud to have been able to support the incredible work of scientists in the United Kingdom whose phenomenal advances have enabled the UK to be the first country in the world to roll out a fully peer-reviewed coronavirus vaccine, from an established technology run by Vaccitech and the team at the University of Oxford’s Jenner Institute. Furthermore, the team at Attomarker, who developed a hand-held diagnostic device using pioneering photonics to identify biomarkers in micro-units of blood, immediately upped sticks and moved to St Thomas’s hospital in March to work on the first cohort of Wuhan patients infected with the virus. Here, they validated the world’s first multiplex antigen and antibody test for COVID-19, enabling clinicians to determine whether an individual is infected and to what extent he/she might be protected by antibodies.
As the year drew on, ‘Build Back Better’ became the rallying call for action across the world, reigniting the climate change imperative and aligning perfectly with our focus on delivering solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges without sacrificing returns.
Our British Innovation Fund, which seeded Roslin Technologies (RT), the UK’s largest agri-science startup at the University of Edinburgh, gave life to a number of new investable ventures, including pioneering the cutting-edge science behind sustainable protein, such as the production of lab-grown meat, sustainable insect protein derived from Black Soldier Fly larvae, and sustainable breeding platforms for shrimp and pig. With breakthrough science emanating from Vetsina, another portfolio company, to vaccinate cattle against the debilitating effects Trypanosoma, the cause of African sleeping sickness, RT has continued to emphasise the importance animal health, complementing Milltrust’s dedicated sustainable agriculture investments and ag-tech activities.
The year also saw Milltrust become a signatory of the UN Principles for Responsible Investment, and the successful launch of our landmark Climate Impact Asia Fund (CIAF) in partnership with WWF-Hong Kong, the Asia branch of the world’s largest ecology focused NGO. Heralded as the Asian Impact Initiative of the Year by the magazine, Environmental Finance, this program supports the species extinctions campaigns of WWF across Asia.
We followed this initiative with the launch of 7 new ESG-focused emerging markets equity mandates for our managed account platform, focused on China, India, South Korea, Southeast Asia, Russia, Africa, and Brazil, all exhibiting stellar returns through to year end.
Since the dramatic stock market crash experienced in March, most markets recovered to a large extent, with the China market in particular soaring to a record high of in excess of 10 trillion dollars market capitalisation. America’s tech-laden Nasdaq also soared by over 40% to year-end. Both our Milltrust Global Emerging Markets Fund and CIAF benefited strongly from our investment specialists’ unparalleled stock picking and the strong tailwinds across our sectors of focus, which has reaped strong returns for our investors.
As we embark on the New Year, we can only hope that 2021 will soon return us to some level of normality, and an improved lot for those people in the developing world most severely impacted by the crisis at a very fundamental level. Not by the COVID-19 death rate, where countries with low life expectancy and young populations have not borne anything like the brunt of the casualties seen in the West, but where the collateral damage has been the calamitous impact on supply chains, brutally impacting the lives of millions of individuals that manufacture our consumer staples, dragging them into desperate poverty. The World Food Program has suggested that as many as 300,000 people could be at risk of starvation by the end of 2020. A sobering reminder of how lucky many of us are.
CEO & Founder
Milltrust International Group