F&C takes aim at rising costs

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The Independent Online
FOREIGN and Colonial Investment Trust, the pounds 1.5bn giant of the sector, is to tackle the burgeoning costs of its savings scheme, which has brought it nearly 65,000 shareholders.

Michael Hart, the F&C director who manages the fund, said: 'Expenses are running at quite a rate of knots because of the costs of servicing shareholders.'

F&C will demand a cheaper service from its suppliers rather than increase costs to investors. The wave of regular purchases created by the savings schemes has narrowed the discount of the trust's share price to its net asset value to a negligible 1 per cent.

Mr Hart was reporting an 8.6 per cent rise in NAV to 244.9p over the six months to 30 June. This outperformed the FTA All-share index, which rose 5 per cent.

The trust has had to restrict its uptake of enhanced scrip dividends, a device pioneered by BAT Industries. It is concerned the Inland Revenue would treat these as capital profits should it distribute the proceeds to shareholders as income. This could threaten its investment trust status.

F&C's second-best-performing large investment was its interest in Hypo Foreign & Colonial Management, its fund manager. The link with Hypo Bank of Germany brought in more than pounds 1bn in the first half.

Mr Hart said the deal with Hypo four years ago was 'probably the most successful deal in the City which a UK firm has done with a European institution'.

F&C is increasing its interim dividend from 1.12p to 1.15p a share.