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Pictet Global Environmental Opportunities is the £2bn fund that helps to save the planet

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Over the past quarter of a century, Swiss-based Pictet Asset Management has built a reputation for ‘thematic’ investing – identifying key long-term investment trends and then setting up funds that hold shares in companies likely to benefit from them.

It’s resulted in a steady conveyor belt of new Pictet funds investing in a variety of ‘themes’ – including robotics, biotech, health and nutrition – and an investment house with more than £32 billion of assets under management.

One of its most popular and successful thematic funds is Global Environmental Opportunities, a £2 billion fund that invests in companies looking to tackle some of the world’s biggest environmental challenges. These include climate change, widespread chemical pollution and increasing acidification of the world’s oceans.

So far, it has performed more than satisfactorily as far as investors are concerned. A fund investment of £1,000 made five years ago would now be worth more than £1,920 – far more than equivalent investments in the average global fund (£1,680) or the FTSE All Share Index (£1,360).

The fund is managed by three individuals, but also draws on ideas from the rest of Pictet’s thematic team. There is an independent adviser who provides an insight into the latest environmental developments.

Luciano Diana, senior investment manager, says there are some 400 companies that meet its environmental hurdles for potential inclusion in the fund.

Of these, 50 make it into the portfolio, mostly technology focused and United States based – although Diana scours the globe in search of investment opportunities. ‘Everyone is currently talking about ESG – environmental, social and governance – in investment circles,’ says Diana. ‘Our investment approach has a strong emphasis on the E while integrating the S and G into our investment process.’

The stock selection criteria that Diana and his team applies is rigorous. No company will be considered unless it is having a ‘positive impact’ on one of nine specific ‘planetary boundaries’ laid down by the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University – a leader in research on global sustainability. This positive impact could be a result of a company being at the forefront of waste collection and treatment, water technology or energy storage. 

The boundaries are those applying to key environmental issues such as ozone depletion that if exceeded begin to threaten the globe’s existence. As a matter of course, it eliminates from its selection process all companies involved in oil and gas exploration, fossil fuels or chemicals.

‘We’re looking for solution providers,’ says Diana, ‘companies that through their products will have a positive environmental impact.’

Among the fund’s top ten holdings are pollution control specialist Thermo Fisher Scientific, renewable energy company Vestas Wind Systems and French water supplier Veolia. Diana says companies are typically held for two and a half years before profits are taken.

Although the Geneva-based fund is skewed towards the US, Diana believes this will change as more companies in China and across emerging markets come up with products designed to safeguard the environment. The fund’s annual charges are just short of 1.2 per cent and it is not suitable for income hunters.

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Coronavirus set to claim a series of corporate victims as Brighthouse and Carluccio’s near collapse

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The coronavirus is set to claim a series of corporate victims this week as Brighthouse and Carluccio’s near collapse. 

Rent-to-own firm Brighthouse will appoint administrators today after the lockdown tipped it over the edge. 

And Italian-style restaurant chain Carluccio’s is working with administrators FRP to ‘consider all options’ in a move which could threaten more than 2,000 jobs. 

On the brink: Rent-to-own firm Brighthouse will appoint administrators after the lockdown tipped it over the edge

On the brink: Rent-to-own firm Brighthouse will appoint administrators after the lockdown tipped it over the edge

On the brink: Rent-to-own firm Brighthouse will appoint administrators after the lockdown tipped it over the edge

Carluccio’s chief executive Mark Jones said that his company is ‘days away from large-scale closures’ without state aid, while a group of 38 MPs have written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak urging him to step in with an aid package to support the aviation sector as travel bans have decimated bookings. 

Research from accountancy firm UHY Hacker Young has revealed that the number of restaurant insolvencies last year climbed 10 per cent to 1,500, while the number of pubs which went bust also increased by 10 per cent, to 500. 

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Locked down zoo saved as Lloyds Bank stumps up £300,000

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A Somerset zoo that was forced to close its doors to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic has bagged £300,000 of funding to help it survive. 

Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm, in Wraxall near Bristol, was forced to shut last weekend in the run-up to its busiest time of the year, but was facing substantial costs to look after more than 1,000 animals. 

Lifeline: Noah's Ark Zoo Farm, in Wraxall near Bristol, was forced to shut last weekend in the run-up to its busiest time of the year

Lifeline: Noah's Ark Zoo Farm, in Wraxall near Bristol, was forced to shut last weekend in the run-up to its busiest time of the year

Lifeline: Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm, in Wraxall near Bristol, was forced to shut last weekend in the run-up to its busiest time of the year

However, the family owners were able to breathe a sigh of relief after agreeing a £300,000 package with Lloyds Bank which will allow them to retain their team of specialist staff. 

Lenders are under pressure from the Government and Bank of England to support businesses through the lockdown. Lloyds has worked with Noah’s Ark for the entire 66 years the Bush family has been on site. 

Managing director Larry Bush said: ‘Running a zoo is a huge undertaking and we were really concerned about our animals. 

‘But our catering suppliers donated fruit and veg that would otherwise have been delivered to local hotels and restaurants, and the public have shown their support.’ 

 

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Arcadia halts £2m pension top-ups as it tries to cling on to cash in face of coronavirus lockdown

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Sir Philip Green’s retail empire is suspending payments to its pension scheme as it desperately tries to cling on to cash in the face of the coronavirus lockdown. 

Arcadia, which owns High Street brands including Topshop, Wallis and Dorothy Perkins, will halt the £2m monthly contributions which were agreed with The Pensions Regulator last summer to reduce a shortfall in the pension scheme. 

Under pressure: Sir Philip Green's Arcadia owns High Street brands including Topshop, Wallis and Dorothy Perkins

Under pressure: Sir Philip Green's Arcadia owns High Street brands including Topshop, Wallis and Dorothy Perkins

Under pressure: Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia owns High Street brands including Topshop, Wallis and Dorothy Perkins

The deal saw Sir Philip’s wife, Tina, who technically owns Arcadia, agree to plug the gap in the scheme by also making her own £25m per year contributions. 

She will continue to make those payments, despite the crisis hitting High Street sales. 

But pensions expert John Ralfe, who advised MPs investigating the collapse of Sir Philip’s High Street chain BHS, estimates that if Arcadia were to go bust the current shortfall in its pension scheme would be around £350m to £400m.

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