UK Stock Market Offers Global Investment Opportunities

Only around 27% of the FTSE All Share’s revenues come from the UK. By contrast, the S&P 500 index revenue exposure to the US is a high 62%.  

Dimitar Boyadzhiev 19 February, 2019 | 12:23PM
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It’s hard to think of another event in recent memory causing more uncertainty for UK businesses than Brexit. Following the vote in June 2016, the FTSE All Share Index has underperformed the global benchmark MSCI World by 6.3% in annualised terms.

Some argue that that this makes UK companies prime objective for bargain hunters. However, investing in businesses that are reliant on the health of the British economy remains a risky bet.

How Badly Can Brexit Hurt UK Companies?

No one yet knows which path the Brexit process will take. Even if the withdrawal deal is approved, the UK is in for a transition period when the future relationship will have to be negotiated; in effect meaning that uncertainty would continue to weigh on investment decisions, stock valuations and the value of sterling. The alternative scenarios of the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal or that of a second Brexit referendum also do little to mitigate uncertainty.

One thing is certain, though: to date, the added risk created by the Brexit process has not been good for UK stocks that are more heavily reliant on home revenues. Domestically-oriented UK firms have significantly underperformed stocks with greater international revenue diversity.

This highlights the importance of considering where companies earn their revenues when thinking about geographical risk. This is particularly relevant when investing in passive funds, as traditional equity indices attribute geographical distribution solely based on a company’s legal domicile. This is hardly a good way of going about understanding where the true sources of risk lie.

Where Do Corporate Revenues Come From?

Turning the revenue lens on UK stocks shows a very different picture of the true geographical risk exposure of buying a UK equity index fund or ETF.  

According to our calculations, only around 27% of the FTSE All Share’s revenues come from the UK. By contrast, the S&P 500 index revenue exposure to the US is a high 62%.  The UK stock market has one of the smallest home country biases in terms of revenue out of all the major global markets thanks to the large number of international businesses with global operations that are legally domiciled here.

This picture for the mid and small-cap indices FTSE 250 and FTSE Small Cap is very different. Nearly half of their constituents’ profitability depends on the business they do in home turf.

UK equity indices revenue sources Brexit global stock market UK revenues

Using this revenue origination approach, it would seem that Investors in ETFs and index funds keen to retain or increase their allocation to UK companies, but eager to minimise the impact of Brexit uncertainty on returns could be better served by funds tracking the FTSE All Share index.

2 Top-Rated FTSE All-Share Passive Funds

UK Investors have a broad choice of funds that track the FTSE All Share Index. Holding more than 600 stocks, the portfolio blankets nearly all UK stocks. The top holdings include Royal Dutch Shell, HSBC, and British American Tobacco, with weightings of around 4%-8% weighting each.

It is also well-diversified across different sectors. The highest weighting is towards financials, followed by consumer staples, energy, industrials, consumer discretionary, and materials.

The SPDR UK FTSE All Share ETF (FTAL) charges only 0.2% and it is the cheapest ETF available to UK investors. For those who prefer to invest in a traditional mutual index fund, the best option is the iShares UK Equity Index Fund with an ongoing charge of only 0.06%. Both funds have had a minimal level of tracking error, and we have a positive view on the portfolio management teams. Both funds carry a Morningstar Analyst Rating of Silver.

A version of this article appeared in Money Observer magazine

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The information contained within is for educational and informational purposes ONLY. It is not intended nor should it be considered an invitation or inducement to buy or sell a security or securities noted within nor should it be viewed as a communication intended to persuade or incite you to buy or sell security or securities noted within. Any commentary provided is the opinion of the author and should not be considered a personalised recommendation. The information contained within should not be a person's sole basis for making an investment decision. Please contact your financial professional before making an investment decision.

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About Author

Dimitar Boyadzhiev  is a Passive Strategies Research Analyst for Morningstar