Volta Finance

The benefits of having AXA IM as the manager

07 Dec 2023 / Corporate research

In this note, we review the value added to Volta by having AXA IM as the manager. In particular, AXA IM’s scale in Alternative Credit brings i) greater resourcing, allowing specialist expertise to identify mis-priced opportunities and manage risk, ii) a network with informational advantages, allowing early identification of trends, and iii) business introduction and portfolio opportunities unavailable to smaller players. Good governance means potential conflicts of interest appear well managed. The bottom line is that AXA IM has consistently outperformed benchmarks, especially in challenging conditions, including the pandemic and GFC.

  • Strong current position: Volta’s current cash receipts are over 20% of NAV, reflecting low defaults (strong corporate cashflows and profitability, ability to pass on inflation to date), low locked-in CLO borrowing costs, CLOs being floating-rate investments and Volta’s portfolio positioning over recent years into CLO equity.
  • Resilience: The rating agency’s/Volta’s/our confidence in a relatively low expected level of defaults reflects i) a strong starting position, including high cash cushions in CLO structures, ii) a preponderance of private equity (PE), iii) inflation still being friend, not foe, iv) covenant-lite documentation, and v) diversification.
  • Valuation: Volta trades at a double discount: its share price is at a 21% discount to NAV, and we believe its mark-to-market (MTM) NAV still includes a further sentiment-driven discount to the present value of expected cashflows. Volta targets an 8% of NAV dividend (10.3% 2024E yield on current share price).
  • Risks: Credit risk is a key sensitivity. We examined the valuation of assets, highlighting the multiple controls to ensure its validity, in our initiation note, in September 2018. The NAV is exposed to sentiment towards its own and underlying markets. Volta’s long $ position is only partially hedged.
  • Investment summary: Volta is an investment for sophisticated investors, as both the NAV and the discount to NAV may be volatile over time. We note the closest competitor to Volta has had a more stable NAV valuation due to a different asset valuation approach. Fundamental long-term returns have been robust: 7.7% p.a. (dividend reinvested basis) since inception. Volta’s performance relative to that of its peers has been strong, and returns for investments made after the financial crisis were double those in prior years.
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