Bellevue Group performed well as a pure asset manager amid the extremely challenging market environment of 2020. The unrelenting coronavirus pandemic drew ever-increasing attention to health and healthcare issues. Interest in Bellevue Group’s widely recognized capabilities as an investor in the healthcare sector rose and remains high, both in Switzerland and abroad. This growing interest boosted our company’s business development and growth during the past year.
2020 was an investment year of unprecedented extremes and tremendous volatility on financial markets that will likely stand out in investors’ memories for years to come. After a strong start to the year, global stock markets experienced dramatic losses in a very short period of time due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic at the end of February. By every indication, the world was headed for a momentous crisis and a prolonged economic slump.
Thanks to huge fiscal and monetary rescue packages from governments and central banks around the world and the remarkably fast development of promising vaccines, financial markets staged a speedy recovery. Stocks not only regained the ground they had lost during the crash, major exchanges even set new record highs as 2020 came to an end.
«The year of health» – client assets set new record high
For Bellevue, the past year was all about health. Protecting the health of its employees and clients was its number one priority. Thanks to the deployment of the latest information technology and the tremendous flexibility of everyone involved, business operations were quickly reset to accommodate the new reality and the transition to digital client contact went very smoothly. The health-related consequences of COVID-19 and resulting major repercussions in political and media circles heightened investor interest in healthcare and biotech in particular – Bellevue’s two areas of specialty.
«Assets under management rose to a record high of
CHF 12 bn at the end of the year»
Assets under management recovered from the nearly 20% pandemic-induced decline in March 2020 and rose to a new record high of CHF 12.0 bn at the end of the year. Bellevue Group used the surprisingly quick market recovery to its advantage. Most of its investment products outperformed and the healthcare strategies attracted more than CHF 1 bn in new money. The funds with the greatest inflows over the year were BB Adamant Digital Health (CHF 348 mn), BB Adamant Medtech & Services (CHF 268 mn) and BB Adamant Asia Pacific Healthcare (CHF 179 mn), and BB Healthcare Trust (CHF 115 mn), an investment trust listed in London. A total of CHF 9.4 bn is now being managed in Bellevue’s healthcare strategies.
Alternative investment strategies also attracted greater attention. BB Pureos Bioventures has received USD 168 mn in capital since its launch in 2018. In view of the capital commitments received in early 2021 and the persisting high levels of interest, this fund will likely pass the USD 200 mn threshold at the end of March 2021, when the final closing is scheduled. Direct equity investments continued to grow as well. Demand for traditional investment strategies was weaker, as expected, leading to an outflow of CHF 503 mn. Net new money inflows therefore amounted to CHF 377 mn. The year 2020 clearly demonstrated that only innovative investment strategies will attract the interest of investors today.
Building solid value – 80% of all assets under management outperform
Bellevue Group's goal is to create sustainable value for its clients with innovative investment ideas. That goal was impressively achieved once again during the past year. About 80% of assets under management outperformed their respective benchmark in 2020. In fact, an even higher 84% of Bellevue products have outperformed their respective benchmarks since the company was founded and generated substantial value for the client.
Nearly every healthcare strategy delivered a double-digit return for the year. Each of the Group's four flagship products now manage CHF 1 bn or more in assets and they also generated strong returns. The two investment companies BB Biotech and BB Healthcare Trust closed 2020 with a performance, respectively, of 19% in CHF (30% in USD) and 29% in GBP (33% in USD) and delivered an excess performance of 4% and 19% in USD versus their respective benchmarks. The BB Adamant Digital Health Fund advanced no less than 68% in USD. The two regional healthcare strategies, BB Adamant Emerging Markets Healthcare and BB Adamant Asia Pacific Healthcare, generated likewise strong returns of von 51% and 45% in USD. Bellevue Group’s performance track record is attributed in no small terms to the stability of its portfolio management teams. The lead portfolio managers of 16 of its 19 strategies have not changed since the inception date of these 19 products.
In the first quarter of 2020 we also increased our Group's long-term, sustainable focus. All investment portfolios were systematically assessed and scored by means of an ESG integration process that enables us to take into consideration sustainability risks, violations of human rights and standards, carbon emissions and other factors.
Sustainability is an issue that Bellevue Group is taking very seriously. In 2020, highlights included development of the first voluntary UN PRI Report for Bellevue Asset Management AG in April for the year 2019, ESG training sessions for portfolio managers hosted by external ESG providers, and participation in (virtual) ESG conferences, in addition to the development and implementation of a formal investment policy embracing sustainability-related issues.Learn more
Group net profit up 59% to CHF 22.3 mn
Bellevue Group was able to improve its performance and efficiency at the operational level. Consolidated operating income rose by 8.4% to CHF 109.9 mn. Approximately 93% of this sum is asset-based and thus recurring earnings that are not dependent on investment performance.
Operating expenses showed a proportionately smaller increase, up by just over 4.4% to CHF 63.6 mn, despite the continuous expansion of our investment teams and slightly higher profit-based compensation awards. This led to a 14.3% year-on-year increase in Bellevue Group’s operating profit to CHF 46.3 mn and the cost/income ratio improved to 57.9%. Reported bottom-line profit was reduced by valuation adjustments in connection with the repositioning of our StarCapital subsidiary, resulting in consolidated net profit of CHF 22.3 mn – an increase of 59.3% from the previous year.
Creating value for shareholders – ordinary dividend increased by 20% and a special dividend of CHF 2.50 per share
Bellevue Group is maintaining its shareholder-friendly dividend policy. A 20% increase in the ordinary dividend to CHF 1.50 per share will be proposed at the Annual General Meeting. This corresponds to a dividend yield of nearly 5% based on the closing price of December 31, 2020.
Furthermore, the board plans to distribute proceeds from the sale of Bank am Bellevue, which closed in April 2020, and other reserves from the 2019 disposal of the equity interest in SIX to shareholders by way of a special dividend of CHF 2.50 per share.
The Group's financial base remains very stable even after the proposed payments and underscores the confidence that the Board of Directors and the Executive Board have in the Group’s current business model.
Return on equity based on reported net profit and average capital after distribution of the proposed dividends stands at 21.7%, which is better than average compared to peers.
Bellevue Group strengthened its shareholder structure during the year under review by welcoming Hansjörg Wyss as a major shareholder. He has a long-term investment horizon and, together with the core shareholders and employees, will contribute to the steady growth and development of the company.
More clearly profiled as an innovative, focused asset manager
Bellevue Group's more focused business model with the three core competencies of specialized healthcare strategies, alternative investment solutions, and traditional niche investment vehicles gives us a more distinctive profile as a specialized pure play asset manager. Selective investments will be made to support the ongoing growth of the core «healthcare» segment. A stronger push to expand the «Private Markets» unit and the development of new ideas and innovations for our traditional and non-traditional investment strategies will enhance growth prospects under the current business model. This is also intended to give a lasting boost to Bellevue’s diversification and differentiation potential as a «House of Ideas».
With the launch of the BB Entrepreneur Private Fund, a growth financing vehicle for successful Swiss SMEs, a new cycle of product innovation already commenced in January 2021. There are more product ideas in the pipeline. At the same time, necessary measures will be taken to clean up and reposition our range of traditional products.
We expect the general market environment to remain volatile, but with support from global monetary and fiscal policy coordination. Although valuations are rich, we still consider stocks the most attractive asset class today. That said, changing policy frameworks, such as the new administration in Washington and the implications that may have for the US healthcare sector, will be closely monitored. Bellevue Group’s robust business model, acknowledged investment expertise, and stable shareholder structure put it in a good position to create further lasting value for its clients and shareholders. The strong course of business at the beginning of the current year confirms our stance.
We look to the future with confidence thanks to the tremendous commitment and agility of our employees. On behalf of the Board of Directors and the Executive Board, we thank them for their dedication. Thanks are also due to our clients and shareholders for their trust and loyalty, which inspire and motivate us in our daily work.
Veit de Maddalena
Chairman of the Board of Directors
Chief Executive Officer