The countries of Northern Europe have so far weathered the Corona crisis and the Ukraine war better than other regions. This is true for their economies as a whole as well as for companies, stock markets and investment funds. The Nordic small-cap fund of Norwegian alpha boutique DNB Asset Management, which Morningstar has just awarded its top rating of 5 stars and which is managed by Hans Marius Lee Ludvigsen, has done particularly well. Despite a more challenging investment climate, Ludvigsen managed the volatile market well, delivering an annualized return of 16.17 percent since the fund's launch in 2019, compared with 5.20 percent for its benchmark index over the same period (as of 30.12.22).
Scandinavia, including Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, is characterized overall by comparatively low government debt, a predominantly very good rating for its government bonds, low unemployment rates and robust economic growth despite crises. Other strong points are the high level of innovation, an effective energy policy based largely on the country's own energy sources, and a high per capita income. An economic system geared to protecting the environment and climate has also been in place for a long time. For example, some of the most innovative and profitable companies for environmentally friendly energy production have their headquarters in Scandinavia. These include wind turbine manufacturer Vestas (Denmark), submarine cable operator NKT (Denmark) and installation and maintenance specialist Cadeler A/S (Sweden).
Despite these advantages, the capital markets in the North also suffered from the effects of the Corona pandemic and the attack on Ukraine. However, the Scandinavian markets were at an all-time high, so to speak, at the beginning of the pandemic, and thus some uncertainty prevailed among investors. This was a reason for investors to rethink their investment strategy, selling some positions and re-entering from the lower level of the markets after a certain period of time. In addition, many small investors probably experienced losses in their portfolios for the first time during this phase after prices had risen for a long time and reacted by selling. This accelerated the decline of prices.
Nevertheless, according to portfolio manager Hans Marius Lee Ludvigsen, when it comes to the world's best equity universe, that of Nordic small caps, it has performed very well over the past 10, 20 years. It has even done so during the past three years of crisis. The DNB Fund Nordic Small Cap in particular has benefited from this. It has achieved the best risk-adjusted return of all Nordic small-cap funds available on the market over the past three years. Since the fund's launch in December 2019, the strategy has delivered a cumulative return net of fees of 58,10 percent, outperforming the benchmark, Vinx Nordic Small Cap, by a healthy 38 percent. The success has just been confirmed by independent analyst firm Morningstar with the highest rating of five stars. The fund's investment focus is on industrial stocks, including in particular the technology and communications sectors. The largest contributors were YTD 2022 Enad Global and YTD 2023 Humble Group. The fund continues to hold a balanced portfolio, with a slightly higher number of positions than usual. This is because the portfolio team views the likelihood of mergers and acquisitions over the next six to twelve months as higher than usual and wants to take advantage of this potential alpha. Positions in several growth-related names were also increased, while exposure to the energy sector was reduced somewhat. A larger position in Hanza was acquired and exposure to salmon and real estate stocks was significantly increased.