(Alliance News) - F&C Investment Trust PLC on Friday said its total return underperformed over the past year, although it remains "optimistic" on the "longer term" outlook.

The Essex, England-based trust, whose investees include Microsoft Corp, Apple Inc and Amazon.com Inc, said its net asset value at December 31 was 987.56 pence per share, up from 896.94p at the end of 2022.

F&C also declared a 4.5p per share final dividend, up from 3.9p the prior year. This increased the total dividend for 2023 by 8.9% to 14.7p from 13.5p per share, and marked its fifty-third consecutive year of dividend growth.

Shares in F&C were down marginally at 982.76p each on Friday morning in London.

F&C further reported a "strong" NAV total return of 11.3% for 2023, a significant improvement on the 5.3% loss in 2022.

However this underperformed against its benchmark, the FTSE All-World Index, which delivered a positive 15.1% return after a negative 7.7% one the previous year.

"Following a challenging year for markets in 2022 when we had delivered the strongest shareholder return amongst our peer group of global investment companies, in 2023 our return slightly lagged those peers," Chair Beatrice Hollond explained.

She said that while F&C's underlying strategies delivered a "strong absolute performance" in 2023, it was less exposed than the index to larger stocks which led to "modest underperformance". Its private equity holdings also lost value, and the pound gaining 6.0% against the dollar proved "detrimental" as F&C's portfolio is "predominantly invested in overseas assets".

Looking ahead, Fund Manager Paul Niven commented: "While near term uncertainty over the path of interest rates and economic growth remains high and political events and military conflict present risks, we remain optimistic on the prospects for our holdings over the longer term."

By Emma Curzon, Alliance News reporter

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