Since the start of the year, equity markets have been supported by positive economic developments. Earnings are growing again: on aggregate, earnings per share (EPS) are expected to rise 13% this year as opposed to 2% in 2016. This positive environment is particularly beneficial for small- and mid-cap (“SMID-cap”) companies, although returns have varied between stocks in the US, Europe and Switzerland.
Fundamental strengths amplified by a supportive environment
In particular, SMID-caps currently have stronger balance sheets than large-cap stocks, with average net debt/EBITDA ratios of 1.1x and 3.9x respectively. These low debt levels, combined with the global economic upturn, mean that SMID-caps still have substantial growth potential, justifying valuations that may appear high in some cases. That growth potential is also underpinned on a long-term view by their impressive capacity for innovation and their ability to adjust to economic developments, which should deliver additional returns in the absence of any systemic risk.
SMID-caps also have other fundamental advantages. For example, many of them are family-owned companies, managed according to a philosophy that ensures the sustainability of their business. In addition, small companies are often driven by a highly entrepreneurial spirit, the effects of which can be seen most clearly when economic growth is accelerating.
Performance drivers that vary between countries
In Europe in particular, SMID-caps are still offering good investment opportunities because they are attractively valued. European SMID-caps slightly underperformed large-caps in 2016, even though their earnings growth remained positive. Their valuation ratios are currently lower than those of the rest of the market, and lower than their historic averages.
Co-CEO Asset Management – Head of Institutional Clients