Top fund manager increases its bet on IPH Ltd, shares roar higher

When a stock picker who achieves returns that are more than 30% greater than his or her benchmark opens his mouth, investors tend to stop and listen.

That’s what happened yesterday when shares of IPH Ltd (ASX: IPH) lifted as much as 4.2%, before closing 3.1% higher at $6.67.

IPH, which is a holding company for a number of legal and patent services businesses, was mentioned in an article by The Sydney Morning Herald, which had interviewed Mark East, head stock picker for Bennelong Australian Equity Partners. According to the report, he achieved an annual return of 33.9% for investors, compared to the broader market which rose just 2.13% during the same time.

East said he achieved this by avoiding the miners. Not one miner or energy stock was in the portfolio, while he said that his exposure to the banks was limited to “relatively small positions in only two of the big four.” Meanwhile, healthcare shares such as CSL Limited (ASX: CSL) and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp Ltd (ASX: FPH) helped to propel his results.

However, IPH was also part of the reason why the stock picker managed to outperform the market by such a broad sum. What’s more, The SMH quoted him as saying, “I think the company will continue to perform well”. This is likely what excited investors in the shares so much on Thursday.

Having only debuted on the ASX late in 2014, IPH has generated significant gains for early shareholders, even though the shares have pulled back in price considerably since the beginning of this year. The biggest fall came late in February when the company reported its interim earnings which don’t appear to have been up to the market’s standards.

Nevertheless, IPH appears to be a quality business with plenty of room left to grow. Better yet, it’s a capital-light business which enjoys strong operating cash flows and offers an attractive dividend yield.

While some investors may have been hesitant to buy, given the catastrophic losses endured by tort law operators Slater & Gordon Limited (ASX: SGH) and Shine Corporate Ltd (ASX: SHJ) this year, the comments made by Marks to The SMH may have been enough to convince them that IPH has a promising future as a listed entity.

As is the case with any share market investment, an investment in IPH isn’t without its risks. However, the dip in share price since February has helped to rebalance the risk vs. reward trade-off, whereby IPH certainly appears to be worthy of a closer look by long-term investors.

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Motley Fool contributor Ryan Newman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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