Fund manager’s diary

Thursday Wake at the ungodly hour of 6am and open the curtains to a light dusting of snow. Something tells me my commute from Surbiton to Canary Wharf isn’t going to go that smoothly today. My journey involves four different forms of public transport, so the chances of them all working properly in these Arctic conditions are nil. Arrive at the office half an hour late, but my mood is improved when I see that a medical device company, Gyrus, which I own in my fund, has issued an upbeat trading statement and the shares are rising rapidly. By mid-morning, I am trudging through the snow again to attend a general retailers’ conference in the City. The chief executives of two holdings in my funds, HMV and JJB Sports, are presenting and I am keen to ask them how they are coping with a tougher environment on the high street. The HMV boss impresses me and I feel confident that the firm can withstand the onslaught from the supermarkets. The JJB boss is an excellent presenter and this company is going to reward shareholders with a big increase in its dividend and a share buyback. Friday Friday brings a quiet end to the week, with not much going on in the UK market this morning. This gives me the chance to wade through my ever-growing pile of broker research. In the evening I meet up with my wife in Kensington and we walk up to the Royal Albert Hall to see the acrobatic show Cirque du Soleil. After being dazzled by spectacular feats of strength, skill and sheer lunacy, such as building a human tower out of numerous small Chinese women balancing on a couple of light bulbs, we head home having had a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Monday On arrival at the office, I am pleased to see that a small oil company that I own in my fund has announced that it is in merger talks with a rival and the stock is up while the rest of the market drifts lower. At lunch, I attend a results presentation from the management of the French building products company Saint-Gobain. I come away fairly positive about the outlook for this industry. Tuesday I spend the morning preparing for a monthly performance review meeting that we are having in the afternoon. I run off the performance figures for January and am delighted to see that all the Legg Mason funds are in the first or second quartile. In the evening, I meet up in Surbiton with an old schoolfriend who is over from Sweden on business. One beer leads to another until we decide it’s probably wise to have some food before things get too messy! Wednesday In the morning I write a research note on a music publishing company. I met the management of this business last week and having analysed this firm in some detail over the last few days, I think the shares are attractive. I meet up with a broker friend at lunchtime and he takes me to a restaurant with a somewhat unusual menu. I opt for crocodile wrapped in vine leaves as a starter, followed by kangaroo with a side-salad of locusts for main course. When the food arrives, I am fully expecting to yell, “I’m a fund manager, get me out of here”, but I am pleasantly surprised at how tasty it is. In the afternoon, I present my piece of research on the music company to the other members of the investment department at our weekly research meeting. They agree that the shares look significantly undervalued, so we decide to build a holding in the firm. Mark Westwood is manager of the Legg Mason UK Equity Fund. His diary runs from January 29-February 4.