• All investors in South African general equity unit trusts have lost money over the past year. 
  • While the JSE lost some 11%, some unit trust were down more than 20%.
  • But a number of unit trusts delivered strong performances over the last five years.


Unit trust investors have had a tough time of late, particularly those invested in funds with big exposures to South African equities.

The local share market declined by more than 11% in 2018. All of the South African general equity unit trusts lost money over the past year – with some down more than 20%. 

But experts say you shouldn’t look at share performances over a year, because the stock market is too volatile. Three to five years provide a better yardstick to measure investment performance.

The latest data from unit trust information platform FundsData show that a number of unit trusts did offer some investment growth over the past five years.

A R100 investment in the top performing South African general equity unit trust – the Fairtree Equity Prescient Fund – five years ago would now be worth R153.01.

The FundsData return figure does not take initial costs into consideration, and it assumes you re-invested any income you earned from the funds. 

The Fairtree Equity Prescient Fund has given investors an annualised return of 12.98% a year since its inception since in 2011.

Managed by Stephen Brown and Cor Booysen, some R10 billion is invested in the fund, and the last available information shows that the fund’s biggest investment is in Naspers:

Source: Fairtree. As at end-November 2018

There were plenty of stinkers among the 135 unit trusts in the South African general equity category:

The worst performer – the Cannon Equity H4 unit trusts – had a number of resource companies, including BHP Billiton, Anglo American, Glencore, and Sasol among its largest holdings.

These were the best performing unit trusts in the SA general equity category over the past three years...

...and the biggest losers:

Finally, for what it's worth, the best performers over the past year:

The strongest performer, Kagiso Islamic Equity, invests according to the principles of Islamic law: no investments in alcohol, gambling or tobacco are allowed, and Sharia law prohibits both the payment and receipt of interest. The fund's top holdings in November last year were AECI, Tongaat Hulett, African Rainbow Minerals, Woolworths, and Adcorp.

None of the unit trusts in the SA general equity category managed to break even for the year.

These were the worst unit trust performers over a year:

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