Neil Kellett explains what the CAMRA Members’ Investment Club is, what it does and how you can get involved.

Ever thought of owning a few shares in a brewery?

Well…let me tell you about the CAMRA Members’ Investment Club.

At the 1989 CAMRA AGM in Aberdeen a small group of members agreed to set up the “CAMRA Investment Club” – the aim was to invest in breweries that produced real ale and the hope was that out of 50,000 CAMRA members at the time, some would want to join a unit trust type investment that invested in real ale brewers.

The rest is history – the Club now has some 3,200 members and assets valued at over £20M.

One has to be a CAMRA member to join. The minimum contribution is £5 per month and the maximum £166.67 (or £2,000 per year).Monthly standing order is the preferred method of making contributions but many contribute just through annual lump sums up to the maximum of £2,000. The highest value of units currently held by a member is just under £90,000 worth but many have holdings of £50 or less. Getting your money back out is also simple – redemption is available monthly.

Irrespective of the number of units held each member has one vote.

The Club became The CAMRA Members Investment Club 10 years ago when CAMRA asked the Club to change its name to protect its independence for its super complainant status.

Whilst the original concept was to invest in real ale brewers the Club’s objects have been extended to include companies that retail real ale, cider producers and allied trades such as hop merchants.

The Club is managed by a committee of 12 who meet at least 6 times per year but decisions between meetings are made within minutes via e-mail. The committee members have a broad range of experience including 2 past chairmen of CAMRA, a publican, a pensions investment advisor, qualified accountants, several from the finance service industry and the principal shareholder in a regional brewer/small pub group.

Each committee member –

  • receives no remuneration nor any expenses of any kind
  • serves a term of 3 years after which he/she has to stand for re-election at the Annual General Meeting
  • has units in the Club
  • is a committed real ale drinker!

How does the Club work?

Each year the Club receives around £1.6M in contributions and over half a million in dividends. Members leaving or withdrawing account for £1.1M which leaves around £1M to be invested by the committee each year. Shares are held in a nominee account maintained by the Club’s brokers, James Sharp & Co. Bury, Lancashire. Sharp’s are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority so everything is secure!

The administration is independently carried out by Messrs Howarth Associates whose personnel have been dealing with the Club since its inception. The accounts are reviewed by another accountancy practice. Even though the Club is a Club its administration and governance are conducted in accordance with industry best practice – investors can be assured of that.

Principal investments are in the large quoted brewers such as Greene King, Marston’s, Fullers and Youngs. Second tier holdings include stakes in Adnam’s, Shepherd Neame, Wetherspoon’s, Thwaites, M & B, Wadworth’s, Mc Mullens, The Restaurant Group and Heavitree. Shares are also held in smaller brewers such as Hyde’s and Joseph Holt’s. The Club was in at the beginning with Hop Back and Black Sheep where we now own 9.3% and 8.8% respectively of their issued shares.

The Club has been able to invest in a couple of the newer generation of brewers – Black Eagle (Truman’s) and West Berkshire. One of our committee members is on the Board of Black Eagle and we regularly have meetings with Black Sheep.

In spite of many meetings with the owners of micro-brewers, the Club has not yet been able to make any investments in these companies. The Club has recently met with SIBA to explore new initiatives in this area.

Investments are also held in Europe – Heineken (owners of Caledonian), Carlsberg (Tetleys and real ale deliveries) and Cantillon in Brussels.

Here are a few good reasons for joining CMIC –

  • Investing in what you believe in! The interests of the Committee and CAMRA members are fully aligned.
  • Since the start of this century £1,000 invested in CMIC is now worth £3,879. £1,000 invested in a Charities Investment Fund over the same period, on the same basis of dividends reinvested, is worth roughly £2,400.
  • Members’ brewery trips including an annual excursion into Europe
  • A very sociable AGM with a lunch and keynote speaker. These have included the Chief Executives of big brewers, head brewers and entrepreneurs. This year’s guest was David Bruce
  • The Club supports CAMRA’s aims and objectives. For example the Club opposes takeovers in the brewing industry.

Even though you might not know a lot about stocks and shares, joining the Club is an ideal way in which to invest in an industry you care about. Surely, the psychological benefits of ‘owning’ part of a brewery and pub company and making money at the same time are attractive? However, as with all investment matters before joining you must ask yourself some basic questions. What do you want from your money? How much risk can you tolerate? How much of your money can you afford to lose? Not, of course, that you will but you need to be aware that you might! It is unlikely that a holding in the Club will be your only investment but it is up to you to decide what you actually need and want.  The Committee runs the Club in accordance with the wishes of its membership as expressed at the Annual Meeting in a careful and cautious way. Members are aware that the stock market can be a mechanism for transferring wealth from the impatient to the patient; however patience can be bitter but its fruit can be sweet.

If, after carefully considering all of the above you are interested in putting some of your money into an industry you believe in please think about joining the Club – please contact Mark Howarth at Howarth Associates, 31 Chapel Brow, Leyland, Lancashire for a “New Member’s Pack”. Background information, including club rules etc, is published on the Club’s website.

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