Woodford Investment Management's £10.50bn Equity Income fund enjoyed a positive May, due in a large part to the performance of the portfolio’s largest holding AstraZeneca.
The Equity Income fund, run by Neil Woodford, along with the fund manager's recently launched Income Focus fund, benefited from encouraging results in the Phase III Pacific trial, which involves the use of an AstraZeneca immunooncology product to target the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer.
Pacific’s success saw AstraZeneca’s share price rise by more than 10 per cent, prompting Woodford IM to admit it too had “underestimated the opportunity that the Pacific trial may lead to.”
Elsewhere in the quoted part of the Equity Income portfolio, the valuation of property agent Purplebricks rose by almost 40 per cent.
The Equity Income fund has returned 18 per cent over the last year, lagging the IA UK Equity Income sector, which returned almost 24 per cent.
Woodford’s Patient Capital Trust, which has total assets of £828m, also saw a positive return in May, largely due to successes in the unquoted biotech business, with Immunocore standing out from the crowd.
Its IMCgp100 is being developed for use in relation to metastatic uveal melanomas, a rare and currently untreatable eye disease, and was well-received at ASCO, the world’s biggest oncology conference.
The Patient Capital Trust was also boosted by a May strong performance by fibre networks telecoms operator Gigaclear, which announced £111m in additional equity funding to build new full fibre networks for homes and businesses across rural Britain.
The trust, which launched two years ago, has returned 2.7 per cent over the last year, versus almost 26 per cent for the UK All Companies sector.
James Yardley, senior research analyst at Chelsea Financial Services, said: “We tend to look very favourably on Neil Woodford as his funds have been fantastic for our clients.
“You only have to look at what he as delivered with the Equity Income fund to see what his propositions can achieve. Woodford may have underperformed last year, but this is far from the case now and the funds look very attractive long-term propositions.”