Equity Income  

Woodford’s woes continue with fresh Provident profit warning

Woodford’s woes continue with fresh Provident profit warning

Shares in FTSE 100 consumer lending firm Provident Financial have dropped 75 per cent this morning (22 August), as the company announced a profit warning, in another blow to a stock backed by fund manager Neil Woodford.

That announcement comes in the wake of the shares tumbling at the end of July as the firm announced a 45 per cent drop in profits.

Provident Financial told the market this morning that it expects to lost between £80m and £120m this year.

The chief executive of the company has resigned.

Provident Financial put the difficulties down to changes it made to the status of those who collect the loans on its behalf.

The company expects to collect only 57 per cent of the payments it is due on loans this year, down from a rate of 90 per cent last year. In its trading statement announced this morning, the company said this amounted to £9m a week less cash collected when compared with the same period in 2016.

Provident Financial is the fourth largest holding in the £10bn CF Woodford Equity Income fund, with the 4 per cent of the fund invested in it coming to £400m.

Provident Financial is the fifth largest holding in the £720m Woodford Income Focus fund. The three per cent of the capital invested in the shares equates to approximately £22m.

Mr Woodford has previously stated that he believes the changes being made at Provident Financial will be a long term positive for the business.

He said in a blog: “The company issued a profit warning related to its consumer credit division. This was due to the reorganisation of its doorstep-lending business, which has involved bringing its self-employed agents in-house.

"The process is largely complete and should prove highly beneficial for the business in the medium and long-term as it will enable Provident Financial to better manage customer relationships, improve debt collection and drive higher profits in the future.

"However, the disruption to trading caused by the departure of agents which were not taken on as full-time employees has been greater than management had previously anticipated.”

He added: “Although this is clearly not helpful, more often than not, the market over-reacts in response to bad news, even if the causes are only transitory.

The fund manager said he believes that to be the case with Provident, where he believes the future growth in the company will come from other business units. Those units, including the Vanquis credit card business, continue to perform in line with expectations, according to the statement released by Provident this morning.

Mr Woodford said in June he felt the dividend would be safe, but today Provident said it is unlikely a final dividend will be paid 

The veteran investor added: "I believe it is critically important to maintain a disciplined, fundamentally-based perspective in my investment analysis. With that in mind, I believe Provident Financial shares started the day undervalued, and have become even more so as a result of the market’s reaction to today’s news.  I am hugely disappointed by what has happened to the consumer credit division but I continue to believe that it will, ultimately get back on track. This business has been around for more than a century and I believe it will be around for many decades to come."