Woodford Investment Management  

Woodford slashes AstraZeneca stake

Woodford slashes AstraZeneca stake

Neil Woodford has slashed his exposure to pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca in order to invest in more attractively valued stocks.

Until recently the Anglo-Swedish company was his biggest single holding, with the flagship Equity Income fund owning more than 8 per cent but over the past year his stake has been gradually falling.

According to the latest portfolio update, the Woodford Equity Income fund now only owns 1 per cent of AstraZeneca, making it the 30th biggest holding in the fund.

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A spokesman for Woodford Investment Management said: "Neil's long-held investment approach aims to position the portfolio towards stocks where the gap between current share price and his judgement of the long-term fundamental valuation opportunity is the widest.

"Recently, this has opened opportunities with UK-exposed stocks and Neil has chosen to source liquidity from stocks where valuations are not as attractive as elsewhere in the portfolio.

"Approximately 40 per cent of the money raised from recent stock sales has been reinvested in companies Neil believes will benefit from a better performing UK economy, including significant purchases of Lloyds and house builders Barratt Developments and Bovis."

AstraZeneca was the cause of some difficulty for Mr Woodford last year after its stock fell 16 per cent in July after the company confirmed the latest trial of its Mystic cancer treatment drug had proved unsuccessful.

But since then the company's shares have recovered some of their value and are down only 3.8 per cent over the past year at £47.67.

It is understood Mr Woodford sold more AstraZeneca stock than he needed to as part of his high conviction strategy.

The Woodford Equity Income fund has struggled over the past 12 months, losing 12.29 per cent compared to its sector, UK Equity Income, which lost 0.02 per cent.

This comes after a succession of Woodford holdings have faced problems, including Provident Financial, Capita, Allied Minds and the AA.

damian.fantato@ft.com