InvestmentsJun 13 2018

Woodford blasts investor 'leper colony' view of young firms

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Woodford blasts investor 'leper colony' view of young firms

Neil Woodford has accused the UK fund management industry of treating early-stage science and technology companies “like a leper colony”.

Speaking to investors in London yesterday (12 June), just weeks after the third anniversary of his Patient Capital Trust, the star fund manager said he was excited about the future.

Mr Woodford praised the UK government’s recognition in its Budget announcement of a review into long term funding for UK businesses, called the Patient Capital Review, as well as funding to be made available for tech companies looking to scale up.

But he added: “My abiding concern is that the UK fund industry continues to shun this asset class.”

Mr Woodford told investors at the meeting he was confident he would deliver on the promises he made at launch and pledged they would “leave here excited about the future” as he showcased six of the companies backed by his trust.

He added: “We said to judge us on our three to five-year outcomes – the clue is in the name, this is the Patient Capital trust.”

The fund manager has come under fire in recent months as the trust has lagged peers – it is down 30.8 per cent over three years, compared to an average return of 28.3 per cent from the UK All Companies investment trust sector.

Shares, which once traded at a premium of as much as 19 per cent, are currently valued at 77.9p.

But Mr Woodford hit back at critics: “We never promised instant returns. I could not be more confident that we will deliver on what we said three years ago.”

Investors heard from Oxford Nanopore, the largest holding in the trust accounting for 11 per cent of the portfolio. The DNA sequencing firm was founded out of the Oxford University chemistry department and now has thousands of customers across 70 different countries.

Also speaking was the founder of Proton Partners, which has recently opened the first Proton Therapy centre in the UK in Newport, South Wales. Chief executive Mike Moran said the UK has some of the worst cancer survivorship rates in developed Europe with the average diagnosis currently taking 63 days.

Mr Moran said: “The Patient Capital investment let us start building a network of centres. The first patient in the UK has now been treated in a centre backed by Patient Capital.”

Steve Cliffe, chief executive of Ultrahaptics, added: “All of the money in our business is patient capital – I would never accept money that had a time limit on it.”

Asked how he chooses investments for the portfolio, Mr Woodford said it was about “good old human relationships” rather than having a team of technology specialists at his disposal.