Investments 

Woodford raises £100m for embattled fund

Woodford raises £100m for embattled fund

Fund manager Neil Woodford has sold shares in two illiquid companies in his stricken Equity Income fund, raising £100m.

The share sale happened at a price that is above the value at which the investments were held in the fund, indicating the fund manager was able to sell the stakes for a higher price than he expected.

Mr Woodford has been selling assets to raise cash for the Equity Income fund he runs, having been forced to suspend the fund on June 3 following a sustained period of heavy outflows.

In May outflows ran to £9m a day and the decision of the Kent County Council pension fund to withdraw an investment of £250m sealed the fund's fate.

When suspending the fund, Mr Woodford said doing so would enable him to sell some of the less liquid assets at a price that reflects their true valuation, rather than being a forced seller to raise cash.

Immediately after the suspension Mr Woodford sold a raft of listed company shares, including private equity investment firm Oakley Capital Investments, where Mr Woodford confirmed in stock market filings that he has cut his stake from 7.34 per cent to below 5 per cent.

The fund manager has also reduced his holding in Brave Bison, which describes itself as a social video company, from over 18 per cent to less than 5 per cent, and in biotech firm Horizon Discovery to 7 per cent from more than 10 per cent.

FTAdviser understands Mr Woodford has held face to face meetings with advisers and discussed the makeup of the portfolio.

One adviser who met him on June 17 is Frank Corrigan, who runs Corrigans in Coventry.

In a letter to clients Mr Corrigan said: "Neil accepts that the comparatively bad investment performance over the last two years is entirely his responsibility, but his apologies are short-lived.

"He has always been a 'value' investor, placing your money with businesses that he believes are considerably under-valued by the market, rather than following the momentum of other investors.  

"His stance has delivered exceptional returns over decades, pock-marked now by three periods of prolonged under-performance.

"Woodford still maintains that the assets within the fund represent the best value he has seen in the last 39-years: a store of latent profit, just waiting for other investors to recognise it.

"One example that he cites is Kier – a property and services conglomerate that is deeply out of fashion. Kier has accepted that it needs to divest itself of three assets: their property business, housebuilding arm and its land-bank.

"The written-down value of those three assets stands at £364m after paying off all borrowings. Planned redundancies in the remaining four business assets will increase their profits from £100m last year to £155m this year, but the market valuation for the business stands at just £200m in all.

"This is entirely in keeping with the single-minded confidence, bordering upon arrogance, that Neil has maintained throughout his career."