Investments  

Former Woodford fund underperforms ahead of re-opening

Former Woodford fund underperforms ahead of re-opening

The fund formerly known as Woodford Income Focus has underperformed a standard FTSE All Share tracker fund by more than 4 per cent since it was suspended in October. 

Now run by Aberdeen Standard Investments and renamed the ASI Income Focus fund, it has returned 0.77 per cent since October, while the FTSE All Share has returned 4.96 per cent. 

The fund will re-open tomorrow (13 February), having being suspended since Neil Woodford resigned as manager after the collapse of his company last year.

The fund's managers, Charlie Luke and Tom Moore, wrote in an update to investors that since taking over the fund they had sold off many of its previous holdings.

The duo said they had "prioritised exposure to our highest conviction income ideas" and improved the fund's liquidity profile and diversification.

They wrote: "[The fund's] underperformance was partly the result of the costs incurred via the necessary transition of the portfolio towards a liquid portfolio of strong income generating UK stocks.

"As anticipated, there were certain inherited stocks that proved relatively costly to dispose of. A particularly significant example, Honeycomb Investment Trust, was a drag on performance of circa 0.64 per cent.

"This is a highly illiquid stock with a significant ongoing overhang from large shareholders perceived by the market to be likely sellers. As such, it was necessary to place the stock at a discount to the prevailing market price. However this did not reflect a distressed valuation for the asset by any means and allowed us to reinvest the proceeds in more liquid stocks."

The fund's top 10 holdings still include British American Tobacco and Babcock, which were big holdings when Mr Woodford ran it.

Mr Luke and Mr Moore also added stocks such as Close Brothers, SSE and Coca-Cola Hellenic.

As a condition of winning the mandate, Aberdeen Standard agreed not take a management fee until June. They reduced the fund's income target, which had been 5p per share, to simply beating the yield of the FTSE All Share over a three year period. 

Link, the fund’s authorised corporate director, and Northern Trust, its depository, have also both agreed to wave fees until June. 

david.thorpe@ft.com