No joy for investors stuck in suspended Woodford fund
Investors in LF Woodford Equity Income Fund (BLRZQ62) will have to wait until at least December before they can access their money.
Buying and selling in the fund has been suspended since 3 June and will stay that way until later this year while fund manager Neil Woodford restructures the portfolio to focus mainly on large and mid-cap stocks in the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 indices.
Analysis of company disclosures to the stock market shows that in July he has been selling down positions in doorstep lender Provident Financial (PFG) and subprime lender Non-Standard Finance (NSF), as well as activist fund Crystal Amber (CRS:AIM), Southend Airport owner Stobart Group (STOB) and transport play Eddie Stobart Logistics (ESL:AIM).
Woodford says 80% of the proceeds from share sales since the suspension in June have been reinvested in FTSE 100 companies.
His asset management business is under increasing pressure from investors to reduce fees during the suspension period.
Meanwhile, the fund manager has sold approximately £1m of his personal holding in Woodford Patient Capital Trust (WPCT), another fund he runs. Woodford said he was a ‘reluctant seller’ after disposing of 1.75m shares or around 60% of his holding to meet ‘personal financial obligations, including a tax liability’.
The board of Woodford Patient Capital Trust on 29 July revealed that it had been talking with various third party management groups, indicating that Neil Woodford could be sacked as manager. Shares in the investment trust have halved in value since it floated on the stock market in 2015.
‘We think any new manager taking on the contract should make some assessment via the board and shareholders as to whether this would be on a normal long-term continuing basis, or whether shareholders will look for the investment trust to go into “run-off” with disposals of investments and returns of capital to investors,’ say analysts at investment bank Stifel.
Woodford Patient Capital Trust has a three month notice period to change manager, shorter than the normal six to 12 month period. Stifel believes any change in manager would result in a different fee structure, scrapping the current arrangement for no annual management fee and Woodford only being remunerated through a performance fee.
‘Whilst Woodford IM is not receiving any annual fee income for managing the investment trust under the current fee structure, we think that if the contract was removed, it could be a symbolic blow to Woodford Investment Management,’ adds Stifel.