British fund manager Neil Woodford said on Wednesday that orders to trade in his flagship fund placed after 1100 GMT last Friday have been rejected due to the fund's suspension, leaving investors not knowing when they will get their money back.
Woodford, one of Britain's most high-profile money managers and a particular favourite of retail investors, told investors he needed to prevent them leaving in order to give him time to sell out of a number of unlisted or illiquid positions. Late on Monday, Woodford Investment Management said it had suspended trading in its 3.7 billion pounds ($4.70 billion) flagship fund after an increase in demand by clients to take back their money. That followed a period of underperformance that has seen billions of pounds exit in outflows.
In a video posted on the company's website on Tuesday, close-shaven Woodford, 59, wearing a blue sweater against the backdrop of a large, modern living room, told investors he was "extremely sorry" to have suspended the fund, but said the decision was "motivated by your interests, our investors". [https://woodfordfunds.com/words/blog/suspension-update-from-neil/ ] The suspension will be reviewed by the fund's adviser at least every 28 days, and the Financial Conduct Authority will be informed of the reviews, Woodford said in a Q&A document for clients on its website, posted on Wednesday.
Among the fund's biggest positions in unlisted companies are Benevolent AI and Oxford Nanopore, although it also has large stakes in smaller, listed companies which trade much less frequently than larger peers and so takes longer to sell. Despite that, Woodford's website Q&A said the fund was not a forced seller: "Neil has the time and space to deliver on his strategy to place the unquoted parts of the portfolio with interested buyers."
Jonathan Miller, UK director of manager research ratings at fund-rating company Morningstar, said Woodford could face further redemptions after the fund reopens, which would mean the firm needed to make quite deep changes to the portfolio. "There is some reputational damage and current investors may simply prefer an exit when the fund re-opens," Miller said.
"They're going to need to access their money, so the portfolio will need to have a totally different make-up to that of today. How long it takes to reach that point is difficult to estimate – it certainly won't be days from now." The head of the FCA said on Wednesday that the regulator stood ready to intervene if it had concerns over the way the suspension was managed.
Woodford said the fund would continue to be priced daily. The price fell by more than 3% between Friday, the cut-off date for redemptions, and Tuesday. The fund is down over 14% in the last three months. Another Woodford fund, Woodford Patient Capital Trust, into which Woodford has already shifted some of the Income Fund's unlisted assets, was down 3.7% by 1205 GMT, bringing losses since Friday to 11%.
($1 = 0.7869 pounds)
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