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Star fund manager Neil Woodford trims holding in tobacco giant

Written by: Adam Lewis
Neil Woodford has reduced his position in the tobacco giant British American Tobacco (BAT) within his Equity Income fund, after its share price hit an all time high in May.

In the fund’s latest update, it was revealed that in May the manager added positions in three UK house builders – Barratt Developments, British Land, Taylor Wimpey – and Lloyds Bank, based on his view that the UK economy is well situated for a prolonged period of benign growth and low inflation.

“These additions were funded by reducing the portfolio’s position in British American Tobacco which now looks as fully valued as it has ever done in modern market history,” said Mitchell Fraser-Jones, head of investment communications at Woodford Investment Management.

“In some respects, we are reluctant to reduce our exposure to such a high quality, dependable growth business, but its valuation makes it an obvious candidate to reduce in the ongoing fight for capital.”

The fund also trimmed its position in G4S following strong share price performance in recent months, while it initiated a new holding in the property and construction business Countrywide Properties.

“We remain cautious on the outlook for the global economy despite the market’s lingering optimism on growth,” said Fraser-Jones. “Meanwhile, we continue to warm to the prospects for the domestic economy, in contrast to an increasingly bearish consensus.

“The UK election result doesn’t change the fundamentally positive backdrop for the UK economy, in our view. Indeed, with its implications for looser fiscal policy and a softer Brexit, the UK economic outlook appears to have improved still further and the portfolio is positioned to benefit from this outcome over the long term.”

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