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New manager appointed to take on trapped Woodford Income Focus investors

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
Aberdeen Standard Investments (ASI), the largest active fund manager in the UK, has been appointed as manager of the LF Woodford Income Focus fund, providing investors with clarity after two months in limbo.

The £267.6m fund will be managed by UK equity income fund managers Charles Luke and Thomas Moore, with their 16-strong team led by Andrew Millington.

It is scheduled to re-open no later than February 2020, and subject to regulatory approval, the fund will be renamed LF ASI Income Focus fund.

ASI, administrator Link Fund Solutions (LFS), and custodian for the fund Northern Trust Global Services SE have all agreed to waive their fees until 31 May 2020.

The LF ASI Income Focus fund will be a high conviction portfolio of around 30 liquid UK equity holdings and will be open on the same terms to new shareholders looking for exposure to a UK equity income portfolio.

‘Set the fund on the right track for 2020 and beyond’

Andrew Millington, head of UK equities at ASI, said: “The team and I are honoured to have been given the opportunity to act as Investment Manager of the LF ASI Income Focus Fund. We recognise the issues that may have weighed on the minds of investors in the fund over the past months and we are resolute in our determination to turn things around.

“We will reposition the fund into a focused portfolio of our favoured, liquid UK equity income names aiming to generate sustainable long-term income growth for its investors. The scale of our UK equity business means we will manage turnover of stocks to minimise costs and set the fund on the right track for 2020 and beyond.”

‘Significant amount of portfolio adjustment needed’

Ryan Hughes, head of active portfolios at AJ Bell, said the appointment will bring some relief to investors though now they need to decide whether to stay with the new manager or move to a different fund.

Hughes said: “Moore and Luke are both experienced equity income managers but both have underperformed the FTSE All Share Index with their open ended funds over the past five years which may be cause for concern to some investors, despite Moore’s longer term track record being impressive.

“One key issue is the type of fund the duo will now run. The portfolio will be concentrated to around 30 high conviction positions – this is significantly more concentrated than the existing funds they manage which contain around 60 stocks. Investors may be heartened to see there is minimal crossover between Woodford Income Focus and the portfolios managed by Moore and Luke, however, this does indicate that a significant amount of portfolio adjustment will be needed that will result in costs being incurred by investors.”

He added that if investors do want to look at alternatives, funds such as Troy Trojan Income and Threadneedle UK Equity Income both have long track records of delivering solid returns, attractive levels of income and a focus on larger companies in the UK market.

Dealing in Woodford Income Focus was suspended in October after manager Neil Woodford served notice of his resignation and subsequently closed down Woodford Investment Management. The move was prompted by his sacking as manager of his flagship £3bn Woodford Equity Income Fund by Link.

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