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Speculation building that Woodford fund could remain closed into next year

Written by: Emma Lunn
Investors remain in the dark about when Neil Woodford’s flagship equity income fund will re-open, as the famed fund manager struggles to offload assets.

Woodford has already sold more than £1bn of assets but industry insiders have suggested that the resulting cash pot would be unlikely to be enough for investors to get their cash back in December – the latest estimated date for the fund re-opening.

Woodford Equity Income fund was suspended with immediate effect and until further notice on 3 June.

The latest updates from both Woodford Investment Management and Link Fund Solutions, published on 23 September, indicate that the suspension of dealing is likely to last until early December 2019 while the portfolio of assets held by the fund is re-positioned.

Link is providing updates every 28 days. It says that during the most recent 28-day period, which covers much of September, the fund has underperformed in relative and absolute terms. It said a primary reason for the underperformance was the downward revaluation of Benevolent AI, a UK-based healthcare company that uses artificial intelligence for drug development.

The update said that Woodford continued to reposition the portfolio founded on a belief that the global economic environment is not as robust as equity markets are implying.

But Adrian Lowcock, head of personal investing at Willis Owen, told the Telegraph that Woodford “still had a way to go” to meet what could be a high number of redemption requests when trading in the fund resumes.

He said the “last thing” investors would want would be for the fund to re-open and then close again and added that a suspension beyond December was “entirely possible” and that it was possibly the fund wouldn’t re-open until June next year.

Link Fund Solutions and Woodford Investment Management have both declined to comment on Lowcock’s predictions.

The next update from Link Fund Solutions about Woodford is due on 21 October.

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