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Woodford investors could wait a year for cash

Written by: Emma Lunn
Investors trapped in former star manager Neil Woodford’s Equity Income fund may not receive the last of their money back until late 2021.

In a letter to investors, the fund’s administrators Link Fund Solutions updated investors on the sale of the illiquid part of the portfolio which is being undertaken by PJT Park Hill.

Administrators reached an agreement with Acacia Research Corporation in June 2020 for the sale of an agreed selection of up to 19 of the fund’s healthcare assets in return for up to £223.9m.

A significant number of the assets comprising the transaction have now transferred.

Link Fund Solutions said it was working to complete the transfers of the remaining assets included in the deal with Acacia by 30 November 2020.

It said that once the Acacia transaction was complete it would expect to be able to make the fourth capital distribution to investors.

Link said it was continuing to work with PJT Park Hill to find buyers for the fund’s remaining assets but warned that selling them “may take some time”.

The letter said: “It is expected that some of these assets will not be realised until mid to late 2021. This means that we are unable at this time to provide a specific date by which the fund’s wind up will be complete and all cash returned to investors.

We will continue to make capital distributions to investors as the fund’s assets are sold. We will seek to make a fourth capital distribution shortly after the transfers of the remaining assets to Acacia are complete and we will write to you again on or before 30 November 2020 with a further update.”

As of 1 September 2020, the value of the fund’s remaining assets was £288m.

Ryan Hughes, head of active portfolios at AJ Bell, says: “The latest update from Link does little to ease the pain for embattled investors stuck in the Woodford Equity Income fund with the news that the winding up of the fund could still be happening in another 12 months, meaning that over two years would have passed since the fund originally suspended. This is of course dependent on Link being able to offload the remaining £288m that they have confirmed is left in the fund which may be challenging given market conditions are being severely impacted by coronavirus.

“Investors have also learned that they have had to shell out c£15.5m in fees to BlackRock, Park Hill and lawyer Debevoise & Plimpton to facilitate the selling down of the assets that will surely stick in the throat of all investors who have been waiting patiently to get some of their money back.

“While these fees would have been due regardless of who was selling the assets, seeing such sums will make for painful reading for investors. The one element of positive news is that the sale of some assets to Acacia is proceeding with completion hopefully done by the end of November. Link are then hoping to make a fourth distribution to investors soon after this time.”

The Woodford Equity Income fund was suspended in June 2019 following an increase in redemption requests which couldn’t be readily met. In October 2019, Link confirmed the £3bn fund would be wound-up with cash returned to investors as soon as possible.

BlackRock was appointed to sell the liquid part of the assets while PJT Park Hill was tasked to sell the illiquid part of the portfolio.

In January, trapped investors received the first tranche of payments from the sale of assets. In March, investors received the second round of payments, followed by a third payment in August.

Neil Woodford, once considered Britain’s best stock picker, was sacked as manager of the fund and Woodford Investment Management was closed down.

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