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Woodford – not a surprise, but still a shock

Posted by: Brian Dennehy
Tags: Woodford,
Membership level: Free
[Link here for a complete set of research and blogs on Woodford]
 
The news of the suspension of Woodford Equity Income this week is not a surprise when you consider the problems which were very publicly displayed since Summer 2017, when they were publicly acknowledged by Neil. But that something on this scale should happen is still a shock.
 
There has been a lot of huffing and puffing in the press this week, but also some comment which was very interesting, and from which we can all learn (me included).
 
The industry response has been disappointing, in particular from the FCA and Hargreaves Lansdown – they both need to be more publicly engaged with this problem, because they are part of the solution. Not to mention the extraordinary roles of St James Place, Morningstar, and Kent County Council – all deserve the criticism and scrutiny they will receive.
 
There are three obvious options for the fund:
  1. Sell enough underlying assets to meet known redemptions and then re-open the fund
  2. Convert to an investment trust
  3. Close it, and return cash to investors
The first option has problems. When the fund re-opens the redemption requests will start again.
 
The second option is untried in recent years, but possible. The FCA need to guide on this possibility.
 
The third option deals with this unpleasant episode once and for all.
 
Each option has pain for investors – a true discovery of prices for some of the assets could yet be another nasty surprise. The third option might play out slightly longer than the first. But the Woodford team know who the potential buyers of the illiquid and unquoted stocks are, as they have been working on this since 2017.
 
My sense is that option 3 is best for investors. Clear the slate, learn lessons, move on.
 
On which note, learning lessons, here is a compilation of all the research and blogs over the last 6 years – we raised concerns even before the Woodford fund launches in 2014.
 
Undoubtedly there will be more next week. Sorry.
Topic: Market commentary


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