By David Ricketts and Justin Cash
Of Financial News
The administrator overseeing Neil Woodford's former Equity
Income fund has said there are just 124 million pounds ($172.4
million) of assets left to be sold, but indicated it could be next
year before cash is returned to investors.
In an update to investors on Monday, Link Fund Solutions said
nine companies are left to be offloaded in the former bestselling
fund, including holdings in Atom Bank PLC, Benevolent AI and
Link also has to offload a stake in Mafic, a U.S.-based unlisted
company specializing in the production of basalt fiber which it
bought in February. Link said at the time that the investment was
necessary to protect the value of assets in the fund.
Other assets remaining to be sold include Ibiza-based luxury
property complex Sabina Estates, battery-technology developer
Nexeon, and life-sciences investment company Cambridge Innovation
"We continue to make progress regarding the sale of the
remaining assets, and whilst it isn't possible to provide a
definitive end date to the realization process, it is hoped that
the sale of the remaining assets will be concluded in 2022," Link
told investors in its update.
"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," it said.
More than 300,000 retail investors were trapped in the collapsed
fund. They have received a total of GBP2.54 billion in payments
from Link since January last year.
Woodford's Equity Income fund, which at its peak in May 2017
managed GBP10.2 billion in assets, shrunk to GBP3.7 billion in June
2019 following a run of poor performance and heavy investor
Winding up the fund, which collapsed in October 2019 following a
four-month suspension, has netted millions of pounds in fees for
some financial-service and legal firms.
BlackRock Inc., the U.S. asset manager, has been responsible for
selling the liquid holdings in the Woodford fund, while PJT Park
Hill has been tasked with offloading the harder-to-sell investments
made in unquoted companies.
Last year's accounts showed BlackRock Advisors U.K. was paid
GBP11 million to the year ending March 2020, while PJT received
GBP3.2 million. Meanwhile, Debevoise & Plimpton, which provided
specialist legal support to assist with the sale of unquoted
assets, received GBP2.5 million.
The update from Link comes as exclusive figures obtained by
Financial News show Kent County Council, the local authority whose
request to pull its GBP240 million investment sparked the
suspension of the Woodford fund, seems to have almost entirely
skirted any legal expenses in dealing with the fallout.
A Freedom of Information request by FN shows that Kent County
Council instructed law firm Squire Patton Boggs to advise its
Superannuation Committee and its members and officers on
investments made with Woodford Investment Management and on "other
The council was unable to provide a more detailed response on
the legal spend, but records provided show that Kent County Council
didn't pay any fees to Squire Patton Boggs between June 2019, when
trading in Woodford's largest fund was suspended, and December
2020, when the firm billed just GBP806 for "strategic and corporate
Incurring just GBP806 in legal expenses will be seen as a win
for the council. Having criticized those involved in the Woodford
fund over claims they failed to inform it in advance that it would
be frozen, the bill for the legal work required would have amounted
to only around an hour of top-level partner time at a leading City
After the GBP806 in fees in December 2020, Squire Patton Boggs
didn't bill again up until May 2021, the latest date figures were
available at the time of publication, nor at any time since April
2017, when the records are available from.
The Freedom of Information Act request shows that the council's
internal legal team did spend around 50 hours over the past two
years on activities exclusively linked to Woodford Investment
Management, including attending meetings, research, advice to
officers, and responding to audit activities. However, the team
doesn't record hours against specific cases, so the figures are
The council confirmed that it hadn't used any other third
parties in relation to its dealings with Woodford.
More widely, the Woodford saga continues to drag on. In May, the
U.K.'s Financial Conduct Authority said its two-year long
investigation into the collapse of Woodford's fund was still
In a letter updating members of the parliament's Treasury Select
Committee, FCA Chief Executive Nikhil Rathi said the regulator's
investigation team has conducted 14 witness interviews and has
gathered in excess of 20,000 "items of relevant material" from key
Mr. Rathi told members of parliament that the FCA is "confident
the investigation work will be completed by the end of this
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
August 02, 2021 09:14 ET (13:14 GMT)
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