Crisis-hit spreadbetter Plus500 won the backing of top shareholder Odey Asset Management yesterday, ahead of a crunch meeting of shareholders today in London.
An Odey fund run by James Hanbury added another tranche of shares to its holdings, taking the company’s ownership of the firm past 19 per cent, amid a broad-based rally in Plus500 shares which added 37p to its £2.85 share price.
The London-listed group has been plagued by a freeze on its customer accounts, which has caused Plus500 to plunge from its year-long highs of £7.20.
Shareholders will meet at the Israeli firm’s annual meeting in London this morning where management are expected to give further details about how the controversy is hurting the group’s financial performance.
Shares were temporarily suspended on Friday after it was forced to admit the Financial Conduct Authority had probed the company over the quality of anti-money laundering checks on new customers. The company says it currently has scores of employees working to unlock the frozen accounts of customers.
PROFILE: JAMES HANBURY, ODEY
Despite Odey Asset Management topping a list of Plus500’s biggest shareholders it is not the firm’s founder hedge fund guru Crispin Odey who has guided the fund’s investment into the spreadbetter but one of his chief lieutenants, James Hanbury (pictured).
An alumni of Schroders well regarded in-house equity research team, Hanbury was poached by Odey in 2008 from Zafar Ahmadullah’s long-short equity fund ZA Capital as head of research.
He was subsequently given the reins to a new fund in 2009, the Odey Absolute Return fund, which focused on UK long-short equity investments.
Since its launch in 2009, Hanbury – alongside co-manager Jamie Grimstone – has never lost money on an annualised basis.
He came close in 2011 when he delivered returns of just 3.1 per cent, according to a fund fact sheet, while his best year came in 2013 when he returned 45 per cent.
However, Plus500 marks a significant chunk of the £946m fund’s holdings – it accounted for about 9.2 per cent at the end of April – which could work against the fund. Other big holdings include Regus (10.3 per cent), Alcatel-Lucent (9.3 per cent) and Serco (6.2 per cent).
Hanbury, a partner at the firm, also runs the Odey Allegra Developed Markets fund which was founded in 2013. Odey remains in control of the firm’s flagship fund, Odey European, which was originally launched 23 years ago.