Silk purses and sow's ears: Woodford sticks to his guns despite Capita being a "poor investment"

 
Oliver Gill
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Neil Woodford said now was the time to own Capita shares

Star fund manager Neil Woodford has thrown his weight behind embattled contracting giant Capita.

Woodford, which owns an 11 per cent stake in Capita, took a big hit after shares crumbled almost 50 per cent last week.

Last year his funds were hit as Provident Financial endured one of the biggest one-day sell-offs in FTSE 100 history.

Woodford's landmark equity income fund has lost over £400m in performance and outflows since the start of the year.

He wrote in his blog at the end of last week Capita's fall had "clearly been unhelpful to recent performance".

I am not trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear – this has been a poor investment. But it is one that has the capacity to become a significantly better one from here.

Woodford admitted it was a "mistake" to own Capita in 2016 when the firm's shares were worth more than £11 each; they are currently trading at just over 170p.

But, he added: "It is not a mistake to own it now. And so, I will not be compounding the previous error by behaving in an irrational and valuation insensitive way now."

Read more: Star fund boss defiant over Provident Financial share price collapse

Mapped out

Capita shares plummeted last Wednesday after the firm revealed plans for an operational restructuring, warned on profits, cancelled its dividend and said a £700m rights issue was on standby.

The announcement was one of the first by Capita boss Jonathan Lewis, who joined the firm in December.

He wrote: "I am pleased that we have seen from the company what we thought would be coming. This is a complete reset for Capita. The new chief executive, Jonathan Lewis, has mapped out a clear new direction of travel for the business and it is one with which I completely agree.

More focus, better leadership, better cost control, a stronger balance sheet (through a combination of disposals, dividend cut and a future capital raise) which will, in turn, lead to more investment in the business, an enhanced competitive position and a brighter future for its shareholders and customers.

Read more: Capita shares jump as fund manager claims it "flouted basic rules"

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