Wellcome boost helps charities

THE WELLCOME Trust, the prominent UK charity for health research, yesterday pledged to increase its donations by 30 per cent over the next five years, after its investment portfolio comfortably outperformed global stock markets.

The fund, chaired by City stalwart Sir William Castell, reported a total return of two per cent on its investments this year, even though markets fell three per cent in the same period.

This equates to just under £270m in gains from a portfolio value of £13.9bn at the start of the year.

After spending £602m on charitable donations in the last financial year, the charity reported current assets of £13.6bn.

Danny Truell, chief investment officer of the Wellcome Trust, said that the fund’s performance meant the charities it supports would be getting an early Christmas present – the promise of more donations.

“Over the last few years, financial conditions have been difficult,” said Truell. “However, as a charitable foundation, we take a long term view. We now plan to spend more than £3bn on charitable activities over the next five years – a 29 per cent increase on the last five years.”

While an investment return of two per cent is significantly lower than usual, the charity said it was pleased with the result in the face of “strong economic headwinds” and growing fears about “the cohesion of the Euro, the pace of the US recovery and the impact of inflationary pressures on faster-growing economies”.

Truell put the strong results down to the foundation’s illiquid assets, particularly from venture capital investments that saw a return of 17 per cent, mainly from investments in internet companies.

“We did well from LinkedIn’s flotation earlier this year, and we expect to see benefits soon from the recent Groupon and Zynga IPOs,” he said.

In its first ever Guide to Giving, City A.M. has today ranked the Wellcome Trust second in its seasonal round-up of some of the world’s biggest givers.

Sir Mark Walport, director of the trust, told City A.M.: “75 years after the death of [founder] Sir Henry Wellcome, it is rewarding to see that we have been able to invest his endowment wisely, making us today one of the world’s major charitable donors.”