Monday 29 July 2019 11:16 am

Neil Woodford defends share sell-off as he faces removal from namesake fund

Embattled stock picker Neil Woodford has defended his decision to sell the majority of his stake in his investment trust as it considers whether to replace him as manager. 

Woodford Patient Capital Trust (WPCT) announced this morning that Woodford had sold 1.75m shares, 60 per cent of his stake, to “meet personal financial obligations” including a tax bill. 

Read more: Neil Woodford could be dumped as manager of fund that bears his name

WPCT said earlier that it had held preliminary discussions with management groups that had approached it “regarding the ongoing management” of the trust. 

The trust told the market that it “remains confident in the Portfolio Manager’s commitment to WPCT”.

But it added: “The board intends to engage with a broader range of third-party managers in order to undertake a full assessment of all potential management options, which may or may not lead to a change in the company’s management arrangements.

Shares in WPCT were down 2.4 per cent to 52p by mid-morning following the news, a drop of 1.3 points on Friday’s close. 

Defending Woodford’s decision to sell part of his WCPT stake, a spokesperson for the fund manager said that all of his financial investments are held in Woodford funds, and that he “remains invested in WPCT and completely committed to the early-stage asset class and its long-term investment potential.”

“During the period of suspension, Neil will not be paid any income or dividends,” the spokesperson added. 

Read more: Why herd behaviour is more to blame for the Woodford crisis than the man himself

Woodford’s Equity Income Fund was suspended in June following a surge in withdrawals. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has launched an enforcement investigation in to what led to the fund being frozen. 

Image: Woodford Equity Income Fund