Shares of one fund plunged 22% on Friday. Other funds under pressure, raising serious questions about just how liquid “equity funds” in the UK are.
There’s still no sign of relief for the hundreds of thousands of investors whose money is trapped in one of the UK’s biggest equity funds, the Woodford Equity Income Fund. The fund is supposed to offer its shareholders daily liquidity, meaning they can take part or all of their money out any day of the week. But that was before a slow-motion (but accelerating) run on the fund forced its manager, hedge-fund legend Neil Woodford, into taking the last-gasp decision, on June 3, to place a ban on redemptions. Since then, investors have been unable to access their money. And it’s not clear how much longer this could go on.
The problems at Woodford have raised serious questions about just how liquid other equity funds in the UK may be. In the past few days, UK’s biggest broker, Hargreaves Lansdown announced that it plans to remove the Lindsell Train UK Equity Fund, the largest managed UK shares fund, and the Lindsell Train Global Equity Fund, from its Wealth 50 Best List due to liquidity concerns, which prompted shares in Lindsell Train Investment Trust to tumble 22% on Friday.
The £7.1 billion LF Lindsell Train UK Equity would need an estimated 13 working days to sell 20% cent of its portfolio if trading conditions severely deteriorated, according to Morning Star. Woodford’s shareholders have already had to wait almost 3 times that long, and there’s still little sign of light at the end of the tunnel.
The Woodford Equity Income fund has performed terribly for the past two years. Bad bets were made, often on unlisted assets, resulting in big losses, which in turn triggered a cascade of redemptions as the sharpest investors began yanking out their money. The total amount under management at Woodford has steadily shrunk by almost two thirds since 2015, from £10.2 billion to £3.7 billion.
At the very least, Woodford’s investors will have to hang on for another three agonizing weeks, when the decision to gate the fund is scheduled to be revisited. When the last 28-day review period came up, around a week ago, Woodford told the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority that the fund was still not ready to reopen its doors.
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