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Patient Capital shareholders ignored as board considers sacking Neil Woodford

Neil Woodford
The board of Woodford Patient Capital have yet to consult shareholders on whether to sack the under-fire manager

The board of Woodford Patient Capital Trust is keeping shareholders in the dark over whether embattled fund manager Neil Woodford will get the sack.

Despite claims it is acting on behalf of investors and in their best interests, the board has not engaged with financial backers since June, and has not asked for feedback on a potential manager change.

In July, the board announced it was considering outsting Mr Woodford and said it had already been in contact with potential replacement fund managers. 

This followed a slump in the share price and the fund's returns, the crisis at his flagship Equity Income Fund and also because Mr Woodford sold 60pc of his shares in the trust without informing them until weeks later.

Since, no contact has been made with shareholders to update them on the situation, or even ask whether replacing Mr Woodford is what they want.

Psigma Investment Management – which owns 0.6pc of the shares across its fund range and one of the largest firms to own the trust – said it had not spoken to the board. Other shareholders have also complained about radio silence.

A spokesman for Psigma said they expected the firm's views to be considered before a decision is made. He added: “There has been no contact at all from the board of Patient Capital over any of their thinking or potential decision-making.”

Private investors own the majority of shares. Buyers using fund shops Hargreaves Lansdown, AJ Bell, Interactive Investor and Fidelity account for 36pc, yet the Telegraph understands none of the brokers have been contacted.

The trust's failure to communicate will raise questions over its commitment to making major changes.

Moira O’Neil of Interactive Investor, said: “The board of Patient Capital has not been in touch, but we would have welcomed the opportunity for them to discuss the issue with our customers who hold shares in the trust.”

Investment trust boards do not need to consult shareholders on changing the manager. However, in June, the board stated it was “engaging with shareholders” on the matter.

However, this "engagement" did not end up mentioning replacing the beleaguered fund manager. It was instead about the trust’s debt levels, which Mr Woodford was subsequently instructed to reduce.

Patient Capital's share price was significantly affected by Mr Woodford’s decision to suspend his much larger Equity Income fund.

There is significant crossover of unlisted companies owned in the Equity Income fund and Patient Capital. The latter has been forced to cut the value of five of its holdings in recent months likely due to to the Equity Income fund's struggle to offload these risky and hard-to-sell stocks. 

Potential buyers have been forcing down the value of the companies given Mr Woodford's precarious position.

Patient Capital has also come under fire for investing in highly speculative companies such as energy business Industrial Heat.

Shares in the trust – which was a record-breaking launch in 2015 when it raised £800m –have fallen 55pc  in 2019 and are down 65pc since launch.

The board has also undergone significant restructuring after it came under pressure due to cosy relationships between itself and the fund manager.

Several members were or had held senior roles at companies in which he was or had previously been an investor.

The board of Patient Capital declined to comment.