Neil Woodford reveals latest share purchases

23 October 2017

Neil Woodford - whose Equity Income fund is one of the Moneywise First 50 Funds for beginners - has come in for a lot of stick in recent months, some justified and some not.

His portfolios have struggled, true, but he could rightly accuse critics of short-termism. This is where a thick skin comes in handy, and the star fund manager has not been scared into sitting on his hands.

A couple of Mr Woodford's share purchases in September might have raised an eyebrow or two. His ignored a near-two-year downtrend at ITV (ITV) to open a position in the broadcaster near to prices not seen since 2013.

There has been, in some circles, greater optimism around the UK TV advertising market. If confirmed, it could trigger earnings upgrades.

"ITV is a highly-cash generative business with a good track record of returning excess cash to shareholders through special dividends," write Mr Woodford's team. "Its valuation has started to look increasingly attractive recently, however, as the market has focused on the perceived structural threat posed to the business by digital media.

"We are not complacent about the way that global advertising trends are evolving but, in our view, the risks are now more than adequately reflected in the share price. These worries, coupled with the company's UK focus, have therefore created an attractive entry point."

Mr Woodford also took part in the IPO of Warehouse REIT (WHR) at 100p. The investment trust raised cash to invest in a diversified portfolio of UK warehouses in urban areas. Aiming to pay a 5.5p dividend every quarter implies a prospective yield of 5.5%.

To pay for these acquisitions, Mr Woodford offloaded the portfolio's positions in AbbVie - up 53% in 2017 so far - and Gilead - up 13%. He's still "attracted" to these businesses, but the shares have done well and there is now better value elsewhere.

Badly received interims from Card Factory (CARD) provided Mr Woodford with an opportunity to top up his holding in the greetings card seller in both his CF Woodford Equity Income fund (a member of the Moneywise First 50 Funds for beginners) and his CF Woodford Income Focus fund.

The high-street name saw profits slump by 14% and underlying basic earnings per share (EPS) fall by a more modest 4%. That's due to the refusal of the retailer to pass on currency and living wage-related input prices to its customers.

While this impacted its figures negatively and spooked other investors, Woodford reckons "it makes absolute sense from a long-term strategic perspective". He describes CARD as "well-managed, highly competitive and cash generative".

On performance, the Equity Income fund benefited from the likes of BCA (BCA), Lloyds (LLOY) and Homeserve (HSV), while the biggest detractor was Purplebricks (PURP), which saw its share price slump by almost fifth during September.

Spire Healthcare (SPI) also weakened following a profits warning at its interim results. The firm slumped by a quarter at one point and has slid even further. All in all, its shares lost 30.5% in the month.

This article first appeared on our sister website Interactive Investor.

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