Portion of Neil Woodford’s remaining investments, including Nanopore, sold off for $284 million
It’s been precisely one year and one day since Neil Woodford froze his once-vaunted fund, and while a global pandemic has recently shielded him from the torrent of headlines, the fallout continues.
Today, the California-based patent licensing firm Acacia Research acquired the fund’s shares for 19 healthcare and biotech companies for $284 million. Those companies include shares for public and private companies and count some of Woodford’s most prominent bio-bets, such as Theravance Biopharma, Oxford Nanopore and Mereo Biopharma, according to Sky News, which first reported the sale. It won’t include shares for BenevelontAI, the machine learning biotech once valued at $2 billion.
The sale is part of the ongoing effort to liquidate Woodford’s fund, following its collapse last spring. By that point, the equity income fund, strained by souring bets like Northwest Biotherapeutics, had plummeted from a peak valuation of $10.2 billion to $3.7 billion. Disappointed and in some cases irate, investors began pulling their cash, but Woodford couldn’t sell his assets fast enough or for enough money to meet their demands. On June 4 he suspended the account.
In October, with Woodford unable to quell the tumult, Link Asset Services, the authorized corporate director of his firm, fired him and announced a sell-off to begin in January. That proved easier said than done, though. The value of some of his companies, including Immunocore and Benevelont AI, had dropped dramatically since the fund’s suspension. And, as many baseball teams and front lawn rummage sale operators can tell you, firesales don’t provide the best condition to extract value. A £550 million rescue deal fell through in February. At one point, Woodford himself emerged as a prominent bidder to buy up his old portfolio.
Today’s sale may give investors their first taste of capital since March, even as it may disappoint in size. “There will no doubt be huge frustration at the valuation achieved by Park Hill,” Ryan Hughes, head of active portfolios at investment platform AJ Bell, told Yahoo News, referring to the bank that helped manage the sale. “Park Hill and Link were in no position to try and push the price higher. At the end of the day with such illiquid stocks, these assets are only worth what someone is prepared to pay for them.”
In a letter to investors, Link Asset Services said that, including the Acacia deal, the fund’s assets are worth £440 million. The Acacia sale could take up to 6 months to complete.
Social image: Neil Woodford, Woodford Investment Management via Youtube