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Woodford sells P2P Global stake to Quilter as withdrawals bite

Neil Woodford sells entire £88.2 million stake in peer-to-peer lending trust to rival fund group Quilter

Woodford sells P2P Global stake to Quilter as withdrawals bite

Neil Woodford sold his entire stake in peer-to-peer lending investment trust P2P Global Investments (P2P) to rival fund group Quilter as investors continue to pull money from his fund.

Stock exchange filings show the fund manager sold the £88.2 million stake, accounting for 13% of the trust's shares, to Quilter's Cirilium multi-asset funds on Thursday.

Woodford's sale of the stake comes as investors withdraw money from his flagship £4.4 billion Woodford Equity Income fund as performance continues to suffer.

Investors last month pulled £160 million from the fund, which is rooted to the bottom of the Investment Association's UK All Companies sector, down 7.6% over three years.

The sale follows Woodford's offloading of a £40 million stake in NewRiver (NRR) real estate investment trust to his successor at Invesco, Mark Barnett, earlier this month.

Woodford has been a longstanding backer of P2P Global and the broader peer-to-peer lending sector.

He first invested in the trust in its January 2015 fundraising, following the closed-ended fund's launch in May the previous year.

Performance has been disappointing, with the shares, which are today changing hands at 848p, well down on the £10 to £12 range at which they were trading when Woodford was building the bulk of his stake.

The shares, which enjoyed a premium to net asset value (NAV) as high as 15% in the months following the trust's launch, fell to a discount of more than 20% as performance deteriorated. They currently trade 12.1% below NAV.

The trust was hit by an over-allocation to US consumer loans, including those stemming from US peer-to-peer lender Lending Club, whose chief executive resigned in 2016 after it emerged the platform had sold $22 million of 'near-prime loans' to an investors despite the loans not meeting the criteria.

That poor performance prompted the board of the trust to implement a review of manager MW Eaglewood. 

The fund group last year merged with Pollen Street Capital, which runs better-performing Honeycomb (HONY), and took over the running of P2P Global.

While P2P Global's share price performance has proved a disappointment, the trust has provided Woodford with a valuable source of income in his four years as an investor.

The shares currently yield 5.7%, having paid out dividends of 48p last year and 47p in 2017, although the trust failed to hit its target of 15p quarterly dividends last summer.

P2P Global had accounted for 1.6% of the Woodford Equity Income fund at the end of March and the same proportion of the £539 million Woodford Income Focus fund.

Despite the sale, Woodford remains a significant backer of the peer-to-peer lending space. He holds 21% of the shares in Honeycomb and is the second largest shareholder in VPC Specialty Lending (VSLV), with 16.6% of the shares.

The manager also holds a stake in RateSetter in his Woodford Patient Capital (WPCT) investment trust.

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