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Hedge fund shorts Woodford Patient Capital Trust shares

Hedge fund shorts Woodford Patient Capital Trust shares

Neil Woodford has been forced to deal with high-profile short-selling campaigns against two of his key holdings in recent years, but one hedge fund group has gone one step further in its bet against the manager.

Swiss fund manager Lombard Odier, which runs a range of hedge and retail funds, is shorting the shares of Woodford Patient Capital (WPCT), according to Financial Conduct Authority data.

Lombard Odier's short position represents 0.6% of the trust's shares, or around £4.5 million.

It's not clear which of Lombard Odier's funds has taken out the short on Woodford's investment trust, which is focused on early-stage companies and holds the bulk of its assets in unquoted companies.

The bet against the trust, disclosed to the City regulator last Thursday, follows a recovery in the shares from April lows after major holding Prothena (PRTA.O)  failed a key drugs test.

Since then, the shares have rallied more than 13%, despite a difficult stock market backdrop. Strong performance of Autolus (AUTL.O), the cancer specialist which listed in the US this summer, and the revaluation of controversial holding Industrial Heat, a cold fusion specialist, have buoyed the shares.

But at 86.7p today they remain marooned below the 100p price at which they launched more than three years ago, with the shares, which had shot to a premium above net asset value at launch, now trading at a 10% discount.

Lombard Odier may have been encouraged to short Woodford's trust by its apparent success in betting against one of the manager's key holdings, Purplebricks (PURP).

FCA data show the fund group first disclosing a short position on shares in the online estate agent in September last year and last disclosing a position this April. Over that period the stock lost more than a quarter of its value.

Purplebricks is a major holding in all three of Woodford's funds. The online estate agent is a top 10 position in his Woodford Income Focus fund, and sits just outside the top 10 holdings in his flagship Woodford Equity Income fund and Patient Capital investment trust.

Other apparent shorting successes for Lombard Odier include a bet against the shares of scandal-hit Alternative Investment Market stock Telit Communications (TELT).

The fund group first disclosed a short on the shares in October 2016 and had closed it by May this year. During that time the shares fell by more than 40%, as the 'internet of things' firm stunned investors last year by severing ties with chief executive Oozi Cats over allegations of links to US fugitive Uzi Katz.

But Lombard Odier's bets against AIM technology shares haven't always worked as well. The fund group looks to have been caught out in its short on Learning Technologies (LTGL). The group first disclosed a short position in April this year, with the last disclosure last month, according to FCA data. During that time the shares have rallied more than 60%.

Lombard Odier's shorting of Woodford's shares lacks the bombast of the two major short-selling attacks the manager has faced to two of his key holdings, Allied Minds (ALML) and Prothena.

Both came under sustained fire from US hedge fund Kerrsidale Capital, which attacked Woodford's record of biotech investing.

Lombard Odier Asset Management, the fund management arm of the Swiss private bank of the same name, has perhaps unsurprisingly done things a little more quietly.

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