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Woodford banks on builders' yield with new fund

Woodford banks on builders' yield with new fund

Neil Woodford has taken a big position in UK house builders in his new Income Focus fund, as the manager is drawn to the high yields available in the sector.

Woodford has revealed every single stock in his new fund, which features FTSE 100 builders Taylor Wimpey (TW) and Barratt Developments (BDEV) in the top 10 holdings.

The manager also bought the stocks for his flagship Equity Income fund last month, but they make up a much bigger proportion of the Income Focus fund, launched in March, at a combined 5% of the portfolio.

'Mid cap' builders Bovis (BVS) and Crest Nicholson (CRST) are meanwhile new buys for Woodford, making up just under 2.4% of the portfolio.

While house builders have recovered strongly after being hit hard by the Brexit vote, the high special dividends they have been paying amid the buoyant property market of the last few years mean they still boast high trailing yields.

Taylor Wimpey trades on a trailing yield of 6.1%, Barratt Developments is on 5%, Bovis is on 4.9% and Crest Nicholson is on 4.5%.

Woodford (pictured) will be hoping they will be able to sustain those levels of payments, as the manager aims to pay out a dividend equating to 5% of the launch price next year.

While their income is an obvious attraction, they are also highly geared to the performance of the UK economy, which Woodford has argued is better placed than many believe.

His confidence in the domestic economy, and his belief that cyclical companies exposed to it have been oversold by the Brexit vote, sparked an overhaul of his Equity Income fund last month and is also a theme of his new portfolio.

While his new fund has greater scope to invest overseas, there is a strong UK domestic slant to Income Focus. 'In the run-up to the launch of the Income Focus fund I had said that I believed there was an attractive domestic opportunity, in part because people were too downbeat about the UK economy,' Woodford said.

'The new portfolio is a manifestation of this view but in a more income-focused way.'

It is more concentrated than the Equity Income fund, housing 50 stocks as opposed to 131, with the long tail of early-stage and unquoted companies that feature in his flagship fund absent.

While there is substantial crossover in the stocks held, 15 of the companies in the Income Focus fund are new positions. The portfolio features a greater exposure to property, sharing positions in real estate investment trusts (REITs) New River (NRRT) and Londonmetric (LMPL), Sirius Real Estate (SRET) and Raven Russia (RUS), alongside new holdings in German group Leg Immobilien (LEGn.DE) and Regional REIT (RGLR).

Insurers also play a bigger role. Equity Income holding Legal & General (LGEN) is the new fund's second biggest position, while Aviva (AV), briefly held by the flagship fund before being sold on valuation grounds also features. Closed-book insurer Phoenix (PHNX) is a new position.

Woodford has also returned to areas he is familiar with. He sold SSE (SSE) from his Equity Income fund in 2015 on fears the energy provider would struggle to grow its earnings, but has found the 6.1% yield too high to ignore for his new fund.

That's supplemented with new holdings in 3.9% yielding Pennon (PNN) and 4.1% yielding National Grid (NG) bolstering exposure to utilities which have been lacking from the Equity Income fund, after Woodford followed the SSE sale by dumping his shares in British Gas owner Centrica.

Woodford's new buy Lloyds (LLOY) meanwhile occupies a bigger billing in his new fund as the sixth largest holding. Pharmaceuticals, long a favourite Woodford sector, play a role in the new fund, with AstraZeneca (AZN) the top holding, as it is in his flagship portfolio. But there's also a position in the form of US group Gilead (GLD.O).

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