Thursday, 18 June 2015

The Maestro's Movers: Neil Woodford's Big Buys and Sells in May 2015

Stock stalking is a weird hobby.

In general I do not "follow" any particular investor's activities. However, there are a couple that I have followed of sorts because I like their investment style. One of them is Neil Woodford

I watch Woodford's fund quite carefully to get some ideas. In particular, doing this with Woodford is extremely easy as--I am sure many of you know this--he publishes the entire breakdown of his fund each month. A very unusual action.

Since launch I have been assiduously collecting this data and building a little spreadsheet to see how things are changing. I've realised that this work--which is not a tiny amount--may be of interest to some of you.

So here I will offer a little breakdown of the companies that Woodford has bought and sold in May 2015.


First, a little on my methodology. Woodford provides two bits of information each month which I use for this:
  1. The total value of all the assets in his fund;
  2. The percentage weight each company has within the fund.
Using this information, I do a couple of things:
  1. Work out the value of the company holding (dividing the fund size by the company's weight)
  2. Using the share price on the day the snapshot of the fund was taken, I work out how many shares (approximately) Woodford holds in the company.
Now this provides an estimate of his shareholding in each company from month to month. It can then be used to work out what his big movers were during the month.

This is where it may be interesting to you.

Woodford's Big Buys in May

So what companies has Woodford being buying into? Well, here is a list--according to my estimates--of listed companies that he increased his shareholding in by 3% or more:
  1. Homeserve--58%
  2. GlaxoSmithKline--29%
  3. IP--27%
  4. Legal & General--17%
  5. Centrica--15%
  6. AstraZeneca--13%
  7. Utilitywise--12%
  8. Imperial Tobacco--11%
  9. NetScientific--9%
  10. BTG--9%
  11. Reynolds American--8%
  12. Redde--6%
  13. Mercia Technologies--5%
  14. Midatech Pharma--5%
  15. Allied Minds--4%
  16. BAE Systems--4%
  17. Next--4%
  18. Game Digital--4%
  19. G4S--4%
  20. e-Therapeutics--4%
  21. 4D Pharma--3%

Woodford's Big Sells in May

So what companies has Woodford been dropping? Again, this is a list of those which have dropped at least 3% or more:
  1. Sanofi--100%
  2. Roche--12%
  3. AA--12%
  4. HaloSource--9%
  5. Amlin--7%
  6. RM2 International--7%
  7. Capita--6%
  8. Zegona--5%
  9. PayPoint--3%
  10. Babcock International--3%

Woodford's Moves and My Portfolio

Looking at the list alongside my portfolio is quite interesting. Several of my current holdings feature on his big buy list: GlaxoSmithKline, Legal & General, AstraZeneca and Imperial Tobacco. Interestingly, all of these I have recently considered topping up.

On the sell side, he sold some of both Amlin and Babcock which are in my portfolio. In reality, I have been thinking of topping up Amlin of late. Woodford's sale does not really affect my view of this long-term. 

Similarly, a couple of companies did catch my eye. Redde I have not looked at for ages, but looks quite attractive. Similarly, BAE Systems is increasingly in my "buy" range and so I am not surprised to see Woodford filling up in May. I suspect we will see something similar in June.

Some Caveats

Obviously, as with everything on this site, this list is not meant to be advice on what to buy (or sell). Also, these figures are all created from different levels of estimated data. 

The weightings are rounded as is the fund value. Share holdings are therefore estimations rather than certain figures and--as a consequence--my calculations on their changes are not supposed to be seen as 100% accurate. Of course, at this final stage (that is, the write-up) there is also an additional rounding of the percentage changes.

Also, because of the way I collate the data it does mean that full sales of holdings will likely be missed. If you notice any, give me a heads up in the comments section below.

As usual, Do Your Own Research (DYOR)!

What do you think?

What do you think of some of Woodford's big movers? Did you make similar purchases/sells in May? Has the list got you thinking about any of the companies listed?

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[Image reproduced from Woodford Investment Management]


  1. Thanks for your efforts with this. It's very interesting.

    Not really surprised to see Woodford adding to GSK, he's a huge pharma fan.

    I reckon he's also on to a good thing with Centrica over the long term.

    1. My pleasure. It is quite interesting to see how a successful fund manager operates.

      No, I wasn't surprised really by the prominence of GSK and AZN in the list of "top" top ups (or indeed, the other pharma/healthcare plays). Nor indeed, of the LGEN and BAE top ups.

      I am tempted to open a position in Centrica. We will see. As you say, over the long-term it certainly looks a solid bet.

      The size of the Homeserve and Utilitywise top-ups was quite interesting. I had not really expected that. I was going to look into the reasons behind this but have not had time yet.

  2. Thanks for this DD. I take an interest in Woodford's list of companies as his fund is the only actively managed one that I invest in - yes, I jumped on the Woodford bandwagon from the start but the fund has done pretty well in its first year.

    I didn't do any analysis on his purchases or sales though so thanks for this, it is very interesting to see what companies are interesting him (or not). There are a few in that top 20 list that I'd like to buy into at some point.

    1. Glad you found it of interest, weenie!

      Yes, it is one of the few such funds I would consider investing in at this time. Hence why I am watching it so closely! His Patient Capital sounds very interesting as well. I will have to see whether it is interesting enough. I'd like to look at its composition a little more before deciding whether it is an appropriate place to put my capital.

      I have been doing it since it launched out of curiosity (and for a similar reason as I gave for the Patient Capital: to get a feel for the portfolio).

      Yes, there are a number that catch my eye as well. But much more research needs to be done first! All the FTSE 100 giants in the top 10 growers are on my watchlist already. We will see when I get time to research the others further!

    2. Yes, I've been toying with the idea of adding Patient Capital to my growing number of investment trusts but might just wait a while longer before I jump in. Unfortunately, it's not a fund that's available (on my platforms) to purchase as regular investments, which means I would have a make a larger than normal investment all in one go and I'm not sure I'm ready for that yet.

    3. That is an inconvenience. I wonder if it is likely they will change that!

      It certainly looks interesting. As I say, I think I will wait until its beds in a little before seriously considering it. We will see though! For example, I would like to do some tweaking with regards the fees. See what it works out as long term!

      Obviously, it is attractively charging if they underperform. But no one invest to underperform!

  3. Very interesting D², thanks for all your efforts! I'm also interested in Centrica and gsk, neither of which I currently own.


    1. My pleasure, M (incidentally, long time no see...hope you had a good holiday!). Glad you found it interesting.

      Centrica has constantly tickled my fancy but I am still waiting for some transparency as to how the future may look first. Now they seem to have stabilised it may be an appropriate time to jump on board. Certainly Woodford thinks so!

      If I was not so heavy with GSK (though it is not as pronounced as I originally though nowadays) I would have loaded up on more of them recently. I may just do so anyway, a little bit of overexposure although best to be avoided I suppose can be excused when the likes of GSK is on a solid deal!

  4. Very worthwhile analysis and certainly helps create some ideas. Thank you!

    1. Glad you found it interesting, Paul! My pleasure. I found it interesting putting it together!

      There are certainly plenty of really nice ideas on there. Well worth watching and pondering on. The FTSE 100 giants always get the headline coverage when people look at his portfolio. But it is the smaller ones which seem to catch his interest more!

  5. Hi DD, interesting.

    I guess a lot of his trading comes from cash in/out flows because it's an open ended fund.

    There's still quite a lot of "fiddling" going on there, but I guess with north of £1bn to work with the broker commissions aren't going to eat into profits too much.

    For a private investor, so much trading would be madness.


    1. Glad you found it interesting, John.

      Yes, I gather it does. His fund grew from £5.73 billion to £6.18 billion in the last month. I suspect a lot of that £450 million was fresh capital.

      However, reductions in other companies also plays a notable part in the cash flow. For example, Sanofi was--according to Woodford--sold purely for capital purposes. Certainly I can see little other reason why he would have sold out of that position (it has attracted me for some time along with J&J as a potential healthcare purchase).

      I agree, to try and "emulate" the moves of Woodford would be folly as a private investor. However, seeing where he is seeing value at that moment is of interest. Especially with those firms which he seems to be in more direct contact that you--as a private investor--can be. Babcock was a good recent example.

  6. I am embarassed to admit that I have never heard of him until now. I think it gives you confidence when you see someone with the same stock holdings as yourself. Glad to see he increased his Legal and General holding as I just bought into this particular stock myself.

    1. That is surprising to hear, Laura! He has a sort of "Buffett-esque" fame in the UK. But I am glad you bumped into him now!

      I think you're right. Even when looking for contrarian investments it is quite comforting to know you're not entirely alone. In general, I don't really mind much if someone else holds similar companies to me. But Woodford certainly has a proven track record so it is a nice thing to see even if it does not influence the decision-making process.

      Woodford impresses me for his long-term view which is actually put into practice. As such, using his fund as a way in which to get ideas is, it think, fascinating.

      Of course, many he invests in I would not touch at all. But many others I would. LGEN is one (indeed, one I hold). It is a good company, I think it will serve you and me well! I just wish they had not been so keen to increase the payout ratio. Gives them less leeway if things turn sour!

  7. Wow, Neil Woodford has been very busy. Like you, I do not look at other portfolio buys or sells and mimic the moves. I like to follow the beat of my own investing drum. Nevertheless, that's a lot of buying and selling in a single month. More so than I every would do or even consider doing. I am much more comfortable with one or two buys typically in a month and that's about it. In fact this month is the first time ever that I made three separate buys. While I can understand some of the moves made above it's just too much trading for my style.

    1. Yes, he certainly has. Some of the smaller companies' may actually show that the growth is actually just due to the fairly rounded figures. I am not sure though. That is why I set it at anything above 3%. I think that pretty satisfactorily removes a bit of error there.

      Yes, he certainly trades parts of this holdings more frequently than I would. But then again, his business is investing and as such you would expect that. Most other investment managers probably have similar trading patterns but--as they don't publish breakdowns as frequently as Woodford--we can't view them.

      I certainly haven't put this together to encourage people to emulate Woodford's style of investing. How could they! A £6 billion fund vs. a 5 or 6 figure portfolio? Not a very good comparison!

      That being said, his tendency to look long-term with many companies and to pick solid times to buy into and build a position makes for interesting reading. Looking at what he had done sometimes offers interesting research lines (for example, Utilitywise and Homeserve).

      Clearly, being a professional investor he is "in touch" with some of the bigger moves in certain companies than us. As a result, it is useful to use his trading activity as a way of focusing a lens on certain business which--ordinarily--may have dropped off your radar!