Wednesday, 27 January 2016

The Maestro's Movers: Neil Woodford's Big Buys and Sells in December 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 comparatively easy as--I am sure many of you know this--he publishes the entire breakdown of his fund each month. Very unusual, but also very interesting.

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 December 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 (this month, £8.32 billion);
  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 December

So what companies has Woodford been buying into?

Well, here is a list--according to my estimates--of listed companies that he increased his shareholding in by 3% or more. Those in bold were not in last months list of big buys. Those in italics were in last months big sells last month:

11Allied MindsLON:ALM6.69%
12Spire HealthcareLON:SPI6.37%
13Horizon DiscoveryLON:HSD6.32%
16BCA MarketplaceLON:BCA4.99%
18Imperial TobaccoLON:IMT3.87%
19Oakley CapitalLON:OCL3.82%
22Legal & GeneralLON:LGEN3.22%
There were a number of new additions here. Purplebricks was not a new buy, per se. in fact, Woodford has held their unlisted stock for some time. However, December saw their IPO and Woodford increased his holding further through that means.

Other news additions include Stobart (the transport company), CityFibre (a broadband infrastructure company) and Abzena (a pharma company) which Woodford held for a long time but sold out of in recent months.

Woodford also took the opportunity the weaker market offered to add a little to holdings he was selling down a little the month before.

Woodford's Big Sells in December

So what companies has Woodford been dropping?

Again, this is a list of those which have dropped at least 3% or more. Those in bold were not in last months list of big sells. Those in italics were in last months big buys last month:

2Halosource Reg SLON:HALO-23.08%
4Non-Standard FinanceLON:NSF-20.35%
6Phoenix Spree DeutschlandLON:PSDL-17.41%
8Northwest BiotherapeuticsNASDAQ:NWBO-16.36%
9Oxford PharmascienceLON:OXP-13.86%
11Royal MailLON:RMG-12.25%
12VPC Specialty Lending CLON:VSL-12.03%
13Mercia TechnologiesLON:MERC-11.36%
16P2P Global CLON:P2P-8.31%
17British American TobaccoLON:BATS-8.26%
21Burford CapitalLON:BUR-6.93%
22Crystal AmberLON:CRS-6.43%
24Raven RussiaLON:RUS-5.84%
25Imperial InnovationsLON:IVO-5.68%
26RM2 InternationalLON:RM2-5.41%
28Tissue RegenixLON:TRX-5.00%
30Babcock InternationalLON:BAB-4.73%
31VPC Specialty LendingLON:VSL-4.46%
Woodford seems to have spent a lot of time in December reversing some of the purchases he made in November (presumably taking advantage of the sharp uptick in share price for many of them) in order to help fund these new positions in December. 

Woodford's Moves 

December seems to have been a fascinating month. Indeed, it has more of the feel of a trading account than anything else as short-term positions entered into last month were unwound.

The new positions--no doubt for the long-term--are also interesting. The hefty hike in Roche was not really surprising. Purplebricks is little surprise either seeing his bullishness for them for a long time. For me, Stobart is more so. One to look into, I suspect!

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. For example, this month the Essentra position appears to have been sold out of.

Finally, remember this is an open-ended fund and so has cash flowing in and out of it constantly. As a result, for those companies Woodford particularly favours--if he wishes to keep them at a similar weighting--then each month would show a growth in his shareholding in them. what this means for the true nature of the purchase (confidence, consistency, or whatever) is up to you!

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 December? Has the list got you thinking about any of the companies listed?

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[Image reproduced from Woodford Investment Management]


  1. Thanks DD.

    Although I don't really follow Woodford it is still very interesting to see the amount of trading that goes on. I guess that's the downside of a variable capital fund, with investors buying and selling units all the time and effectively forcing Woodford's team to buy or sell. Unlike investment trusts which don't have to worry about cash in and out flows at all.

    I guess that's the reason why trusts typically outperform funds, even when the manager is the same.

    Thanks again,


    1. John,

      Thanks! It certainly is interesting to see how muhc trading he engages in. It is often overlooked when people look at his performance, but obviously plays an important part. Compare this to the likes of Nick Train and it is quite striking.

      I think you're right that it is probably linked to investors buying in and out of the fund. However, the net gain month after month is very consistent so I do wonder how much is actually fed by this in reality. There is, really, no way to know!

      I think you're right. I was surprised that Woodford started a fund rather than trust. However, I suspect that it was because he knew that his name would attract massive capital but did not really know quite how much. Funds allowed him to not have to second-guess his own popularity!