Biotech bidders pick over remains of Woodford’s fallen empire | Business News


Bidders are this weekend circling the remnants of the fallen fund manager Neil Woodford’s empire in an attempt to pick up his healthcare company stakes at bargain prices.

Sky News has learnt that Rosetta Capital, a life sciences-focused venture fund, and Omega, a hedge fund, are among the parties which have made offers to buy the collection of listed and privately held positions in recent days.

Another bid has been tabled by WG Partners, an advisory firm, which is working with pharmaceutical investor Ricanto.

The value of the offers was unclear this weekend, and was dependent upon whether bids comprised offers for the entire portfolio of more than a dozen holdings, according to insiders.

Healthcare bankers said the collection of assets could be worth anywhere between £200m and double that sum, and would hinge on the composition of a sale and the prices that advisers are able to achieve.

Mr Woodford, whose long career established him as Britain’s most prominent biotech investor, accumulated stakes in companies such as BenevolentAI, which uses artificial intelligence to aid drug discovery and which recently saw its valuation halve in a funding round led by the Singaporean state fund Temasek Holdings.

Among the other positions in the portfolio being sold by PJT Park Hill Partners are stakes in Oxford Nanopore, a DNA sequencing specialist, and 4D Pharma, a biotherapeutics specialist.

Stakes in Verseon, Kymab and Immunocore are also included in the sale process, according to people who have seen documents related to it.

A separate portfolio of stakes in companies such as Atom Bank and Ratesetter is also being auctioned.

The completion of the healthcare portfolio sale, which is expected as soon as next month, will mark a further step towards the winding-up of Mr Woodford’s eponymous asset management firm.

Months of difficulties for the former star stock-picker culminated last week in Link Financial, the supervisor of Woodford Investment Management (WIM) funds, announcing that it was firing him as the manager of his Equity Income Fund.

Mr Woodford subsequently threw in the towel and said he was closing his firm five years after its launch attracted billions of pounds from ordinary savers.

WIM’s demise is the fund management sector’s most dramatic since New Star collapsed during the financial crisis, and has sparked fury among savers and politicians.

Mr Woodford is now facing intense scrutiny from regulators and lawyers who believe there may be scope to bring claims against his firm.

Investors in his funds are expected to crystallise substantial losses as a result of the crisis.

The nightmare engulfing the former Invesco manager has also raised questions about his relationship with fund supermarkets such as Hargreaves Lansdown, which has sought to present itself as a frustrated onlooker since WIM’s Equity Income Fund was suspended in June.

Some of Mr Woodford’s biggest publicly quoted stakes, such as those in the construction group Kier and the logistics company Eddie Stobart Logistics, have seen their value plummet amid company and sector-related problems.

Efforts to float some of his illiquid private holdings have also run into difficulty.

Earlier this week, Mr Woodford said: “I personally deeply regret the impact events have had on individuals who placed their faith in Woodford Investment Management and invested in our funds.”

None of the bidders for Woodford’s healthcare portfolio could be reached for comment, while WIM and Link both declined to comment on Saturday.


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