Major equity markets around the world trended higher last week, all finishing up and with the S&P and Dow trading just off recent all time highs. London continued its under performance, flattered again in part by the continued weakness in the pound to the benefit of the US $ earning exporters.
Neil Woodford’s spectacular fall from grace continued to dominate headlines during the week, and as the 28 day deadline approaches, they are obliged to provide an update. As we know he has sold down his most liquid holdings in order to meet redemptions, but the selling has been so panicked and aggressive that bids are now emerging for some of these holdings.
BCA Marketplace received an all cash offer from private equity of 243p per share, a 25% premium to the previous day’s closing price. Following the announcement and in further evidence of his peril, Woodford sold BCA shares into the market below the price of the bid. This took support for the bid from 43% to 36% despite the strong possibility of it succeeding as both boards recommended the offer to their shareholders or indeed should any other suitors show an interest. Woodford’s problems have been compounded by hedge fund managers anticipating the liquidity squeeze, jumping on the band wagon and shorting the Woodford Income list as well. No doubt there is more to come, but for us the ‘Woodford effect’ has become a hot topic. The Ravenscroft advisory teams have holdings in a number of stocks that have come under pressure and are now offering great value. At some stage the madness will have to stop, and the correction could be swift.
World leaders met in Osaka on Friday and Saturday and were kept busy debating many key issues, where hopes of a de-escalation of the US / China trade war and the threat of conflict between the US and Iran dominated.
Oil continued its rally since the beginning of June stoked by continued tensions between US and Iran, with Tehran announcing that they are ready to breach stockpile limits in contravention of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed in 2015. They are angry at the latest set of US sanctions designed to financially paralyse certain key Iranian figures and are applying pressure on European leaders to offer a bypass to the US measures. European leaders continue to push for a diplomatic solution. The tensions have also helped add to gold’s recent gains, with the perceived ‘safe haven’ asset trading at just off six year highs.
Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt stepped up their criticism of each other as they head for the last in the Tory leadership race. Boris is still favourite, but Hunt has narrowed the gap somewhat, and the bookies’ record on recent political events has been far from perfect. Both candidates now go to the party’s 160,000 members through hustings events to win over votes, with the eventual winner being announced on Monday 22nd July.
On Wednesday, Switzerland announced that they were suspending trading of Swiss shares in the European Union. This came in response to the EU’s decision to no longer recognise Switzerland’s Stock Exchange, and Switzerland’s move is designed to ensure liquidity remains on the Swiss exchange. This stems from disagreements between Switzerland and Brussels on issues such as agriculture, immigration and civil aviation.
And on Friday, theme parks operator Merlin received a bid from Lego’s founding family, Blackstone, and a Canadian pension fund. The bid was at a 15% premium to the previous day’s closing price. Merlin operates Legoland theme parks among other attractions, and the family consortium already owns 30% of the group.
Finally England Ladies have produced some spectacular and hugely entertaining football to reach the semi-finals against the USA tomorrow. From what we have seen they are capable of going all the way, so fingers crossed, and hopefully we will be looking forward to the final on Sunday!
There! Not one mention of Brexit.
Have a good week