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James Henderson regrets Carillion ‘mistake’

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James Henderson regrets Carillion ‘mistake’

Carillion's (CLLN) well-publicised problems led most fund managers to dump the stock, but not all managed to escape yesterday's collapse into liquidation.

Among those who clung on to the stock are James Henderson and Laura Foll, who held the company in their Law Debenture (LWDB) and Lowland (LWI) investment trusts.

Law Debenture held the more sizeable stake, worth £5.3 million or 0.7% of the portfolio at the end of June last year, before the shares were hit by the string of profit warnings. Lowland's stake was worth nearly £1.5 million, or 0.4% of the portfolio shortly after it was introduced into the fund in early 2016.

'You just have to suffer'

The managers admitted that buying the construction group in 2016 had been a 'mistake' after reporting the stock as the biggest detractor to performance in the annual report for Lowland released last month.

Speaking to Citywire, Henderson (pictured above) said that by the end of last year the damage to the funds had been done, with the scale of the company's problems making it hard to sell the stake.

'You weren't able to sell any size of holding,' he said. 'When bad news is out like that, you just have to suffer.'

He added that the high-profile collapse had taught him a lesson over investing in companies reliant on contracts like Carillion.

'The margins have always been low. The lesson is if you have that low margin, you do need a strong balance sheet,' he said.

Despite Carillion, both investment trusts did well last year with Law Debenture, a member of the AIC Global sector, delivering a total shareholder return of 22% and Lowland, a UK Equity Income fund, generating a gain of over 16%. Over ten years the trusts are up 167% and 154% respectively.

Rush to sell

Fund managers at EdenTree Investment Management also held a small stake in Carillion as it entered liquidation. But Robin Hepworth of EdenTree Higher Income fund and Sue Round and Ketan Patel of EdenTree Amity UK fund had at least succeeded in selling off the bulk of the group's position over the last six months.

Scottish value investors Kiltearn Partners, previously Carillion's highest conviction backer, meanwhile said it no longer held an interest in Carillion by the time of today's liquidation. Kiltearn emerged with a stake of 10% of the company's shares in February, before halving its stake in December after the shares had fallen by more than 90%.

Majedie Asset Management was also once ranked among the company's top investors, with the team behind the Majedie UK Equity fund holding a stake worth £8.2 million at the end of June last year. But that was gone a matter of days later, with the managers selling the stake in early July, as the company's problems began to bite.

Carillion's suspension of its dividend as it delivered its first profit warning of last year in July appears to have been the catalyst for income fund managers to dump the stock.

The Value and Income (VIN) investment trust, which held a stake worth £2.3 million at the time of its 2017 annual report, sold its stake after July's profit warning at a 34% loss.

Carillion had once accounted for 2% of Tony Yarrow's TB Wise Income fund, but he also sold his position in July, admitting he hadn't realised 'the deterioration in the financials on the construction side, particularly in the UK, and that management hadn't responded strongly enough'.

Steven Andrew, who had held small positions in his M&G Episode Income and Income Allocation funds at the end of April, had sold those shares by the time of the funds' interim reports in October.

Fund ownership data from Reuters shows few active managers were prepared to hold a sizeable stake in the troubled construction group's shares.

The number of 'tracker' funds and exchange-traded funds, which aim to replicate the performance of a particular index , that appear among the company's top investors is testament to how far out of favour the stock had fallen among active fund managers.

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