Woodford to offload stake in Push Doctor-backer ADV to L&G

13 August 2019, 22:31 | Updated: 13 August 2019, 22:49

The embattled fund manager Neil Woodford is close to offloading another of his firm's assets by striking a deal to sell a big stake in a backer of Push Doctor, the GP-on-demand service.

Sky News has learnt that Woodford Investment Management is expected to reach an agreement this week to sell its roughly 40% shareholding in Accelerated Digital Ventures (ADV) to fellow investor Legal & General (L&G;).

If confirmed, the deal will see L&G;, the insurance and pensions giant, become ADV's biggest shareholder by far.

The British Business Bank and ADV's management also hold small stakes.

ADV, which launched in 2016, was created as a new platform to provide funding for start-ups and scale-ups in the UK - with the latter category an area of the economy that politicians and investors argue have been overlooked.

Among the companies within ADV's portfolio are Push Doctor‎, which offers same-day medical appointments online, Unmortgage, which offers users funds to buy their homes, and WeFarm, an app targeting the agricultural sector.

The price that L&G; is paying for Mr Woodford's stake in ADV is unclear, although City sources said it was likely to be in the tens of millions of pounds.

Mr Woodford's stake is held in its Equity Income Fund, which has been suspended to redemptions since June amid deepening concerns about the illiquidity of many of its positions and ‎deteriorating investor confidence.

The crisis that has subsequently engulfed a man hitherto regarded as one of the City's star fund managers has sent shockwaves through the industry.

Probing questions have been asked about Mr Woodford's close links with fund platforms such as Hargreaves Lansdown and ‎the role played by Link Asset Services, the administrator of Mr Woodford's funds.

The firm has said it is unlikely to reopen until December but that it will continue to charge management fees in the meantime, a stance that has infuriated customers, regulators and politicians.

In recent weeks, Mr Woodford has disposed of a number of holdings ‎even some of his other large positions, such as its stake in the litigation funder Burford Capital, have been hit by steep falls in their value.

PJT Park Hill has been hired to arrange further disposals from the shuttered fund.

L&G; and Mr Woodford declined to comment.