Aviva buys up shares in beleaguered WH Ireland

Wealth manager’s shares have fallen 40% so far this year

Aviva has purchased shares in WH Ireland as the beleaguered wealth manager’s shares languish at a nine-year low.

An RNS announcement out on Wednesday revealed the fund group snapped up close to 32 million shares in the Aim-listed manager on 6 March, the day after it announced it would need £5m in emergency funds in order to meet its capital adequacy requirements.

Shares in WH Ireland have remained broadly flat since the surprise placing, which saw them plunge by 42% from 64p to 37p and hit a nine-year low. They were still trading at 37.5p on Wednesday afternoon one week later.

Aviva now controls a 3.13% stake in the group following the purchase.

The largest shareholders in the company are London-based hedge firms Polygon Global Partners and Oceanwood Capital Management, followed by Prudential’s UK fund group M&G Investments.

Largest shareholders% of shares owned
Polygon Global Partners29.8%
Oceanwood Capital Management24.08%
M&G Investments14.9%
Source: WH Ireland

M&G and Polygon came to WH Ireland’s rescue hours after it announced the placing offer and issued an ‘exceptional’ profit warning, ponying up the bulk of the £4.95m gross funds raised.

Several of the group’s directors participated in Tuesday’s placing purchasing shares in the company for the first time.

Chief executive Philip Wale, who took over last July following a mass exodus of senior personnel, bought 32,500 shares, while chairman Timothy Steel took on 25,000. They now hold 0.06% and 0.07% of the business respectively.

Head of wealth Stephen Ford agreed to buy 111,000 shares or a 0.26% stake in the business.

WH Ireland has suffered from a litany of issues over the past year, losing several top senior figures and issuing multiple profit warnings. However it has been attempting to reverse course under Wale and former Brewin Dolphin heavyweight Stephen Ford, who was recruited in December to transform the business.

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