Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 June 2019

Cancer centre not affected by investment fund’s woes

British investor Neil Woodford owns almost half of the shares in the firm developing Abu Dhabi’s proton cancer centre

British fund manager Neil Woodford has put his fund in lockdown after an exodus of savers, the move led to shares slumping on Tuesday.  Michael Walter/Troika
British fund manager Neil Woodford has put his fund in lockdown after an exodus of savers, the move led to shares slumping on Tuesday.  Michael Walter/Troika

Work on the UAE’s first proton-therapy cancer centre will go ahead despite a shareholder in the company developing it experiencing financial difficulties.

Work officially began on the £47m (Dh219m) Abu Dhabi Proton Centre, which will transform cancer treatment in the UAE, two weeks ago.

Fund manager Neil Woodford’s Woodford Equity Income, which owns 20.74 per cent of shares in Proton Partners International, announced on Monday that it was suspending trading after an exodus of investors. On Tuesday, the fund’s share price plummeted after it was announced investors could not retrieve their money for at least four weeks.

WEI’s sister company Woodford Patient Capital Trust – whose shares dropped 13 per cent after the announcement – owns 21.12 per cent of PPI.

Yesterday, Mr Woodford issued an apology to investors on YouTube, saying he was “extremely sorry”.

“As difficult a decision as this is, and clearly frustrating for you, our investors, we felt this was necessary to protect your interests,” he said.

“I’m extremely sorry that we’ve had to take this decision. We will keep our investors informed. We will use this time to reposition the fund.”

British company PPI opened the UK’s first proton centre last year. Proton beam therapy is a highly-targeted type of radiotherapy that can treat hard-to-reach cancers such as spinal tumours with a lower risk of damaging surrounding tissues and causing side effects.

PPI told The National yesterday that the Abu Dhabi centre would not be affected by financial issues, as the money was already in place. It also vowed to continue the development of more centres in the UK.

A spokesman for PPI said: “There is no impact in relation to our proposed proton-beam therapy centre in Abu Dhabi as it has a separate investor pool.

“Furthermore, we have an excellent relationship with Woodford Investment Management and this was evidenced in commitments made during our recent listing process on the NEX exchange in London.”

Last month, Mike Moran, chief executive of PPI, said: “There is a growing need for proton-beam therapy treatment around the world, as it has been shown to deliver significant results for patients.

“Its effectiveness at lowering side effects, compared to traditional radiation treatment, is transforming the lives of many thousands of cancer patients. We are proud that Proton Partners will be the first to be bringing it to the UAE.”

Mr Woodford warned his portfolio companies a week ago that they needed to justify their worth.

Investment group Hargreaves Lansdown, whose clients last year accounted for more than 30 per cent of WEI, said the freezing of withdrawals was “disturbing”.

Hargreaves’s head of investment Emma Wall said: “Any negative news like this is worrying. But it gives [Mr Woodford] the breathing space to get on being an investor rather than constantly worrying about redemptions. He can use these 28 days to offload illiquid assets, which he’s doing anyway.”

Updated: June 5, 2019 07:56 PM

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