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Shrewd Snapshot - April review: F&C's Scott backs Prodesse

Citywire takes a look at some of the shrewd investing over the last month, which includes A-rated Ted Scott joining the list of backers in property firm Prodesse.

* F&C Investment’s Ted Scott has taken a significant stake in Prodesse Investment .

Citywire A-rated Scott owns 902,585 shares, or 3.2%, of the firm through his F&C Stewardship Income fund (F&C Stewardship Income 1 Inc).

Prodesse is Guernsey-domiciled investment company which is managed by US-based Fidac Investment. It invests in agency-backed investment grade mortgage backed securities and avoids any sub-prime credit risk.

The company managed to raise £11 million in a share placing earlier this year in the midst of the crisis in US sub-prime mortgages.

Prodesse joins Jupiter’s AA-rated Anthony Nutt in backing the firm. Nutt owns a 9.4% stake through his Jupiter Income fund (Jupiter Income Trust) making it the biggest shareholder in the firm.

* Citywire AAA-rated Richard Plackett has trimmed his stake in software group Kewill Systems (KWL).

Plackett made the sale through his Merrill Lynch UK Smaller Companies fund (Merrill Lynch UK Smaller Companies Inc), which now controls a stake below the 3% threshold.

The news follows last month’s acquisition spree by Kewill. It acquired Dutch IT firm BV for €18.6 million (£12.7 million) along with Asian IT solutions provider Ipacs e-Solutions for £3.4 million.

Recent numbers from Kewill showed a dip in interim profits from £1.3 million in the previous year to £400,000. The group believes the ongoing integration of its acquired business will provide a platform for more cross-selling opportunities.

* Specialist small cap fund manager Octopus Investments has once again increased its position in market research and consulting firm Cello Group (CLL).

Octopus has raised its position in the firm from 7.62% to 8.23%. It is the second time this month Octopus has added to its position in the company.

Shares in Cello shot up this week after the group reported a 40% jump year-on-year in headline pre-tax profit to £5.9 million. This spike in profit was on the back of an increase in turnover from £52.1 million to £74.7 million.

The group accompanied the numbers with a proposed final dividend of 0.6p per share, giving a total dividend of 1p.

* Electra Quoted Partners (ECQ), a provider of venture capital trusts, has unveiled a significant holding in jewellery manufacturing and distribution company Abbeycrest (ACR).

ECQ, which is owned by the specialist asset management firm Electra Partners Group, owns 26,023,641 shares in the group, accounting for an 8.53% stake in the £4.8-million firm.

In its most recent trading update Abbeycrest, which is listed on the FTSE Fledgling, posted a £1.37-million rise in first-half profit versus a £4.2-million loss in the previous year. The results were better than forecast.

Abbeycrest attributed the turnaround to a restructuring initiative, which it expects to provide a solid base from which to build on.

* US-based activist investment fund Liberty Asset Management has sold its stake in financial services company IFG Group (IFP).

The fund, which is widely recognised for its shareholder activism, no longer has a notifiable stake in the £106-million firm after previously holding a 4.31% interest.

The disclosure comes shortly after a robust trading update from IFG. The group reported full-year pre-tax profit of €12.28 million (£8.3 million) versus €2.97 million
in the previous year, while turnover jumped from €92.67 million to €107.22 million.

The numbers were accompanied by a 10% hike in its dividend.

IFG attributed the sharp turnaround to the restructuring of its finances, which led to a steep reduction in costs.

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