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Woodford sold troubled Yell publisher Hibu ahead of 90% profit slump

Woodford sold troubled Yell publisher Hibu ahead of 90% profit slump

Neil Woodford has disposed of Yellow Pages publisher Hibu, revealing the move to his investors on the same day as the firm announced a 90% slump in pre-tax profits.

Hibu, formerly Yell Group, posted a bleak six month update telling its shareholders that over the half-year to 30 September its pre-tax profit had lost £80 million and dropped to £150 million.

Moreover, just a day earlier, Hibu executives decided to push back the deadline on a debt deal with its creditors.

While it is no secret that Hibu has had a tough year, some of its biggest shareholders have stayed tight-lipped as its shares lost 93% of their value.

Woodford (pictured), head of investments at Invesco Perpetual, today told his Edinburgh Investment Trust investors he had let go of the company and reduced his holdings in BG Group, a gas producer which recently warned of poor production, and Tate & Lyle, the sugar maker.

Woodford lifted his £896 million company's exposure to the healthcare sector, taking a new holding in Elan and increasing his position in Smith & Nephew.

He had decided to stand by the tobacco sector for the longer term, and told investors  it 'represents exactly the sort of quality stocks that can deliver attractive profit and dividend growth through a low growth environment.'

The respected manager, best know for his High Income and Income vehicles, spoke to investors as he updated them on his investment trust's performance. 

Over the six months to the end of September Edinburgh grew its net asset value (NAV) by 0.9%, taking its debt at par, versus the FTSE All-Share Index which fell 0.1% over the same period.

Woodford reminded investors that he had remained cautious on the outlook for growth for much of the year, and pointed out that the stream of earnings downgrades he previously anticipated had started to come through.

'The period was noteworthy for the number of profit downgrades from companies. These included Caterpillar, the world's largest construction equipment manufacturer and a traditional bellwether of the global corporate outlook, which cut its earnings forecasts as far ahead as 2015, citing weak demand from the mining industry,' Woodford said.

He added: 'As 2012 has progressed it has become clear that the economic headwinds that others were confident would recede at the start of the year have instead become more intense. This is consistent with [my] message of the past four years - sustainable economic progress remains elusive.'

Following his update to investors, Woodford's trust traded at an 8.2% premium and at 497p per share.

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