From the Times:
...But what about another connection? It’s one that goes to the heart of those dubious share listings in Guernsey: a caper even Financial Conduct Authority boss Andrew Bailey finally seems to have spotted. It’s the Woodford association with Anton Bilton and Glyn Hirsch.
Who they? The executive deputy chairman and chief executive of Raven Property, the investor in Russian warehouses. Mr Woodford has been an enthusiastic backer ever since the business arrived on Aim in 2005 under the moniker Raven Russia. The following year it raised £310 million at 115p via another Woodford ally: stockbroker Cenkos. And, on the face of it, it’s not been the greatest investment. Today the shares stand at about 40¼p.
Woodford Investment Management owns 13.6 per cent of the business, while his old shop Invesco has 32.5 per cent. Indeed, Raven Property accounts for 0.6 per cent of Woodford’s gated equity income fund. But it’s not ordinary shares that have chiefly attracted him. He also owns two classes of Raven preference shares: a far better investment, given their high yields. The Raven convertible pref is the 12th biggest holding in his equity income fund, making up 2.18 per cent of it. It yields 5.7 per cent.
But that’s not the only link to Mr Bilton — husband of model Lisa B — and Mr Hirsch. They are also chairman and non-exec director of Sabina Estates, the developer of luxury properties in Ibiza. Via five separate holdings, Sabina makes up 1.7 per cent more of Mr Woodford’s gated fund. Not only that. Those stakes were the first to be listed in Guernsey: all part of Mr Woodford’s apparent ploy to pretend his fund does not breach the 10 per cent limit for unlisted, illiquid investments.
He followed up by listing his stakes in artificial intelligence group Benevolent AI, energy outfit Industrial Heat and tech investor Ombu. And who, you ask, was the sponsor to these listings? Belasko Corporate Finance, a subsidiary of Belasko Group: a provider of “fund, corporate and fiduciary services”, backed by none other than Messrs Bilton and Hirsch. As the financial firm notes: “Belasko is a Basque word meaning little raven.”
In short, in his hour of need, up popped Mr Woodford’s Raven pals to sponsor his iffy Guernsey listings. Belasko is the sponsor to about twenty separate listings of his stakes in the four companies — largely in preference shares that aren’t even traded. Add in the Raven stakes and the holdings account for almost 11.5 per cent of his suspended fund.