Shares guru Williams quits fund manager Gartmore after 17 years
GERVAIS Williams, perhaps the most influential investor in Irish shares over the past decade, has quit the fund manager where he ran funds that invested in Ireland as well as in small British companies.
Mr Williams, who oversaw about £800m (€961m) in funds at Gartmore Investment Management, has left after 17 years with the company where he managed the Gartmore Irish Growth Fund.
Nobody has been named to replace Mr Williams as head of the fund, but the company did name a deputy to replace him on other funds investing in British companies.
Mr Williams will "pursue other interests", Gartmore said in a statement on its website.
"He was a very active investor. He moved in and out of shares," said Harry Sheridan, Gartmore Irish Growth Fund chairman.
"He didn't get it right all the time but he got it right most of the time."
The departure follows months of turbulence at Gartmore, which has seen its shares almost halve in value since listing last December as clients pulled £400m out of its funds.
In March, star fund manager Guillaume Rambourg was temporarily suspended for breaching internal trading rules. He later resigned.
British-born Williams, who has no Irish family connections, studied marine engineering at Liverpool University. He quit that career a month after qualifying in order to take a job as a trainee fund manager at Throgmorton Investment Management.
Two years after his 1993 move to Gartmore, he started the Ireland fund because he thought there was potential for growth in the Irish economy and he wasn't allowed to buy Irish companies for his UK funds.
He said last month that he's still buying shares in Irish banks and smaller technology companies as falling stock prices make them a bargain.
"The reason they're attractive is because they've come down such a long way," he told Bloomberg. "They're still trading at only about 20pc of their asset value."
Mr Williams (50) was named 2009 Investor of the Year by Growth Company Investor. The award goes to managers investing in companies listed in the FTSE 250.
He also added shares in Origin Enterprises, the Dublin-based agribusiness and food company controlled by Aryzta since January. "It's recovered nicely," he said. "Not as much as some of the others yet, but it will."
Mr Williams has said in the past that he invests in companies with above-average earnings growth and cash reserves so there is "headroom for disappointments".'
He also looks for businesses that dominate their industries, which makes it easier for them to pass on increased costs to consumers without losing business.
The Gartmore fund, which is quoted in British pounds because of its UK base, is the only Ireland-focused closed-end fund sold in the UK.
A closed-end investment fund, unlike mutual funds, is one where money isn't added to the portfolio as it gains new clients.
The limited number of shares in the fund are bought and sold on London's stock exchange, and their value can rise and fall independently of the value of the assets held.
At present the fund trades at a so-called discount of 4.2pc below the value of its assets.