In a note, analysts at US broker Stifel noted a large block trade of 7.4mln Autolus shares on Thursday could only have come from the Woodford Equity Income (WEI) fund or FTSE 250 firm Syncona Limited (LON:SYNC), the only investors to hold more than that amount of shares.
However, as Syncona had not issued a public statement, Stifel concluded the block sale had come from Woodford’s holding.
The stake in Autolus made up 16% of the WEI fund's net asset value (NAV)
“Given that the 51% decline in Autolus's shares during [the first half of 2019] was the primary driver behind the 14.5% reduction to Arix's NAV per share to 171p at 30 June 2019, we regard the assumed reduction in Woodford's stake in Autolus (from 23.6% to around 7%) as positive for Arix”, Stifel said.
Analysts at Jefferies were similarly upbeat, saying that following the Woodford sale, Arix’s NAV could rise by 4.3p per share.
“We expect Arix's current NAV discount of 32% to narrow as investors shift focus to the clinical newsflow from its portfolio assets, its reduced [operational expenditure], ample cash position of c.£60mln as of 1H19A, and multiple NT catalysts that could move the stock price”, Jefferies added.
Autolus shares have been hampered in recent months as investors waited for Woodford to unload his stake in the firm, causing a knock-on effect for Arix's share price.
Shares in Arix were 7.9% higher at 116p in late-afternoon trading in London, while Autolus shares were up 39% at US$16.6 in New York.