Premier chosen to run Gartmore fund

Premier Fund Managers, the asset management subsidiary of Premier Asset Management, has been appointed to run the 22m split-capital Gartmore Absolute Growth & Income investment trust (GAGIT).

The move follows a vote in which 59.66% of shareholders elected to terminate the employment of Gartmore. Paul Branigan, who joins Premier from Axa Framlington on April 10, has been named lead manager of the trust.

“What we wanted was the opportunity for shareholders to have a say,” says Mike O’Shea, chief executive officer of Premier Asset Management. “We have felt for some time that the structure of the company needed changing.”

Jonathan Carr, David Harris and Anthony Wands have been appointed to GAGIT’s board. They replace chairman Stuart Lyons and directors Michael Watts and Andrew Barker. A board meeting this week will decide when Premier takes over management of the trust.

Board members will also review the trust and consult with shareholders over the next six weeks. They are expected to put forward proposals at an extraordinary general meeting, within 90 days.

“From initial discussions with shareholders, it looks like they want a more mainstream FTSE 350 portfolio, with a higher-yielding structure,” says O’Shea. “This will mean a move away from small-caps.”

Other proposals are likely to include the extension of the life of the trust, due to wind up in November 2007, and a change of name.

O’Shea admits that investors are still sceptical regarding split-capital trusts, following the heavy losses suffered by some in 2001/2. “There is still a degree of reticence in the market, which could continue for some time yet,” he says. “But if structured properly, with a sensible level of gearing, they are still good products.”

Branigan is currently the manager of the Axa Framlington Absolute Growth unit trust and Income & Capital investment trust. He will continue to manage Absolute Growth, which was acquired by Premier earlier this year.

The board of Income & Capital has decided to retain Axa as its fund manager and the trust will be managed by Richard Peirson, supported by George Luckraft.