Gervais Williams of Gartmore

GARTMORE'S Irish investment fund, run by top stock picker Gervais Williams, has sold off its shareholding in Irish Life & Permanent, Elan and Kerry Group.

It also sold off its stakes in Grafton Group, Providence Resources and Aminex, the fund said in a quarterly report to investors.

Gartmore's Irish Growth Fund's net asset value per share fell 10.7% in the three months to the end of December.

That compared with a 13.6% decline in the benchmark ISEQ index over the same period.

"We exited our remaining position in Irish Life & Permanent at the beginning of November. Although it had already fallen, we managed to avoid the sharp decline which followed, and this also contributed to returns relative to the index," Gartmore said.

Irish Life shares plunged 33% in the final quarter of the year and have shed a further 17% so far this year.

Gartmore said it invested in Icon, Paddy Power, Ryanair and CRH in the quarter, though the investment in CRH had a negative impact on the fund's performance.

"We sold this position during the third quarter, just before a sharp fall, and repurchased in mid-December. Although the stock's return was negative over the quarter, it was still ahead of the wider market."

The fund was also hit by negative returns on its investment in technology firm Datalex and the IAWS spin-off Origin Enterprises.

The fund's largest investment at the end of the quarter was packaging giant Smurfit Kappa.

"It was trading at a discount to peers on a variety of measures, and, with its potential cash flow generation, made a compelling case for investment," Gartmore said.

The fund's other holdings at the end of the quarter were Irish Continental Group, Total Produce, Fyffes, Greencore, Glanbia and Andor Technologies.