The Financial Conduct Authority has posted a warning about Astute Capital, whose bonds were reviewed here in March 2019. A search for Astute Capital on the FCA register now brings up:
This is an unauthorised firm that may be providing financial services or products in the UK without our permission. If you deal with unauthorised firms you will have less protection if things go wrong.
along with details of what to do if investors think they have been scammed.
What to do if you think you’ve been scammed?
It can be easy to fall for a scam – the people that run them are skilled at persuading their targets to part with money. If you think you have been contacted about a scam or have paid money to fraudsters there are steps you can take to protect yourself.
Exactly what regulated financial services the FCA think Astute Capital is carrying out is currently unclear. Astute Capital’s main business is commercial lending, which does not require authorisation for the FCA. Astute Capital has raised money from investors via bonds listed on the Euronext, Vienna and Frankfurt Stock Exchanges. That does not require authorisation from the FCA either.
I was unable to find a current trading price for Astute Capital bonds on any of these exchanges, suggesting the bonds remain illiquid.
In 2019 Astute Capital promoted its bonds directly to the public via Google ads.
That did require authoristion from the FCA – and as Astute didn’t have that itself, it would have needed a third party to sign off the ads (Section 21 authorisation). But that was back in 2019 so it seems unlikely that it has anything to do with the FCA’s warning. But it took them 5 years to issue a warning against Asset Life plc so who knows.
In interim accounts for 2019, Astute Capital stated that it had terminated all relationships with unregulated introducers.
Despite this, Astute Capital is being promoted on Facebook by a third party unregulated introducer called “IPB”, in bizarre ads which sort-of but-don’t-really-at-all obscure Astute’s name.
Who is behind IPB is unclear as no ownership details are provided on its Facebook page. Similarly unclear is why IPB are promoting Astute after they claimed to have stopped taking money via introducers.
Astute Capital funds are on-lent to Astute Capital Advisors Limited, which recently published accounts for March 2020, showing it to be £6.9 million in the red with a loss of £3.5 million. The company stated that it believed the company was nonetheless a going concern and attributed its losses to the young age of the company.
In Astute Capital plc’s accounts, the directors stated that they expect ACA to generate returns of at least 30% per year, plus profit shares.
The average forecasted returns for ACA on its loan book is circa 30% per annum, plus profit shares structured by way of minimum earning written in the loan documents and should be taken into consideration when assessing ACA alongside interest earnings.
As of March 2020 Astute Capital plc had taken in £20.2 million of investor money, according to its published accounts.
Astute Capital previously stated that it was hoping to obtain FCA registration in 2020. Instead all the company has managed to obtain from the FCA is a public warning.