Once upon a time (March 2007) I invested £10,000 in a VCT called Electra Kingsway. The taxman kindly paid £4,000 of the cost of the 10,325 shares I was allotted (a small bonus thanks to a friendly advisor) and I sat back to become, if not rich, at least to receive a steady stream of tax-free income. After all, Electra had generated 112p of income and capital return since its launch in 2001, and Hargreaves Lansdown’s Ben Yearsley liked it (the archiving on the internet is so cruel).

Alas, things did not go according to plan. After three years of, let’s say, modest performance, Electra was merged into Acuity Growth. My 10,325 shares were swapped for 9,483 in the new trust. There was not much choice, considering that there’s no market for VCT shares at a price anywhere near net asset value. A few months later, a rather ominous letter arrived from Acuity’s chairman Rupert Pennant-Rea, he of the Bank of England’s Governor’s carpet fame. Having abandoned previous attempts to double his (and his fellow directors’) salary, Pennant-Rea was abandoning ship instead.

Acuity had not shown much of it in their brief period in charge, and we were to be under new management, swapped into shares in Foresight 5 VCT. These corporate names, I feel, are asking for trouble. It did not take long to arrive, as new chairman David Sebire told us that assets in the books at £32m in October 2010 were worth just £10m the following March. It was all Acuity’s fault, thanks mostly to four dud investments, including Loseley’s, the dairy products group. To rub salt into the wound, we found ourselves liable to pay a £1.3m termination fee to Acuity.

The swap did not lead to a miraculous recovery and, at the end of last year, Foresight 5 was merged again, into Foresight 4. This time, the haircut was of Grecian proportions, and my original holding had shrunk to a pitiful 1,642. Since no VCT share ever trades above £1 for long, you can gauge the state of the damage . Now Foresight is offering yet another exchange, one of those enhanced buyback things, where you swap old shares for new (less the costs), and this fresh “subscription” attracts a 30% tax credit. Alas, this wizard wheeze won’t help much. My 1,592 new shares will save about £500 in income tax to add to the original £4,000, but of my £10,000 investment, only £1,500 remains. O tempora! O mores!

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