The number of UK commercial real estate funds to temporarily suspend trading in the wake of panic selling over the result of the vote on European Union membership has doubled, from three to six. Henderson Global Investors, Columbia Threadneedle and Canada Life have now joined M&G Investments, Aviva Investments and Standard Life Investments, all of which called a halt to trading earlier this week.
Henderson cited “exceptional liquidity pressures” on its Henderson UK Property PAIF and Henderson UK Property PAIF Feeder Fund in announcing the suspension. “Despite a strong underlying portfolio, the decision was taken due to exceptional liquidity pressures on the funds, as a result of uncertainty following the EU Referendum and the recent suspension of other direct property funds,” the company says in a statement. It notes that the Property PAIF, with 3.9 billion pounds of assets, “has delivered to investors in line with its investments objectives.”
Similarly, Canada Life announced that “due to the ongoing uncertainty around the pricing of commercial property assets following the vote to leave the European Union, and the recent rise in requests to withdraw (or switch) from the property funds, we have taken the decision to immediately defer requests for withdrawals from our property funds. Deferring requests to withdraw allows us to protect the interests of all investors in the property fund, including those who plan to remain invested for the medium to long term.”
In an FAQ on the suspension of trading in its UK funds—including Canada Life Property Pension Fund, Canada Life Property Life Fund, Canada Life Property Pension Fund, Canada Life Property Life Fund, Canada Life UK Property Life Fund and Canada Life UK Property Pension Fund—the Canadian insurer notes, “Selling commercial property can take time and the fund manager must carefully control the process in the best interest of the investors. Deferring requests to withdraw allows us to protect the interests of all investors in the property fund, including those who plan to remain invested for the medium to long term.”
Canada Life notes that the deferral can be for up to six months, “enabling the funds to ensure property values reflect market conditions.” However, under Financial Control Authority regulations the deferral must be reviewed every 28 days.
The suspensions cover at least 14.7 billion pounds of UK real estate assets, Bloomberg Business reported Wednesday, or more than half the total in major funds. Real estate funds manage about 24.5 billion pounds of assets in the UK market, according to the Investment Association.
Although it did not impose a full-scale indefinite suspension of trading, Aberdeen Asset Management on Wednesday put a 24-hour freeze on withdrawals from its Aberdeen UK Property Fund. It reduced pricing by 17% for investors seeking to withdraw cash from the 3.4-billion-pound fund, and would lift the dilution “if future trading in the fund reverts to lower levels.”
The trading suspensions came on the heels of the British pound reaching a 31-year low against the US dollar. Longer term, “the UK is now expected to enter a shallow economic recession by the end of 2016, though this is unlikely to trigger a recession in the rest of the European Union,” Aviva’s Monica Sujkowska, analyst, real estate investment strategy and research, wrote earlier this week. “The ‘Brexit’-induced uncertainty and its effect on financial markets and business investment may nevertheless shave 0.2% to 0.4% off overall eurozone growth over the next 12 months.”
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