M&G Investments has become the third investment company to freeze withdrawals from its UK property investment fund, amid a rush of people trying to pull money out of the market.
M&G took the decision to freeze the £4.4 billion ($US5.3 billion, $A6 billion) fund late on Tuesday afternoon. It a follows similar decisions by savings and investment groups Standard Life on Monday and Aviva on Tuesday.
It means a combined £9.1 billion ($US11.7 billion, $A15.6 billion) worth of UK property investments have now been locked in, as a result of investors trying to pull cash out in the wake of the Brexit vote.
M&G said in an emailed statement: “Investor redemptions in the Fund have risen markedly because of the high levels of uncertainty in the UK commercial property market since the outcome of the European Union referendum.
“Redemptions have now reached a point where M&G believes it can best protect the interests of the funds’ shareholders by seeking a temporary suspension in trading.”
M&G’s fund invests in commercial property — such as office buildings and shops — which is a highly illiquid asset, meaning it takes time to sell. While most property funds keep part of the money raised in cash to return to investors who want to leave, this buffer has clearly been overwhelmed by demand for cash. But M&G, like Standard Life and Aviva before it, can’t sell its property holdings quick enough to meet investor demand.
The investment house says the suspension will “allow the fund manager time to raise cash levels in a controlled manner, ensuring that any asset disposals are achieved at reasonable values.” M&G says it will review the suspension every 28 days.
Jefferies warned in a note on Tuesday that: “2016 is shaping up to be a rerun of 2007, with real estate open-ended funds having switched from monthly to weekly valuations and cut pricing by -5% last week given the uncertainty of real estate valuation since the Brexit vote.”
However, Jason Hollands, managing director at financial advisor Tilney Bestinvest, says in an email on Wednesday: “The uncertainty around Brexit is undoubtedly a challenge for the property sector but this is not a post-Lehman Brothers style moment when the whole financial system faced collapse and the supply of credit – key to property transactions – was in doubt.
“The Bank of England has set out its readiness to provide vast amounts of liquidity and interest rates look set to be cut. Talk is moving decisively in favour of a pro-growth rather than a tax-hiking Budget.”
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