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Third property fund suspends trading on Brexit sell-off

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British financial group M&G Investments on Tuesday became the third player to suspend trade in a commercial property fund, blaming Brexit uncertainty.

[LONDON] British financial group M&G Investments on Tuesday became the third player to suspend trade in a commercial property fund, blaming Brexit uncertainty.

"M&G Investments announces a temporary suspension of trading in the shares of the M&G Property Portfolio and its feeder fund," it said in a 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."

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The announcement comes after Aviva Investors also suspended trading on Tuesday in its property fund, while Standard Life made the same move on Monday, amid ongoing fallout from Britain's shock EU exit referendum last month.

M&G Investments added that the decision allowed it to raise cash levels "in a controlled manner" and would ensure that any asset disposals are achieved "at reasonable values".

The group's Property Portfolio fund has managed assets totalling £4.4 billion (S$7.7 billion).

The fund invests in 178 UK commercial properties across retail, industrial and office sectors on behalf of UK retail investors, and has no borrowings.

Aviva meanwhile blamed "extraordinary market circumstances" which "have resulted in a lack of immediate liquidity in the Aviva Investors Property Trust".

"Consequently, we have acted to safeguard the interests of all our investors by suspending dealing in the fund with immediate effect," it added in an earlier statement.

"Suspension of dealing will give Aviva Investors greater control in managing cashflows and conducting orderly asset sales in order to meet our obligations to investors wishing to redeem their holdings."

Aviva Investors, whose fund is valued at £1.8 billion, said there had been "higher than usual" sale requests in recent months and this had combined with "challenging market conditions and investor sentiment".

The move follows an announcement by Standard Life Investments on Monday, which said it was halting dealing in its £2.7 billion UK Real Estate fund.

"Dominoes are starting to fall" in Britain's commercial property market, said Laith Khalaf, senior analyst at investment company Hargreaves Lansdown.

"It's probably only a matter of time before we see other funds follow suit.

"The cash buffers built up by the managers have been eroded by investors heading for the door, both in the run-up to the EU referendum, and in the aftermath," he said.

Mr Khalaf said the moves by investors to pull money out could put "downward pressure" on commercial property prices.

United Overseas Bank last week said it would halt lending on property purchases in London because of uncertainty following Britain's shock referendum vote on June 23 to leave the EU.

AFP

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