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Sovereign wealth funds may sell off UK assets on Brexit vote

[LONDON] Sovereign wealth funds and central banks may look to cut their UK assets in 2017 after sentiment toward the country slumped since Britain voted to leave the European Union, according to an Invesco Ltd report.

About 41 per cent of institutions, who together oversee about US$12 trillion in assets, said they expect to introduce new underweight positions in the UK. this year, a survey published on Monday showed. Britain was also deemed to be the least attractive developed market, scoring 5.5 out of 10 in 2017, the report said. That's down from 7.5 in 2016.

"It's a very sharp movement for what was one of the most attractively rated markets," Alex Millar, Invesco's head of sovereigns in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said by phone. "When you wake up one morning and your investment is worth 20 per cent less than the previous day, that's going to have an impact," he said, referring to the pound's depreciation as a result of the Brexit vote.

The survey, which interviewed 97 institutions from January through March, found that investors were starting to question the future of Britain as an "investment hub" in Europe. This comes after Prime Minister Theresa May pledged that she would seek a good deal for London's financial-services industry when she negotiates the country's withdrawal from the EU. She first has to win this month's general election.

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Uncertainty around what sort of trading deal the UK will manage to hash out with Brussels is forcing many investors to take a "wait-and-see" approach, according to Millar. Some 54 per cent said they aren't making any changes to their allocations until they can assess the longer-term impact of Brexit, the survey shows.

Elsewhere, the US was considered by investors to be the most attractive market to invest in, scoring 8 out of 10. Germany ranked first in Europe with a score of 7.8 and Italy and France were rated 6.1. Japan scored 6.6 and India was 6.1.