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Asset managers suspend UK property funds on virus-related turbulence


ASSET managers Kames Capital and Janus Henderson said on Tuesday that they had temporarily suspended dealings in their UK real estate funds as market turbulence caused by the novel coronavirus made it hard to accurately value the properties they contain.

The lock-ups are among the first signs of stress in the funds industry amid the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.

They follow the freezing of M&G's UK property funds in December 2019 on Brexit uncertainty and UK commercial retail property woes.

"The ongoing coronavirus crisis is a real concern for all of us," Stephen Jones, the chief executive officer of Kames Capital, said in a letter to investors.

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"At the same time, we have had to contend with a sharply lower oil price as well as the impact of the ongoing Brexit negotiations," he said.

"These issues are affecting all areas of the stock market, including property investing," he added.

Kames Capital said its regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), has already been notified.

The suspension of the Kames Property Income Fund and Kames Property Income Feeder funds came into effect on March 16, and was in agreement with the funds' Citibank Europe depositary, the asset manager said.

It added that it would update investors on the status of the fund every 28 days.

Janus Henderson said on its website it had temporarily suspended dealings in its Janus Henderson UK Property PAIF and Janus Henderson UK Property PAIF Feeder Fund with effect from March 16, due to "material uncertainty" about the valuation of UK property.

The Bank of England and the FCA have said they want redemption terms for property funds that offer daily withdrawals, as the Kames and Janus Henderson funds do, to better reflect the long time it can take to sell real estate assets in the fund to raise cash.

Many property funds were suspended in the immediate aftermath of Britain's historic vote in June 2016 to leave the European Union.

"Others are probably lining up to go now," said one investment industry source.

Aviva Investors, Canada Life, Colombia Threadneedle, Legal & General and Standard Life Aberdeen also run UK property funds with daily redemptions. REUTERS

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