Three more property funds in the United Kingdom announced temporary halts in withdrawals on Wednesday, while a fourth — which also announced a 24-hour freeze — cut its fund value by 17 percent. The announcements follow moves by three other real estate funds, which imposed similar curbs on withdrawals earlier in the week — all of them a fallout of the vote in the U.K. to leave the European Union, a decision that is affecting the country’s real estate sector hard.
Henderson Global Investors said in a statement it “has temporarily suspended all trading in the Henderson U.K. Property PAIF and the Henderson U.K. Property PAIF Feeder Fund to safeguard the interests of all investors.” The fund, worth 3.9 billion pounds ($5.05 billion), added: “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.”
Columbia Threadneedle Investments, with a fund value of about 1.4 billion pounds, issued a similar statement, saying: “To protect the interests of investors, Columbia Threadneedle Investments has temporarily suspended dealing in the Threadneedle U.K. Property Authorised Investment Fund (Threadneedle PAIF) and the Threadneedle U.K. Property Authorised Trust (Feeder Fund) from 12 noon on Wednesday 6 July 2016. … We have taken this decision due to a recent significant increase in the number of investor requests to redeem shares in the Threadneedle PAIF (and the Feeder Fund).”
Canada Life, with a smaller value of 450 million pounds for four of its property funds, put out a question-and-answer sheet for its investors that said: “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.”
A fourth property fund, Aberdeen Fund Managers, announced “that in the interests of treating all customers fairly the Aberdeen U.K. Property Fund and the Aberdeen U.K. Property Feeder Unit Trust will make a dilution adjustment with the result that today’s dealing price is reduced by 17 percent.” The value dilution “may lead shareholders who have placed redemption orders to re-consider their decision,” and so the company imposed a 24-hour trading suspension, which will lift at 12 noon U.K. time (7:30 a.m. EDT) Thursday.
Three other property fund managers — Standard Life Investments, Aviva Investors and M&G Investments, with assets worth about $12 billion — have already declared suspension of trading this week. The announcements from Wednesday take the total value of frozen assets to about $19 billion. Some funds also cut the value of their assets, albeit by smaller percentages of 4 percent to 5 percent, last week.
Property funds usually keep some cash on hand to meet withdrawal demands from their clients, but the Brexit vote has spooked many investors. A rush to withdraw their money from the funds will require for the funds to sell some of their assets to raise the required cash, which could involve quick-fire sales that would not get them the best value they could for the properties being sold. This is the reasoning used by the funds to freeze withdrawals at this time.
The real estate sector in the U.K. is one of the worst affected by the Brexit vote. The pound, which is at a 31-year low against the dollar, may make property in the country an attractive investment option for outsiders, but it is not doing anything to support real estate prices in the U.K. The United Overseas Bank of Singapore recently announced a suspension on housing loans for its customers wanting to buy property in London.