Business

Standard Life suspends trading in UK property fund

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Standard Life Investments has suspended trading in its UK property fund blaming "exceptional market circumstances" following the EU referendum result.

The fund manager said the number of investors asking to withdraw their money had increased following the vote.

"The suspension was requested to protect the interests of all investors in the fund," it said in a statement.

The last time Standard Life stopped investors taking their money out of the fund was during the financial crisis.

The £2.9bn fund invests in a mixture of commercial real estate in the UK, including office blocks, shopping centres and warehouses.

The move comes after Standard Life Investments, the insurer's fund management arm, wrote down the value of the fund by 5% last week, saying the Brexit vote had "negatively impacted" valuations for UK commercial property.

It said the suspension would end "as soon as practicable" and it would review the decision every 28 days.


Analysis: Simon Jack, BBC business correspondent

Most investment funds always leave a bit of ready cash in the kitty in case the odd investor decides he or she wants their money back.

When a lot of people want their money back at the same time, you have to start selling stuff to raise enough cash and that is a major problem if what you own is office blocks.

They are not easy to sell at short notice. Other investors, who hadn't really wanted their money back, now think they might not be able to - and so they suddenly do want it back.


'Downward pressure'

In the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum vote, a number of big property funds cut the estimated value of their holdings.

Henderson Global Investors and Aberdeen Asset Management reduced the value of their UK property funds by 4% and 5% respectively.

Several fund managers have also decided to price their property funds weekly, rather than monthly, to try to safeguard themselves against market volatility.

Data published earlier showed that investors sold off UK and property funds in favour of bonds in the run up to the EU referendum.

Private investors withdrew a net £342m from UK funds in May, compared to a £1.1bn investment in the same month last year, according to figures from fund manager trade body the Investment Association.

'Vicious circle'

Hargreaves Lansdown senior analyst Laith Khalaf said property funds were clearly under pressure due to the Brexit vote.

"We could now see a new wave of investors being unable to liquidate their property funds quickly, which we last witnessed during the financial crisis," he said.

Investors pulling out their money could put "downward pressure" on commercial property prices, Mr Khalaf said.

"The risk is this creates a vicious circle, and prompts more investors to dump property, until such time as sentiment stabilises," he added.

Last week, one of Singapore's largest lenders, UOB, suspended its loan programme for London properties.

The bank said the decision was in response to the uncertainty caused by the UK's decision to leave the EU.

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