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Investors scramble to dump UK property funds as valuations dive amid widening Kwarteng mini-budget chaos

Oct. 14, 2022

Taken from an article published in The Times on the 14th October 2022, here: Investors scramble to dump UK property funds as valuations dive amid widening Kwarteng mini-budget chaos (cityam.com)

Following last week’s bond market turmoil, which sent shockwaves through the City, investors are now scrambling to exit UK property funds.


Since the new chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, presented his Mini-Budget at the end of September, the pace at which investors are pulling out of UK commercial real estate funds has accelerated.


In the 10 days following Kwarteng’s presentation, more than £100m alone was pulled from a range of property funds that are monitored by fund trading provider Calastone, according to a Financial Times report this week. This was reportedly eight times the outflow of the previous three weeks together.


City analysts now warn that the scramble to flee property funds may lead to property being offloaded at depressed rates.


Commercial property markets are already suffering from higher borrowing costs and given the fact that deal-making has slowed makes it harder for key players to determine realistic valuations.


“One way or another those assets are going to have to be sold into a down market,” said Zac Gauge, head of European real estate strategy at UBS in the FT.


Gauge and other property analysts expect sales property to change hands at up to 25 per cent less than earlier this year.


Roger Clarke, head of IPSX, an exchange for property, said in the FT that there is a crucial flaw in the structure of funds that usually allow buyers the opportunity to exit at just a day’s notice.


“The redeeming investors are then getting their redemption at the expense of the rest of the people in the fund [if valuations decline],” he told the paper.


“So the rational investor puts in a redemption request,” said Clarke.


Fire sale


The turmoil in the property market follows other reports that, in a near-unprecedented rush by British pension funds to raise their cash holdings, Goldman Sachs and a range of other investment giants are planning to snap up UK assets at discounts of up to 30 per cent.


Since Kwarteng’s disastrously received mini-budget at the end of September, UK pension funds are rushing to improve their cash holdings by selling liquid assets.


Kwarteng’s mini-budget caused outright panic in the gilts market, which forced the Bank of England to step in.


Despite the Old Lady’s intervention, pension giants are now planning to put a range of illiquid assets on sale, including private credit, property and stakes in buyout vehicles, according to various reports, including the Financial Times.


“We’re seeing discounts of 20 to 30 per cent for a high quality portfolio [of stakes in private equity funds],” Gabriel Möllerberg, a managing director at Goldman Sachs Asset Management, told the FT.

“It’s absolutely an opportunity,” Möllerberg stressed.


In addition to Goldman Sachs, other investors, including Blackstone, have the fire-power to buy pension fund holdings trading at below face value prices.


City A.M. understands Blackstone currently have no plans to do so.


Wave of takeovers

The transactions are usually negotiated and agreed privately and may take up to several months to close but investors are convinced the City can expect a wave in the final months of this year, the FT wrote.

“In these market conditions, you get very attractive buying opportunities,” according to Ross Hamilton at Switzerland-based private equity firm Partners Group, which buys pension schemes’ private fund stakes.

“We’ve got dry powder of over $9bn...it’s an exciting opportunity for us,” Hamilton told the paper.

Most British pension funds zoomed in on illiquid assets as they were keen to pump funds into investments that returned higher yields.


Many pension funds moved into illiquid private markets in search of higher yields during a decade of low interest rates. However, that tide turned drastically earlier this year.


“There’s a cold wind blowing for more illiquid assets,” concluded David Lloyd, fund manager at M&G, in the FT.


He stressed pension schemes are bracing themselves for cash demands from buyout groups whose funds they used to finance takeovers in recent years.

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