​Standard Life looks to reopen trading in frozen property fund

Standard Life Investments will look to reopen trading in its £2.91bn (€3.47bn) SLI UK Real Estate Fund in the final quarter of this year.

David Paine, head of global real estate at Standard Life Investments, told journalists in London today that the firm is looking to lift the open-ended fund’s trading suspension in an “orderly” manner.

The manager suspended trading of its property authorised investment trust (PAIF), which is backed by institutional and retail investors on 4 July, two weeks after the UK’s vote to leave the European Union.

“The picture today is much calmer,” Paine said. “Or focus is on reopening the fund in the fourth quarter.”

Paine said Standard Life Investments was “making good progress” in assessing liquidity levels.

He declined to say how many assets have been sold by the fund, which launched in 2004. Forced sales, he said, can lead to an “oversized discount” for buyers.

“We were flooded with offers from opportunistic buyers” in the weeks following the UK’s referendum on 23 June, Paine said.

Managed by George Shaw, the fund owns 124 properties spread geographically and by sector, with an average value of £19.9m.

Henderson Global Investors is reopening its property fund on 14 October following “good progress in asset sales” and having been suspended since 6 July. Columbia Threadneedle’s fund will reopen on 27 September, while Canada Life will resume trading this month. M&G and Aviva Investors funds remain suspended.

Paine said that, despite debate over the performance of open-ended funds, he would like to see the choice for investors between such vehicles and listed property maintained.

“Investors are looking for different things,” he said.

Standard Life Investments, he said, had been prepared for outflows in the months leading up to the referendum but had “not anticipated to what extent liquidity would be eroded”.

Anne Breen, head of real estate research, said the company’s expectations for the UK real estate market had deteriorated following the referendum.

“We anticipate some erosion of the jobs created since the establishment of the European Union,” she said.

In pre-Brexit analysis, Standard Life Investments had forecast that a vote to leave the EU could result in up to 10,000 job losses in London’s City financial district.

“London will be more impacted than other markets,” she said, adding that slower economic growth for the UK would mean lower “single-digit” returns for real estate.

The firm sees opportunity in the south east UK’s industrial sector and ”best-in-class” retail property.

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