By Carolyn Cohn and Simon Jessop
LONDON (Reuters) - Four fund managers cut the value of their UK property funds and a fifth extended a 24-hour trading suspension on Thursday, as the industry seeks to stem a tide of redemption requests since Britain's vote to leave the European Union.
A slump in the value of the pound and volatile stock markets since the referendum on June 23 have unnerved investors who are worried that the uncertainty will slow down business investment in Britain and hit demand to rent and buy commercial property.
In recent years Britain's commercial property market has exploded in value. Demand, centered on London, has come from retail investors, pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, insurance companies and private equity firms. From 2012 to 2014 the market grew 20 percent to 787 billion pounds ($1.02 trillion), according to data from the Investment Property Forum.
But in the last week more than 18 billion pounds ($23.26 billion) of retail investor cash has been frozen as funds run by M&G Investments, Standard Life Investments and Threadneedle Investments, among others, suspended trading to allow time to sell some of the buildings, a process which can take many months.
The move to cut the value of a fund is a less extreme method of controlling redemptions, as it effectively forces those looking to leave to accept a lower price than was established the last time the property portfolio was valued.
Three UK property funds aimed at retail investors, managed by Legal & General Investment Management, F&C and Kames, said they made cuts in the value of their funds.
Retail funds, including all seven which this week have suspended trading, normally allow investors to take out their cash daily.
Several firms which operate funds aimed at institutional investors told Reuters they had made no changes, and had seen little redemption demand from investors. These funds typically only allow redemptions on a monthly or quarterly basis.
"There has been no immediate impact and we have not witnessed an increase in redemptions from the fund's institutional investor base, who it would seem are taking a strategic view," said Howard Meaney, head of global real estate - UK, at UBS Global Asset Management.
However, institutional investment manager CCLA, which invests money for a range of charities, religious groups and the public sector, also said it had cut the value of its funds since the Brexit vote, by 4.5 percent.
"We felt that the...adjustment was an appropriate and proportionate response to the heightened risk of uncertainty, but not more than that," CCLA's chief investment officer James Bevan told Reuters.
TIME TO RECONSIDER
This follows a decision by BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager, to increase the redemption charges on its 3.3 billion sterling UK Property Fund, also aimed at institutional investors, at its end-June redemption period.
Legal & General Investment Management, the fund arm of insurer Legal & General <LGEN.L>, said it had cut the value of its 2.3 billion pounds ($2.99 billion) UK Property Fund by a further 10 percent, after a previous 5 percent valuation cut following the vote.
It added later on Thursday that it had cut the offer spread to zero on the fund for a "limited period". The fund normally has an offer price to buy into the fund and a bid price to sell. The offer price takes into account the costs of buying property.
"In normal circumstances the bid/offer spread is there to cover any transaction costs associated with buying and selling properties. However, as we have no plans to acquire any assets in the short term, this is not currently relevant," it said in a statement.
F&C, part of the fund arm of Bank of Montreal <BMO.TO>, said it had cut the value of its 305 million pound UK Property Fund by 5 percent as part of a move to fair value pricing.
Kames, owned by Dutch insurer Aegon <AEGN.AS>, said it had made a further 5 percent cut in the pricing of its 409 million pound ($529.37 million) UK property funds, bringing the total cut in pricing to 10 percent since the Brexit vote.
Aberdeen Asset Management, which on Wednesday suspended trading in its 3.2 billion pound UK property fund for 24 hours and cut the value by 17 percent, on Thursday extended the suspension until next Monday.
"Investors who placed trades yesterday have asked for more time to consider whether to withdraw their redemptions," Aberdeen chief executive Martin Gilbert said in a statement.
However, listed real estate funds rose on Wednesday after recent sharp falls.
Standard Life's listed real estate fund <SLI.L> closed up 3.66 percent, while F&C Commercial Property Trust <FCPTL.L> was up 5.2 percent and the Schroder Real Estate Investment Trust <SREI.L> climbed 5.7 percent.
Some long-term players said they may look to snap up bargains.
"There may...be opportunities to add to property exposure at lower prices over the next few quarters, once we have clarity on the effectiveness of easier domestic policy and some kind of political resolution to the current impasse over the UK's relationship with Europe," said Trevor Greetham, head of multi-asset at Royal London Asset Management.
However, Columbia Threadneedle Investments' head of multi-asset Toby Nangle said in a note from fund tracker Morningstar that he had “significantly reduced exposure to commercial property” following the vote.
(Additional reporting by Sujata Rao; editing by Anna Willard, Janet McBride)