PropertySep 22 2016

Financial crisis lessons on property are being ignored

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Financial crisis lessons on property are being ignored

“The asset management industry learned a great many lessons from the global financial crisis. However, it failed to adequately address the structural issues of open-ended direct property funds, which was clearly on show over the last few months. 

“We must now see reform and better educate investors about the benefits of the listed REIT market.”

Over recent weeks, the suspension imposed on some of the property funds has been lifted, and the Cohen & Steers vice president said he hopes memories of this saga will not be cut short again.

Laith Khalaf, senior analyst of Hargreaves Lansdown, said: "The property fund freeze we saw in the aftermath of Brexit is beginning to thaw, as funds re-open their doors and remove their downward adjustments to valuations."

Earlier this week, Henderson Global Investors announced it was planning to open its UK Property fund and feeder fund in mid October.

But Mr Khalaf said there is still a significant proportion of the sector "on ice", pointing to Aviva's warning its property fund might not reopen until next year.

While recent developments have been positive, he said the fundamental problem with investing in property via open-ended funds has not gone away though, and may well rear its head again.

"Liquidity concerns will continue to hinder the investment strategy of funds in the sector and will prompt managers to hold high levels of cash, so a fair whack of investors' capital will be returning next to nothing.

Investors want property in their portfolio for diversification and income, both of which are in short supply right now, thanks to central bank policy, Mr Khalaf said.

"Investing in this area does come with high transactional and ongoing costs, but if investors do wish to gain exposure they are probably better off accepting the additional volatility of closed-ended vehicles, rather than investing in an open-ended fund, where the manager is working with one arm tied behind their back.”