M&GJun 15 2020

Manager of suspended property fund to leave M&G

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Manager of suspended property fund to leave M&G

The manager of the suspended M&G Property Portfolio is set to step down from her role and leave the company after 27 years in its ranks.  

Fiona Rowley will leave M&G Real Estate later this year and hand over full responsibility of the fund to co-manager Justin Upton, six months after it suspended trading for the second time in three years in December. 

The asset manager suspended dealings in both the fund itself and its feeder fund amid an "unusually high and sustained" period of outflows, as investors pulled an estimated £900m from the fund in the first ten months of last year. 

Mr Upton joined M&G in 2010 and is set to assume full fund management responsibility following a "comprehensive handover".

In today's update M&G said the fund would reopen once cash levels had been "sufficiently restored". 

Mr Upton said: "In a changing economic environment with record low interest rates, a steady income stream is now more important than ever.

"My key focus will be to maintain a healthy income distribution for our clients and customers, whilst managing higher levels of liquidity against the current uncertain backdrop of Covid-19.

"I will also seek to ensure the fund is well positioned to take advantage of the demographic and technological changes we are witnessing in society and the economy." 

In February the business announced it had raised £18m from asset sales and had a further £245m of deals agreed, which if completed would see the fund hold 16 per cent in cash. 

The fund manager said 80 per cent of the property being disposed of was in the retail sector, leaving the fund with 30 per cent of its assets in this sector. 

Martin Towns, head of UK commercial at M&G Real Estate, said: "Fiona’s formidable leadership on the fund has produced consistent income returns and long term capital growth for our investors over an extended period.

"Her close working relationship with Justin and the combination of his own longstanding experience and deep knowledge of the commercial property market, enables us to carry out a smooth succession whilst retaining our focus on doing our very best for customers at this challenging time.

"Justin’s knowledge of the assets and investor base put him in the best possible position to take the fund forward."

In the wider market the 11 UK property funds available to retail investors, with £12.8bn of assets between them, have been suspended since the third week of March.

Portfolios were gated because the coronavirus crisis had caused "material uncertainty" in the UK property market, meaning valuers were unable to value the assets within the funds with the same degree of certainty as would otherwise be the case.