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'Dominoes are starting to fall' - Aviva suspends trading in property fund amid Brexit vote fallout

PUBLISHED: 13:32 05 July 2016 | UPDATED: 16:43 06 July 2016

Aviva logo. Norwich Union. Marble Hall. Surrey House, Surrey Street, Norwich.; PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY.

Aviva logo. Norwich Union. Marble Hall. Surrey House, Surrey Street, Norwich.; PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY.

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2010

Aviva has suspended trading in its £1.8 billion property fund as investors scramble to pull their money out of UK commercial property holdings following the Brexit vote.

Local reaction

Paul Pearce, investment manager at Hargreave Hale in Norwich, said the suspension could last weeks.

“It’s down to the fund manager to decide if they need to sell property they have in the fund or build up commercial from the rental income.

“It’s a decision on how much they need to have as a cash reserve before they open their doors again.”

He added it was “difficult” to make long-term decisions over property investment at the moment, with housebuilders also gripped by uncertainty over possible recession.

Aviva saw its share price fall 3.7%, or 14.6p to 376.4p.

However Larking Gowen chairman David Whitehead called for calm.

“A couple of my clients who are selling property have been able to since Brexit for the asking price. People need to be calm and not panic because we will see some fluctuations over the next few weeks,” he said.

The move follows Standard Life Investments, which made the same move on Monday, halting dealing in its £2.7 billion UK Real Estate fund.

Aviva Investors Property Trust said: “Over recent months we have been experiencing higher than usual volumes of requests to sell units in the trust, and this, coupled with challenging market conditions in light of investor sentiment regarding the EU referendum, has reduced the amount of cash held by the trust.

“As it takes a considerable time to sell properties, we have had to suspend dealing until the amount of cash held in the trust increases.”

Investors are now restricted from buying or selling shares in the fund.

Aviva said that it is acting in the interests of all investors, adding that it could not give a timeframe for when the suspension would be lifted.

Laith Khalaf, senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said the “dominoes are starting to fall” in the UK commercial property market.

He added: “It’s probably only a matter of time before we see other funds follow suit. The problem these funds face is that it takes time to sell commercial property to meet withdrawals, and the cash buffers built up by the managers have been eroded by investors heading for the door, both in the run-up to the EU referendum, and in the aftermath.”

Mr Khalaf said the moves by investors to pull money out could put “downward pressure” on commercial property prices.

Last week, Singapore’s United Overseas Bank said it will halt lending on property purchases in London as uncertainty continues to dog Britain’s political and economic landscape.

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