Property Funds to Sell Assets to Help Stricken UK Pensions

Property Funds to Sell Assets to Help Stricken UK Pensions

(Bloomberg) — Real estate funds whose investors include UK pension plans have begun offering properties for sale to meet redemption requests.

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The CBRE UK Property PAIF has appointed broker CBRE Group Inc. to sell 1 Albemarle Street in London’s West End, according to people with knowledge of the process. Legal & General Group Plc’s Industrial Property Investment fund is offering for sale warehouses at Trafford Park in northwest England, said separate people, who asked not to be identified as the process is private. A pooled pension property fund at Abrdn Plc is selling warehouses at the Thames Gateway Park in Dagenham, east London, other people said.

The sales are the latest sign that the turmoil that has rocked the UK pension industry in recent weeks is still reverberating through financial markets. Pensions have been dumping stocks, bonds and collateralized-loan obligations as well as pulling money from almost any fund that will give it back.

Representatives for Abrdn, CBRE Global Investors and L&G declined to comment.

Many defined benefit pension schemes deployed so-called liability-driven investment strategies that enabled them to ramp up leverage and juice returns. The Bank of England was forced to step in to stabilize markets after rising gilt yields triggered margin calls at the funds that came too quickly for them to manage.

The central bank intervention bought the pension funds extra time to increase their cash buffers. There are around 5,500 so-called defined benefit schemes in the UK, according to The Pensions Regulator, managing around £1.8 trillion ($2 trillion).

The 1 Albemarle Street property in London’s Mayfair district is among the top holdings in the CBRE fund and is valued at about £60 million to £70 million, according to a fund fact sheet. CBRE Investment Management, which manages the fund, deferred redemption payments earlier this month. The Thames Gateway warehouses are among the largest assets in the Abrdn fund.

More than £109 million was withdrawn from UK real estate funds in the eight working days immediately after former Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng unveiled on Sept. 23 a raft of unfunded tax cuts that triggered a sell off in the gilt market, according to data compiled by Calastone. That compares with £9.8 million of withdrawals in the first half of September.

(Updates with data on withdrawals from property funds in final paragraph)

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