Investors have been blocked from withdrawing their money from two funds run by pensions and investment giant Aviva – sparking fears that property markets have peaked.
The last time funds stopped investors withdrawing their money was at the height of the property crash.
The Aviva Irish Property Fund and the Friends First Irish Commercial Property Fund have a value of almost €1bn. Now Aviva has blocked investors exiting the funds for up to six months.
The move has been interpreted by some as a sign that investors think commercial property valuations have peaked. Experts said the residential market was also close to peak.
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Goodbody’s Colm Lauder wrote in a note to investors: “This update from two significant property funds further highlights a perception that the Irish property market is late cycle, especially following the Green Reit sale.”
The phrase ‘late cycle’ means a slowdown in growth as the top of the market is reached.
It is understood that the €1.3bn sale of commercial property company Green Reit last year by founder Stephen Vernon has spooked smaller investors. Mr Vernon has a reputation for calling the top of property market, and his actions are closely monitored.
Smaller investors have reacted to Mr Vernon’s move by pulling money out of property funds, but withdrawals have accelerated in the past few days.
It is understand that there was a deluge of people contacting Aviva yesterday to pull out of commercial property funds, prompted by reports that the funds had been devalued.
Last night, a fourth property fund also said it had sharply written down the value of its Irish property after investors withdrew cash.
A fund run by Zurich Insurance said the withdrawals prompted it to move to disposal-based pricing of its Irish property, an accounting change that led to it cutting its value by 7.7pc, in response to “an increase in net outflows”.
John McCartney, director of research at property agency Savills, said the residential property market was also rapidly reaching a point where supply was meeting demand.
He said the latest figures showed prices had fallen almost 1pc in Dublin in the previous year. This compares with an annual rise of 13pc in April 2018.
“We are rapidly moving towards equilibrium in the residential property market. It is astounding that people are prepared to ignore the pricing signals,” he added.
He said smaller investors had become spooked by commercial property values, but there was still demand for offices especially as Facebook, LinkedIn and Amazon were expanding in Dublin.
“Demand for office space is strong, and the vacancy rate is low. Institutional investors are still investing,” he said.
Aviva said in a statement: “Due to recent net outflows from the Aviva Irish Property Fund and the Friends First Irish Commercial Property Fund, we have taken the decision to close both funds to all outgoing transactions, including surrenders, and switches.”
It insisted that both funds are open to new business from investors. Friends First is part of Aviva.
Suzie Nolan, senior property fund manager at Aviva Life and Pensions Ireland DAC, said: “Our view is that the fundamentals of the Irish commercial property market remain strong.
“The properties in the fund are actively managed by an in-house team, the Irish economy continues to perform well, unemployment is at a 13-year low of 4.8pc and the demand for good-quality commercial property remains strong from both occupiers and investors,” she added.Source: Read Full Article