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BlackRock and M&G defer withdrawals from UK property funds

FILE PHOTO: A trader works as a screen displays the trading information for BlackRock on the floor of the NYSE in New York

By Elizabeth Howcroft and Carolyn Cohn

LONDON (Reuters) -U.S. fund manager BlackRock and British asset manager M&G are delaying redemptions from UK property funds managing around 8.1 billion pounds ($9.75 billion) of assets as investors seek to exit Britain's real estate market.

Open-ended real estate funds in Britain have been battling to meet a surge in demand for redemptions against a backdrop of high inflation and economic uncertainty, as valuations come under pressure from rising interest rates.

BlackRock will defer third-quarter redemptions from its 3.5 billion pounds BlackRock UK Property Fund, a person familiar with the situation told Reuters on Wednesday. The funds were originally due to be paid at the end of December, the person said.

BlackRock previously also deferred second-quarter redemptions, which were due to be paid out at the end of September.

A spokesperson for M&G said that it was still deferring redemptions on its Secured Property Income Fund, following an increase in redemption requests. The deferral would allow the fund to rebuild liquidity by selling property investments in an orderly way, the spokesperson said. The fund was worth 4.6 billion pounds as of September.

Top asset managers, including Columbia Threadneedle, Schroders and CBRE Investment Management, have imposed restrictions on property fund redemptions since September, after money market turmoil and interest rate rises forced investors to pare exposure to the asset class.

Many British pension schemes cut their exposure to property to rebalance their portfolios after selling large volumes of more liquid assets in late September, when a package of unfunded tax cuts proposed by former Prime Minister Liz Truss sent UK government bonds into freefall.

According to CBRE's monthly UK commercial property index, capital values at the all-property level dropped by 5.5% in November, extending a decline over 11 months to Nov. 30 to 10.6%.

Industrial property values have suffered the biggest hit, declining 7.8% in November alone. Office property values have fallen 9.4% in the year to end-November, while industrial assets have seen values tumble by 17.4% over the same period.

As of November, funds overseeing around 17 billion pounds in UK real estate assets were restricting redemptions to prevent firesales.

A spokesperson for Legal & General Investment Management said on Wednesday that its Managed Property Fund was no longer deferring redemptions.

"However, it remains a liquidity tool that may be utilised for future redemption requests where market conditions or other external factors require," the spokesperson said.

Columbia Threadneedle, Schroders and CBRE did not immediately confirm to Reuters whether redemption deferrals were still in place for their UK property funds.

($1 = 0.8311 pounds)

(Reporting by Elizabeth Howcroft and Carolyn Cohn, additional reporting by Kirstin Ridley, editing by Sinead Cruise, Elaine Hardcastle)