Finance: Three acquisitions raise property fund's assets to £277m

The Charities Property Fund has acquired three new buildings, taking its total value to £277m.

The fund became the first common investment fund that enables charities in England and Wales to invest in the UK property market when it was launched by Carr Sheppards Crosthwaite and Cordea Savills in September 2000.

Five years on, more than 600 charities invest in the fund, which increased the number of properties in its portfolio to 41 with the latest acquisitions.

They were of industrial units in Boston, Lincolnshire and Peterborough, Cambridgeshire for £10m and £7.3m respectively, and a warehouse in Milton Keynes for £6.1m.

The acquisitions leave the fund with about £10m in cash to invest in office, retail and industrial units - the fund's three investment areas.

The huge rise in property prices in recent years has given investors some handsome returns. Annual total returns have ranged from 10 per cent to 12.9 per cent, with an 11.4 per cent return predicted this year.

Alison Puhar, director of UK fund management at Cordea Savills, said she was confident the fund would continue to perform well despite the slowdown in property prices.

"We're realistic in our expectations of what is going to happen from now on," she said. "We're forecasting 8-9 per cent returns instead of double-digit ones."

Recently, the retail sector has been the strongest performer - in 2004, it achieved a total return of 20.5 per cent. But Puhar predicted that would change. "Offices have performed poorly before, but there are signs that they will see good growth in the future," she said.

Because the fund is itself a charity, it is exempt not only from stamp duty, which currently runs at 4 per cent on property transactions over £500,000, but also capital gains tax and income tax.

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