Market fears hit Charities Property Fund

The 961 charities that invest in the Charities Property Fund have been told they cannot withdraw their money until further notice.

Fund managers Rensburg Sheppards and Cordea Savills took the decision to defer redemptions following concerns about the health of the property market. They will review the decision every three months.

"There is a certain amount of turmoil in the property market," said Charles Mesquita, charity specialist at Rensburg Sheppards. "We were expecting some sort of correction but neither we, nor I think anyone else, anticipated the global credit crunch which has exacerbated the situation."

Mesquita said most investors were "sanguine" at the news. "They are very relaxed with the decision," he said. " In fact, they have applauded us for taking a responsible attitude."

He said the fund, worth £350m, was protected from the worst of market volatility because it has no borrowing and invests lightly in High Street property, which is particularly under pressure because of weak consumer spending, out-of-town supermarkets and the effect of the internet on travel agents, book shops and music shops.

Rensburg Sheppards and Cordea Savills established the fund in 2000 as the first common investment fund available to charities that invest in UK commercial property.

Average annual returns over the last five years have totalled 12 per cent but the figure dropped sharply in 2007 to 6.3 per cent.

The fund managers' statement for December says there had been a "sharper correction than had been expected" in the UK property market in 2008.

It says: "Initial projections for 2008 indicate another year of negligible total returns, but the outlook thereafter is brighter and expected to return to the long term average of between 7 per cent to 8 per cent per annum."



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