‘Safe as homes’? Brexit looms over UK actual property market

LONDON (Reuters) – Investors are ditching British actual property as Brexit uncertainty, rising rates of interest and inflation erode home costs and workplace values in a market hurtling towards a probably messy exit from the European Union.

FILE PHOTO: Terraced homes are seen in Primrose Hill, London, Britain September 24, 2017. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh/File Photo

Shorting actual property funding belief (REIT) shares is gaining in reputation, because the government publishes plans to deal with any disruption if Britain and the EU can’t agree on the phrases of its departure.

The listing of the UK’s prime 50 most shorted shares is peppered with actual property names. They vary from REITs Intu (INTUP.L) and NewRiver (NRRT.L) to housebuilders Crest Nicholson (CRST.L) and McCarthy & Stone (MCS.L) to the primary quick, Travis Perkins (TPK.L), which sells constructing supplies, Markit information exhibits.

Short curiosity information from FIS Astec Analytics exhibits REITs that think about residential and workplace house have increased share-borrowing exercise and prices – a measure of demand to borrow the shares to be able to quick them.

The quick – internet of borrowing prices – would have been profitable. British REITs have underperformed their European counterparts by greater than 20 % for the reason that referendum.

(Graphic: REIT shares UK versus Europe Aug 23 –


Office actual property can be beneath pressures from Brexit. London workplaces now demand a hefty premium over these in Dublin, Paris, Frankfurt or Amsterdam, however a drop in London’s relevance as a monetary heart is weighing on its market valuation.

Several banks are already moving a part of their operations from London to cities like Dublin, Frankfurt, Paris, and Amsterdam after Brexit.

“People are clearly thinking that with Brexit there will be some movement to Dublin, and therefore why should London command a circa 50 percent premium on a per square foot basis,” mentioned Henry Dixon, portfolio supervisor of the Undervalued Assets fund at Man GLG.

Fewer EU nationals working within the nation will even decrease demand for each residential and workplace house.

The second quarter noticed the largest drop in EU nationals working in Britain since information started. Net EU migration to Britain has fallen to its lowest since 2012.

Market pricing has already, to an extent, factored these pressures in.

“If London offices are being valued at 1500 pounds per square foot but [REITs are trading] at a 30 percent discount to net asset value,” Dixon mentioned. “In many ways the market seems to be already valuing London as being akin to Dublin.”

Land Securities (LAND.L), which derives almost half its capital worth from workplaces in London’s City and West End, trades at a 30 % low cost to e-book worth. But even that low cost isn’t sufficient to draw buyers.

(Graphic: Price-to-book worth of UK REITs –


House costs have additionally been feeling the pressure. They rose annual % throughout the United Kingdom as a complete in contrast with three.5 % in May, the weakest enhance since August 2013, ONS figures confirmed.

“There’s a received wisdom that there is safety in these things because of the old ‘invest in bricks and mortar’ adage, but we just couldn’t disagree with that more right now,” mentioned James Dowey, chief funding officer and chief economist at Neptune Investment Management.

“The domestic economy has been hugely supportive of the UK housing market for many years, but over the past couple of years it’s suddenly become really quite hostile,” he mentioned.

London – the place costs have been pumped up post-crisis by global capital inflows and demand for secure belongings – has seen the largest decline in its home costs. They fell by zero.7 %, the largest fall since September 2009, throughout the global monetary disaster.

The common low cost versus unique value is widening, properties are taking longer to promote, and the provision of “for sale” properties is creeping up, UBS analysts found.

About 46 % of London’s 68,000 partly constructed houses have but to discover a purchaser, essentially the most ever, in accordance with property market analysis agency Molior London.

To an extent, the downturn was coming even earlier than the Brexit vote – however uncertainty has accelerated it.

“We have been negative on London residential for eight years,” mentioned Rogier Quirijns, portfolio supervisor and head of European analysis at Cohen & Steers, the most important REIT investor globally.

London’s housing market is previous the height of its cycle, whereas actual property in European cities nonetheless gives round three years of development, he argued. Quirijns invests in Berlin residential actual property in addition to Madrid and Paris.

Rising inflation – partly a consequence of the pound’s devaluation after the referendum – is placing extra stress on UK actual property.

House costs within the top-end prime residential market of London have come down by 20 % from the height in 2014, Man Group’s Dixon estimated. While most of that has been in nominal phrases, however the remainder will happen in actual phrases, as inflation erodes the true worth of houses, he mentioned.

The Bank of England’s charge rises, the primary for the reason that disaster, are additionally including stress to consumers, with mortgages turning into dearer to repay.

(Graphic: London hire costs fall –


Some buyers see the potential for a giant worth play in actual property.

“If things really get bad, if rents drop, I could invest. If the blood flows in the streets, then I could go back in,” mentioned Cohen & Steers’ Quirijns.

Man Group’s Dixon additionally mentioned that for REITs, as for each stock he watches, the portfolio managers have a transparent concept of a value at which the shares turn out to be “too cheap to ignore”.

The truth the shares are extensively shorted units the muse for a probably robust rally if sentiment improves, as quick sellers quickly unwind their positions.

But within the meantime, buyers can solely wait and hope for extra readability because the formal exit attracts nearer.

“We would have to see a good deal, a soft or relatively undisruptive Brexit, and then we would want to see some recovery in the economy [before investing],” mentioned Neptune’s Dowey.

The catalyst for a restoration might come as early as October, when Britain and the EU would possibly strike an exit deal.

But diplomats in Brussels on Tuesday mentioned they count on leaders to have to carry an emergency summit in November as a substitute, having missed the casual October deadline.

“I personally feel it’s going to go down to the eleventh hour,” Dowey mentioned.

(This model of the story was refiled to repair a typo within the first paragraph.)

Reporting by Helen Reid, enhancing by Larry King

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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