Sovereign wealth funds may sell off UK assets

LONDON • Sovereign wealth funds and central banks may look to cut their British assets this year after sentiment towards the country slumped since it voted to leave the European Union, according to an Invesco report.

About 41 per cent of institutions, which together oversee about US$12 trillion (S$16.6 trillion) in assets, said they expect to introduce new underweight positions in the United Kingdom this year, a survey published yesterday showed.

Britain was also deemed to be the least attractive developed market, scoring 5.5 out of 10 this year, the report said. That is down from 7.5 last year.

"It's a very sharp movement for what was one of the most attractively rated markets," Mr Alex Millar, Invesco's head of sovereigns in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said by phone. "When you wake up one morning and your investment is worth 20 per cent less than it was the previous day, that's going to have an impact," he said, referring to the pound's depreciation as a result of the Brexit vote.

Get The Straits Times
newsletters in your inbox

The survey, which interviewed 97 institutions from January to March, found that investors were starting to question the future of Britain as an "investment hub" in Europe.

This comes after Prime Minister Theresa May pledged that she would seek a good deal for London's financial services industry when she negotiates the country's withdrawal from the EU. But she first has to win Thursday's general election.

Uncertainty around what sort of trading deal the UK will manage to hash out with Brussels is forcing many investors to take a wait-and-see approach, according to Mr Millar.

SOBER WAKE-UP CALL

When you wake up one morning and your investment is worth 20 per cent less than it was the previous day, that's going to have an impact.''

MR ALEX MILLAR, Invesco's head of sovereigns in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, referring to the British pound's depreciation as a result of the Brexit vote.

According to the survey, some 54 per cent said they are not making any changes to their allocations until they can assess the longer-term impact of Brexit.

Elsewhere, the United States was considered by investors to be the most attractive market to invest in, scoring 8 out of 10.

Germany ranked first in Europe with a score of 7.8 and Italy and France were rated 6.1. In Asia, Japan scored 6.6 and India was 6.1.

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 06, 2017, with the headline 'Sovereign wealth funds may sell off UK assets'. Print Edition | Subscribe