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Britain may need to revise rules on illiquid assets in investment funds - FCA chief in FT

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(Reuters) – Britain may need to revise its rules on illiquid assets in investment funds after prominent investor Neil Woodford suspended withdrawals from his flagship equity fund last week, the head of the financial regulator said on Sunday.

“The Woodford fund’s inability to meet investor withdrawals raises a challenge as to whether the rules requiring assets to be liquid are working as they should”, Andrew Bailey, chief executive of the Financial Conduct Authority, wrote in the Financial Times.

The FCA would look at the problems with Woodford’s fund as it finalises new rules on investment funds that let investors withdraw their money at any time, he said.

Woodford was forced to freeze his equity income fund as he could not sell some of its more illiquid assets quickly enough to meet a stream of redemption requests.

Open-ended investment funds like Woodford’s are required to limit their holdings of unlisted assets to 10% of their overall portfolio. Woodford put some unlisted assets his fund held into vehicles and then listed them in Guernsey, raising questions as to whether he was flouting the spirit of such rules.

“Simply listing an unquoted company overseas does not in itself make the stock more liquid,” Bailey wrote.

The FCA already was drawing up new rules on open-ended investment funds after a number of UK property funds suspended withdrawals after the 2016 Brexit referendum.

“We will take into account the lessons of the Woodford fund when finalising these new rules,” Bailey said.

(Reporting by Rachel Armstrong in London and Rama Venkat in Bengaluru; Editing by Bill Trott)

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