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Britain proposes new structure to tackle illiquid fund flaws

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LONDON (Reuters) – Britain on Friday put forward a new long-term asset fund structure to invest in illiquid assets such as real estate and infrastructure, following recent high-profile suspensions.

Illiquid assets typically offer higher long-term returns but come with higher risk and can be hard to value or sell in a crisis, making it difficult to meet redemption requests.

Many British funds investing in property froze after the Brexit vote in 2016 and during the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said it would consult on a new long-term asset fund (LTAF) which would have longer redemption periods, high levels of disclosure and specific liquidity management requirements.

These rules would enable such funds “to secure an appropriate level of consumer protection and to address specific risks related to investments in illiquid assets”, the FCA‘s CEO Nikhil Rathi said in a statement.

The funds, which could also invest in private equity and debt and venture capital, would be aimed at institutional investors including company pension funds and “sophisticated” retail investors, the FCA said.

The FCA has separately proposed replacing the typically daily redemption notice period for existing open-ended property funds with notice of up to six months.

It said it would not make a decision on the property funds until the third quarter of 2021 at the earliest, taking into account feedback on the LTAF. The FCA may give managers of the property funds up to two years to implement the changes.

The LTAF could have even longer notice periods, it said.

Moira O’Neill, head of personal finance at interactive investor, said retail investors could lose out.

“If open-ended funds want the right to invest in illiquid assets without the accompanying obligation to offer daily access to their own investors, what do investors get in return for that sacrifice?” O’Neill said.

(Reporting by Carolyn Cohn; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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