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Property is the place to invest as UKCP's net asset value jumps

THE attractions of property as a hot investment sector this year have been underlined by a 10.1 per cent jump in net asset value total return for UK Commercial Property Trust (UKCP), the £1 billion sector leader managed in Glasgow.

The trust saw net asset value rise 6.8 per cent in the six months to June, while the total return (which includes dividends) was ahead of the IPD sector benchmark (8.3 per cent) and the FTSE Reits Index (10.2 per cent), while trouncing the all-share index (1.6 per cent).

Managed by Robert Boag and Graeme Mcdonald, UKCP was a flagship vehicle of Ignis Asset Management, which came under the control of Standard Life Investments (SLI) on July 1 following the £390m takeover. Mr Boag said: "There have been lots of meetings with our opposite numbers (in SLI) looking at processes and how each of us runs things, which is broadly similar. It will involve a transition during the rest of the year of a core team, but it's very much business as usual focusing on our respective clients."

He added: "It has been a good six months for us, a continuation of the strong last quarter of 2013."

The trust also reported the £40.5m purchase of a leisure centre in Swindon, funded largely by the trust's first equity issue in four years. Chairman Christopher Hill said the board was pleased that the proceeds had been deployed so quickly.

Mr Boag said net asset value had been driven by strong capital growth across retail, commercial and industrial property, not just in London, but not by any early prospect of rental growth. "I suppose the seeds are there, in improving occupier conditions, but it is still some way off. We are seeing a lot of frenzied investment activity to get regional assets for future rental growth, but our worry is that may not happen."

The trust cut its 6 per cent-plus dividend in February, but the share price rebounded so quickly that the yield sits at an attractive 4.5 per cent, against the 3.3 per cent of both the Reits index and the all-share. Mr Boag said: "The economics and finances were in place, but you never know how the market is going to react. We were looking at a 10 or 15 per cent fall but the shares were up 2 or 3 per cent by the end of the week."

He said UKCP had outbid established rivals for the Swindon property, helped by its track record and conservative financing - it boasts the lowest gearing in its peer group at 19.1 per cent.

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