Blackstone Inc limited withdrawals from its $69 billion real estate income trust (REIT) on Thursday after receiving too many redemption requests, an unprecedented blow to a franchise that helped it turn into an asset management behemoth.
The curbs in redemptions came because they hit pre-set limits, rather than Blackstone setting the redemption limits on the day. Nonetheless, they fuelled investor concerns about the future of the REIT, which makes up about 17% of Blackstone’s earnings. Blackstone shares ended trading down 7.1% on the news.
Investors in the REIT, which is not publicly traded, have been growing concerned that Blackstone has been slow to adjust the vehicle’s valuation to that of publicly-traded REITs, which have taken a hit amid rising interest rates, a source close to the fund said. Rising interest rates weigh on real estate values because they make financing them more expensive.
Blackstone has reported a 9.3% year-to-date return for its REIT, net of fees, while the publicly-traded REIT index is down 3.02% in the same period. This outperformance has some investors questioning how Blackstone comes up with the valuation of its REIT, said Alex Snyder, a portfolio manager at CenterSquare Investment Management LLC in Philadelphia.
“People are taking profits at the value Blackstone says their Blackstone REIT shares are at,” said Snyder.
A Blackstone spokesperson declined to comment on how Blackstone values its REIT but said its portfolio was concentrated in rental housing and logistics and relied on a long-term fixed rate debt structure, making it resilient.
“Our business is built on performance, not fund flows, and performance is rock solid,” the spokesperson said.
Two sources familiar with the matter said turmoil in the Asian market, fuelled by concerns about China’s economic prospects and political stability, contributed to the redemptions. The majority of investors redeeming were from Asia and needed the liquidity, they said.
Blackstone said it would curb withdrawals from its REIT franchise after it received redemption requests in November greater than 2% of its monthly net asset value and 5% of its quarterly net asset value.
Analysts said that Blackstone’s REIT runs the risk of getting caught in a spiral of selling assets to meet redemptions if it cannot regain the trust of many of its investors. On Thursday, the firm said the REIT had agreed to sell its 49.9% interest in two Las Vegas casinos for $1.27 billion.
“The impact on Blackstone depends on whether the REIT is able to stabilize its net asset value over time, or is forced to enter an extended run-off scenario, with significant asset sales and ongoing redemption backlog – too early to tell, in our view,” BMO Capital Markets analysts wrote in a note.