Dubai regulator fines Emirates REIT manager over asset report

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Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) said on Wednesday it had fined Equitativa, the manager of a sharia-compliant real estate investment trust, $210,000 for misleading statements regarding one of its assets.

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Equitativa made misleading statements on two occasions in 2018 regarding one of Emirates REIT’s 11 assets, a school in Dubai Investment Park, the DFSA said.

“The DFSA also identified concerns around Equitativa’s fund valuation practices,” it said in a statement, adding that the fund manager had agreed to pay the fine.

Equitativa said in a statement that the settlement brought all investigations to a close and it could “now turn its full attention to reinvigorating Emirates REIT and accelerating its plans for growth”.

“To be clear, none of the findings alleges any financial impropriety on part of Equitativa or its employees,” it said.

Equitativa in 2018 failed to provision for money Emirates REIT (EREIT) was owed by the school despite it being in default on rental payments, the regulator said.

Equitativa did not reduce the valuation of the asset in the fund’s half-year financial statement, despite the school lacking an operator for the following academic year, the DFSA added.

“Rather, the school was presented as 100 percent occupied with a secure tenant with a 28-year lease in place,” the DFSA said, adding that this meant that “EREIT’s net profit for the six months to 30 June 2018 was overstated”.

When, later that year, Equitativa informed its investors that the school was no longer operating, it gave the “misleading impression that a new operator had been secured and would be in place for the following academic year,” the regulator said.

Equitativa in 2019 included a full provision for the money owed by the school and an impairment for the asset, both the regulator and the fund manager said.

The manager has agreed to address concerns around its valuation practices and will appoint an independent valuation expert for Emirates REIT’s 2022 valuation reports, DFSA said.

Emirates REIT this year failed to gain investor support for an offer to exchange $400 million Islamic bonds for new paper, after the coronavirus strained its finances.

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