By Chibuike Oguh
NEW YORK (Reuters) -Blackstone Inc said on Monday it had again blocked withdrawals from its $70 billion real estate income trust in March as the private equity firm faced a flurry of redemption requests.
Blackstone has been exercising its right to block investor withdrawals from BREIT since November after requests exceeded a preset 5% of the net asset value of the fund.
BREIT fulfilled March withdrawal requests of $666 million, representing only 15% of the $4.5 billion in total redemption requests for the month, the firm said in a letter to investors.
Total redemption requests for March were 15% higher than the approximately $3.9 billion demanded by investors in February but 16% lower than the $5.3 billion Blackstone received in January.
"BREIT is not a mutual fund and has never gated," a Blackstone spokesperson said in a statement. "It is a semi-liquid product and is working exactly as planned. In fact, BREIT has paid out nearly $5 billion to redeeming shareholders since November 30th when proration began."
The level of withdrawal requests is expected to normalize over time as Blackstone works through its backlog, Blackstone President Jonathan Gray said during an analyst earnings call in January.
Blackstone shares were down 4.2% at $84.10, in line with the broader market, which was also weaker. Its shares have gained 18.4% in the first quarter after falling 43% in 2022.
BREIT's net asset value had risen by 8.4% last year while the publicly traded Dow Jones U.S. Select REIT Index fell 29%.
"Cognizant of easing forward interest rate expectations, we believe the reacceleration of gross redemptions may weigh on the shares," Credit Suisse analysts, led by Bill Katz, said in a note to investors.
(Reporting by Chibuike Oguh; Editing by Conor Humphries, Tomasz Janowski and Richard Chang)