Church Commissioners' Timber Choice Welcomed by AAA
Boston, MA, May 28, 2011 -- The Church Commissioners are to make a major investment in US timber as part of a comprehensive restructuring of its investment strategy, in a move that has been applauded by alternative investment advocates.
The charity – which has one of the largest charity investment portfolios in the UK, valued at around £5.3 billion under management – said that they had decided to stop investing in UK government bonds and rein in their holdings in global equities. The news has been welcomed by Alternative Asset Analysis (AAA), an organization established to assess new alternative assets and encourage individuals and funds to make more alternative investments.
The first church estates commissioner, Andreas Whittam Smith, said that their habit of keeping a high weighting of their portfolio in real estate and equities was no longer appropriate for them.
"We must now be prepared to vary our asset allocations in a dynamic fashion, albeit purposively rather than rapidly," he said. "As a result we have begun to reduce the proportions of our funds held in pure risk assets. In cutting back our holdings of equities, however, we have decided to reduce our positions in global equities rather than UK shares."
AAA partner, Anthony Johnston said that the charity's decision to turn to alternative asset investments was indicative of a noticeable global shift towards investments like timber, which are not as susceptible to the effects of wider economic factors.
"There are some excellent returns to be had when investing in environmentally sustainable projects in emerging markets," explained Johnson, who has over ten years fund management experience.
"Sustainable forestry plantations and projects have seen major growth in popularity as alternative investment options in recent years, with projects in countries like Brazil and Indonesia encountering great demand. Companies like Greenwood Management are completing successful rounds of selling their plantation trees to individuals and groups who have jumped at the chance to own a tangible, alternative asset that is likely to rise considerably in value over the coming years."
Mr Whittam Smith said the value of such investments had not escaped the Church Commissioners. "Timberland has provided investors with attractive returns in relation to risk over many years," he said. "Timber is a slow-growing crop with opportunities for harvesting occurring after the first five years and many years after."
The Church Commissioners were set up in 1948 to manage the historic property of the Church of England. They combine the assets of Queen Anne's Bounty – a fund for poor clergy set up in 1704 – and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.
Mr Whittam Smith said the value of such investments had not escaped the Church Commissioners. "Timberland has provided investors with attractive returns in relation to risk over many years,
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