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European hedge funds say a Brexit is not happening

While the rest of the world wonders whether the U.K. will vote to leave the European Union, one group is confident it will not.

Europe-based hedge funders overwhelmingly indicated in a recent survey that they believe a Brexit won't happen. Fully 79 percent say Britons will vote to stay in the June 23 referendum, according to a poll released Thursday by industry tracker Preqin.

With other surveys indicating a growing possibility that Britain will quit the EU, the survey results may be a product of wishful thinking as well as observation.

"The impact of the debate on hedge fund performance has been most significant for those funds within Europe; around a third of fund managers in the U.K. and the rest of Europe believe it has negatively impacted their performance in the first half of 2016," Amy Bensted, Preqin's head of hedge fund products, said in a statement.

Indeed, while hedge funds globally have managed to eke out gains this year, those in Europe haven't been as fortunate.

A boat carrying supporters for a 'remain' vote in the EU referendum including Irish singer Bob Geldof (C) shout and wave at fishing boats as they sail on the river Thames in London, June 15, 2016.
Niklas Hallen'n | AFP | Getty Images
A boat carrying supporters for a 'remain' vote in the EU referendum including Irish singer Bob Geldof (C) shout and wave at fishing boats as they sail on the river Thames in London, June 15, 2016.

EU funds in Preqin's coverage universe have lost 0.46 percent year to date, while U.K. funds are down 0.22 percent. That compares to the broader Preqin all-strategies hedge fund benchmark, which is up 1.55 percent.

In the survey, which involved 270 fund managers and was taken in early June, 59 percent of U.K. managers expected negative Brexit ramifications, while the number was just 35 percent for the rest of Europe.

With so much uncertainty surrounding a Brexit, there's been a vigorous debate over where its pain will be felt most acutely — and what areas will benefit.

Many experts see a likely safe haven flight to the U.S. dollar, which could put a crimp on risk assets in the near term but lead to a buying opportunity in the sluggish stock market over the longer haul.

"It's an initial headwind as companies adjust, particularly companies that export. But it does make the U.S. stock market and the U.S. economy more stable places to look," said Lenore Hawkins, founding partner and chief economist at Meritas Advisors. "As tensions continue to rise, you start to wonder, could Spain leave, could Italy leave? Denmark's talking about it as well. ... That's just an awful lot of uncertainty."

Hawkins believes the overall effect will be deflationary, with obstacles to multinationals and an impact on the deal climate. However, she said it's hard to tell exactly how it will play out should a Brexit be approved.

"We can talk about Brexit as if we know what that means. But the U.K. doesn't know what Brexit means," she said. "We have no idea how this would really pan out."