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Commercial real estate: Institutions get a taste for real estate

Institutions and private equity have stepped into the gap left by banks, not least because of property’s attractive and duration-matching returns.

Norway’s $700 billion-plus sovereign wealth fund has recently been eclipsed in terms of total assets by its counterpart in China, but when you’re as large as the Norwegian Government Pension Fund, even a small shift in asset allocation makes a big difference. Witness its role in the recent €1.2 billion Deutsche Annington IPO, where it swallowed 12 million shares, 35% of the offering, effectively guaranteeing the success of the transaction. Norway’s colossal fund is one of a number of the world’s largest institutional investors to have developed a taste for real estate. It indicated recently that it plans to increase its allocation to the sector from 0.3% of its assets in September 2012 to 5% within the next few years, and it has already begun to deliver on its pledge. As well as absorbing a big chunk of Deutsche Annington’s equity, it has bought 25% of London’s Regent Street from the Crown Estate and a 50% stake in a European property portfolio from Prologis. More recently, it made its first acquisition in the US commercial real estate (CRE) market, picking up a quintet of offices in New York, Washington and Boston in a joint venture with the teachers’ pension fund, TIAA-CREF.

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