A changing of the guard

Pierre Vaquier, a 14-year veteran of insurance giant AXA, has taken the helm of its institutional real estate firm, AXA REIM, and is set to announce a major strategy overhaul later this month.

Pierre Vaquier is not wasting any time at AXA REIM. After being named as chief executive officer at the end of April, Vaquier has embarked upon a reorganization of the entire business. According to a spokesperson at the company, the firm-wide review is likely to result in an announcement about key appointments and new investment strategies later this month.

Vaquier, a 14-year veteran of Axa Investment Managers, AXA REIM's parent company, takes over from Paul Marcuse, who held the post for seven years. When Marcuse left at the end of last year to become head of real estate at UBS Global Asset Management, Vaquier and AXA REIM chairman Dominique Carrel-Billiard took interim control of the company's day-to-day operations. Now, Vaquier has assumed full responsibility for the firm, while Carrel-Billiard continues as chairman.

The position is one of the most powerful in European institutional real estate. AXA REIM manages approximately €40 billion ($52 billion) of real estate assets in a series of private real estate vehicles, with 460 professionals based in 12 offices and operating in 17 countries.

The firm has expanded into Asia recently, where Vaquier is expected to increase the firm's presence. Last year, it opened an office in Tokyo and established a presence in Singapore to focus primarily on China and India. Earlier this year, the firm also opened an office in Stockholm. That followed the acquisition of a portfolio of 71 supermarkets and 2 distributions centers in Sweden for its European Retail Income Venture fund, which launched in 2005 with €700 million of acquisition firepower.

Vaquier, who once worked for BNP Paribas, joined AXA in 1993. In 1999, he was promoted to chairman and chief executive of AXA REIM France and deputy managing director of AXA REIM.

AXA REIM's latest fund, the Alternative Property Income Venture, had its first closing in March and raised €215 million of equity. Its target is estimated at €400 million. The fund's investment strategy is focused on alternative asset classes including leisure, residential and automotive together with medical centers, nursing homes, leisure parks, petrol filling stations, car parks and student accommodation.

Aaronson appointed head of Multi
Glenn Aaronson, an investment pro at Morgan Stanley Real Estate, has been appointed chief executive officer of Multi Corporation following the investment bank's acquisition of the company last year. Multi, formerly known as AM Development, has retail operations in 20 countries. Aaronson takes up the role this month and will report to chairman Hans van Veggel. Aaronson has spent 11 years at Morgan Stanley Real Estate, where most recently he was a managing director and head of investing for Holland and Germany. His other responsibilities included serving as co-head of real estate asset management activities for MSREF and Special Situations Fund III.

Colony's European chief joins Carrefour board
Carrefour, the second largest retailer in the world, has appointed two new directors to its board: Sebastien Bazin, the head of Colony Capital's European operations, and Nicolas Bazire, a representative of French billionaire Bernard Arnault. Shareholders voted overwhelmingly in favor of the appointments at the company's annual meeting in Paris, which observers hoped would shed light on plans to deal with Carrefour's real estate holdings. Through representation on the board, Colony and Arnault are hoping to influence events in their favor after spending €4 billion ($5.2 billion) purchasing approximately 9.1 percent of the company with the expressed intent of capitalizing on the company's real estate.

INREV gets new chairman
INREV, the European Association for Investors in Non-Listed Real Estate Vehicles, has appointed a new chairman. Johan Van der Ende, 48, the chief investment officer for strategy and structured investments at Dutch pension fund PGGM, has taken over the post from Michiel Olland, who held the position for four years. Outgoing Olland steps down after leaving Dutch pension fund giant ABP to join SNS Property Finance earlier this year. At ABP, Olland was executive vice president for real estate in Europe and Asia-Pacific. He joined SNS in February as director of Southern Europe and new markets. “The position of the chairman has evolved, in line with the development of the association, from a managerial to a more representative role,” Olland said in a statement.

Henderson makes new hire
Henderson Global Investors has appointed Albert Yang as director of institutional business. He will be responsible for the distribution of property products, predominantly to institutions in the UK, Ireland and Benelux region. Henderson manages €12 billion ($15.6 billion) of assets with more than 200 clients invested in its UK or pan-European funds. Yang joins from Schroder Property Investment Management where he was responsible for equity raising in specialist property funds. Prior to Schroders, he was at RREEF, the real estate and infrastructure arm of Deutsche Bank. Earlier this year, Henderson completed its first deal in Spain, purchasing a 50 percent stake in a shopping center in Fuengirola.

Benson Elliot enters Spain
Benson Elliot Capital Management has teamed up with Catalan residential developer Promobuilding to acquire a prime residential site on Spain's Costa Dorada. Les Pobles Migdia will include up to 200 villa-style residences. The acquisition is the first in Spain for Benson Elliot Real Estate Partners II, which closed in 2006 with equity commitments of more than €335 million ($435 million) and comes after shares in the leading Spanish construction companies tumbled dramatically at the end of April on fears of a residential market crash. In a statement, Benson Elliot founder Marc Mogull said: “We've monitored the Catalan residential market with Promobuilding for some time, but needed something like the negative news barrage in the Costa del Sol to bring vendor price expectations into line with our own.”

Morgan Stanley makes first buy in Poland
Morgan Stanley Real Estate has acquired a 25 percent stake in WAN SA, a Warsaw-based developer of residential, office and logistics properties, for an undisclosed price. The deal represents the firm's first real estate investment in Poland. John Carrafiell, global co-head of Morgan Stanley Real Estate Investing, said in a statement: “We believe Poland's strong economic growth, and its strong demand for quality real estate, provide an attractive opportunity to expand our investment platform.” Equity funding for the transaction came from Morgan Stanley Real Estate Special Situations Fund III, which closed on $2.2 billion (€1.7 billion) last year.

Bridgepoint acquires Leeds airport
European private equity firm Bridgepoint has bought Leeds Bradford International Airport from five West Yorkshire councils for £146 million ($289 million; €222 million). Bridgepoint will implement a £70-million capital expenditure plan to provide additional terminal capacity that will allow for the introduction of new routes and a doubling of passenger traffic to 7 million people by 2015. Others bidder were thought to include ABN AMRO Infrastructure, Abertis and Barclays Private Equity's infrastructure fund in a joint bid with Churchill Airports. James Murray, from Bridgepoint, said: “We are paying a good price for this airport in line with multiples of recent similar deals. It is an under-developed, under-exploited asset which can be brought up to the same level as regional airports generally.”

Accent buys minority stake in Swedish hotel chain
Swedish buyout manager Accent Equity has bought a 17 percent stake in Sweden's largest hotel chain, Scandic Hotels. Accent is acquiring the minority interest from rival Swedish buyout firm EQT Partners, which agreed in early March to acquire the hospitality company from Hilton Hotels Corporation for €733 million ($996 million). EQT will retain 83 percent of the company. Scandic has 129 hotels in nine countries in northern Europe. Accent manages more than €500 million across five different funds. It has invested in more than 40 Nordic mid-market companies. It made the hotel investment from its Accent Equity Fund 2003, which closed on €250 million in July 2004.