Axa plans €6.3bn splurge this year

Bullish insurer Axa says it continues to have its sights set on Asia, while in Europe Germany is a key part of its plans, the Paris and Brussels office markets offer “fair value” and retail in Barcelona and Madrid could be the best performers.

Axa Real Estate Investment Managers (AXA Reim) struck an upbeat note today, revealing its plans to invest €6.3 billion ($9.2 billion) in 2008 on behalf of clients including closed ended funds, insurance companies and open ended German funds such as Immoselect.

The French group has exited a big year in 2007 during which it acquired €5.7 billion of assets and sold €3.9 billion. The volume of purchases was a 54 percent increase on 2006 while the sales volumes represented a 100 percent jump.

But the firm seems ready to ramp up activity further, saying that while 2007 was a strong year for the company it is expecting to overtake investment levels in 2008 by 15 percent.

Investment will not be restricted to Europe, where it appears to favor the traditional office markets of Paris and Brussels and retail in Barcelona and Madrid.

In order to diversify, it plans to extend operations in Asia where it has €1 billion allocated in Japan, India, plus other markets.

Stephen Smith, global head of asset management and transactions, said: “We are also seeing some very significant arbitrage opportunities developing between the listed sector, derivatives and the direct market, which could provide interesting opportunities as the year unfolds. We are also actively engaged in sourcing real estate debt opportunities for our clients and given the current pricing we expect to develop significant volume in the next period.”

Germany will continue to be a target market this year, where the firm highlights healthcare as an opportunity, and it is “positive” about the prospects for parts of Scandinavia. In Finland and Sweden, offices and retail will continue to feature on its shopping list.