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Carlyle heads east

The third fund raised in Europe by The Carlyle Group is targeting parts of Eastern Europe as well as more established, core markets.

The Carlyle Group has closed its third European real estate fund, Carlyle Europe Real Estate Partners III, on €2.2 billion ($3.4 billion).

The new fund will closely resemble Carlyle's previous European property fund, CEREP II, in targeting six core markets: Iberia, France, Germany, Italy, Scandinavia and the UK. However it will also broaden its remit to Eastern Europe.

Robert Hodges, Carlyle's head of UK real estate and European asset management, said the fund was particularly interested in looking for deals in Bulgaria, and was currently conducting due diligence on properties in the country.

The new fund has also expanded its investor base geographically, according to Hodges, attracting new institutional investors from the US who had previously only invested in Carlyle's US-focused funds. ?That has been a new development for us,? said Hodges. ?Before, the biggest investor group was European. Now they are probably equaled by Americans.?

The fund has already committed €715 million to 10 assets. Those investments include a 158,000-square-meter residential building in Copenhagen; a 79,000-square-meter high-rise office development in Paris' La Defense; the renovation of a 42,000-square-meter shopping complex in Aranjuez, Spain and the purchase of a portfolio of 11 office, residential and retail buildings in Stockholm, comprising 114,000 square meters of space. The firm is targeting opportunities across all property sectors.

Carlyle's two previous European real estate funds, the €427 million CEREP I and the €763 million CEREP II, have invested a total of €1.8 billion in 65 assets since 2001. In Europe, the firm has focused its investment on single assets of more than €25 million. It has teams based in Paris, London, Frankfurt, Madrid, Milan, Luxembourg and Stockholm. With leverage, the pan-European team of 46 people will have maximum funds of approximately €9 billion to invest.

Raising such a large fund at a time when people are raising questions about values in the property sector in Western Europe is a big show of confidence in the sector, particularly coming from US investors.

?Today it's a very difficult market, values have been falling pretty much across the board,? said Hodges. ?I don't deny it's a very difficult market out there, in some areas it's difficult to see where the bottom is. But that environment in itself offers us a huge opportunity. There are possibilities of getting product in the market today that we couldn't get anywhere near 12 months ago.?

Carlyle now manages $10.8 billion in ten real estate funds across the world, including €3.4 billion of assets under management in Europe.