Cawthra departs amid Aviva Investors Asia sale

Aviva Investors’ Asian real estate business, which currently is for sale through Jones Lang LaSalle, has seen senior executive Guy Cawthra leave to join Australian developer cum fund manager Lend Lease.

Guy Cawthra has become the first senior professional at Aviva Investors’ Asia real estate business to leave amid its ongoing sale process.

The platform was placed on the market via property broker Jones Lang LaSalle at the end of last year as parent company, the UK insurer Aviva, continued a strategy to streamline its operations and reduce its debts in a bid to boost shareholder value.

Amid the uncertainty for the platform’s future, PERE can reveal that Cawthra, who was a senior vice president responsible for Aviva’s pan-Asia property portfolio, including its direct, indirect and listed holdings, has left to join Sydney-based developer and fund manager Lend Lease.

He joined Lend Lease at the start of the month as a regional investment director within the integrated solutions team of its investment management business, led by head Justin Gabbani. Lend Lease’s investment management business has some A$15.8 billion of funds on its books across investment styles globally. In Asia it invests in Singapore, where Cawthra will remain, Malaysia, China and Japan.

Seen by one source as the ‘number two’ to Aviva Investors’ Asia chief executive Ian Hally, Cawthra’s departure has been described as a sign of the uncertainty surrounding the platform until a new sponsor is found.

So far, PERE understands that certain suitors have undertaken due diligence on the platform, however a preferred option has not been crystallized. 

Among those firms which have considered the platform was Standard Life Investments, the investment management business of Edinburgh-based savings and insurance business Standard Life, although that interest has since understood to have cooled. LaSalle Investment Management is another firm speculated to have shown interest. 

Should a firm absorb the Aviva Investors Asia real estate business, it would inherit an approximately 30-strong team which currently operates from offices in Singapore and Sydney. 

It manages the £206.3 million (€245.9 million; $341.5 million) Asia Pacific Property Fund, a pan-Asia, core real estate fund with assets in Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

Aviva Investors also has joint venture partnerships with Mirvac , another Australian property investment manager, focused on industrial property, and with Secured Capital, the Tokyo-based property investment manager, focused on offices.

Neither Aviva, Lend Lease not Cawthra would comment.