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NBIM hires Ando to drive Japan RE deals

Kei Ando, a former Grove International partner, has been appointed by Norway’s state wealth fund as it gears up to make its first property investments in the country.  

Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), the manager of the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global, has appointed Kei Ando as portfolio manager for Japan, as it prepares to make its first real estate investment in Asia.

PERE has learnt from sources that Ando is currently in the process of relocating from Hawaii to Tokyo to assume the role of the wealth fund’s first real estate investment professional for Japan.

Ando was previously a partner at the New York-headquartered private equity real estate firm, Grove International Partner’s Japan team.

He is also understood to have a prior working relationship with the Oslo-headquartered $880 billion wealth fund. According to an industry source, Ando has been working in a consultant capacity with NBIM for a few years now.

Earlier last month, it was revealed that NBIM will open an office in Tokyo within this year, for which the hiring process has already begun.

Japan and Singapore have been earmarked as the target markets for the wealth fund’s opening property forays in Asia. NBIM is understood to be targeting the office and logistics sector in Japan, and is believed to have been an active bidder for a mega deal in the country in the past, but is yet to make its first investment in the region. Indeed, PERE has learnt from market sources that NBIM was one of the bidders for Pacific Century Place, the landmark office building, when it was put up for sale last year. Its bid ended up being lower than that of GIC, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, which later went on to acquire the property for $1.7 billion in October last year.

Ando is NBIM’s second executive to have come from Grove International Partners. Karsten Kallevig, the chief executive officer of real estate at NBIM, also previously worked with the firm’s Japan team, where he held multiple positions, including head of Japan from 2006 until his departure from the firm in 2010.

NBIM has, so far, remained cautious in its real estate investment strategy, limiting its exposure to property markets in mature European and American cities, but has outlined plans to diversify and expand its investment portfolio in its 2014 annual report.

Over the next three years, the fund is targeting to invest approximately $26 billion in real estate assets globally, in line with its long-term goal of committing 5 percent of its fund to real estate investments. Currently, real estate comprises 2.3 percent of the fund’s total investments. For Asia and the US markets combined, as much as $8.6 billion is expected to be invested each year for the next three years.