Pramerica shops in France

The European wing of Pramerica has followed up on an earlier office and industrial development joint venture with a retail property partnership.

Pramerica Real Estate Investors is expanding operations in France with a €200 million ($260 million) joint venture with Belgian development company Banimmo to develop and refurbish retail properties in the country.

Pramerica will initially contribute up to €40 million towards the €60 million of capital that is committed to the partnership. The joint venture expects that with leverage it will be able to acquire a total investment volume of €200 million of real estate.

The move for Pramerica, which is the real estate investment management business of US firm Prudential Financial, represents an expansion of activities in France where it already has an office sourcing transactions for the company's co-mingled funds. Earlier this year, it announced a joint venture with Paris investment company The Bleecker Group to invest in French office and industrial opportunities.

Under the terms of the latest joint venture, Banimmo subsidiary Banimmo Real Estate France will manage the retail venture. It reunites Pramerica with Banimmo, which the US firm acquired from Axa's Belgium bank in 2000. At the time it owned a €280 million portfolio of 53 properties in Belgium and Luxembourg. Pramerica acquired Banimmo for €82 million, which marked the first corporate acquisition in continental Europe, besting JE Robert and Fortress in the deal.

A few months later Pramerica refinanced 50 percent of its stake in the company for a reported €43 million before selling its interest entirely to Macquarie Global Capital Parters in 2002. The company was then listed on the Euronext stock exchange. Under Macquarie's ownership Banimmo expanded into France in 2003 led by managing director Patrick Henniquau.

“The French retail market has been gaining momentum,” Philip Barrett, Pramerica's chief investment officer in Europe, said in a statement. “The relationship gives our investors the opportunity to benefit from Patrick's extensive retail experience.”

Pramerica revealed its latest joint venture on the same day it was linked with an attempt to buy a one third stake in the Shard of Glass mixed development at London Bridge station in London, which would be Europe's tallest commercial tower. The Financial Times reported Pramerica was behind the State of Qatar in trying to buy the stake from property investor Simon Halabi.

As of June 30, the UK accounted for 10.7 percent of Pramerica's $5.6 billion European assets under management, France accounts for 19.4 percent and Germany represents 20.4 percent.