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EUROPE NEWS: AXA’s opportunity man

AXA Real Estate, the property arm of France’s insurance giant AXA, has signalled that it will push harder into the opportunistic space.

At a time when many firms are seizing on core as the must-have strategy, the Paris based firm, which has numerous core vehicles already, announced that Laurent Vouin would become head of opportunistic funds.

Pierre Vaquier, chief executive officer, said in a statement: “Laurent’s appointment is key and timely as our opportunistic funds business expands to meet strong client demand for investments that take advantage of current market conditions.”

Vouin is an internal hire, having previously served as head of asset management. The appointment underlines how AXA is keener to use existing talent or hire key individuals — such as global chief investment officer, Dennis Lopez — rather than grow via mergers or acquisitions.

Though heavily tipped to be a bidder for ING Real Estate Investment Management, AXA Real Estate never seriously looked at the platform, according to sources. It already is a large player in real estate asset management with €39.5 billion under management.

The opportunity funds that Vouin is responsible for include a development fund, Development Venture III fund, which was launched in July and so far has equity commitments of €230 million. He also will be responsible for the company’s Real Estate Opportunity Funds I and II, the second of which is currently in its acquisition phase.

Previous holders of the position include Biren Amin, who left the firm before the credit crunch and currently is head of real estate at Swiss-based Alpstar Capital.