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EUROPE NEWS: Man of the moment: Steven Sewell

After laying dormant in global real estate for several years, Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets (MIRA), the direct property and infrastructure investment arm of the Australian bank, is hoping to be back with a bang.

The firm, which has only around €3.65 billion of real estate assets out of a total €63 billion portfolio, is planning on significantly adding to its property holdings globally and expanding into new markets. Currently, the firm only has real estate assets in Australia, China and Mexico. MIRA had limited its real estate following the global financial crisis but banks have since faced less pressure to reduce non-core aspects of the balance sheet, enabling them to build up their exposure again to assets such as real estate.

To lead the charge in developing MIRA's real estate business in Europe and the US, the Australian firm has hired Steven Sewell as executive director.

Sewell, who will be based in London, has moved to MIRA from Federation Centres (now Vicinity Centres), an ASX-listed REIT with A$22.7 billion (€14.5 billion; $15.7 billion) of Australian shopping centers under management.

However, Sewell's tenure at the REIT, where he was chief executive, reportedly ended in dramatic circumstances in August last year. He was said to have been ousted only two months after Federation had merged with its larger peer, Novion Property Group, to create the nation's second-largest listed mall owner. The board of the merged trust quickly replaced Sewell with former Novion chief Angus McNaughton, who has since overseen the rebranding into Vicinity Centres.

Sewell's new post marks his return to Macquarie, having previously spent seven years at the company prior to Federation. During his earlier tenure at Macquarie, he acted as chief executive of Macquarie CountryWide Trust, an ASX-listed REIT which owned shopping centers in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the US.

MIRA has been quietly bolstering its team to come back to the market; over the last 12 months, it has made key senior hires including Ralf Nocker in Europe, Andrew Calderwood in the US, RK Narayan in India and Chia-Wen Toeh in Hong Kong.

Initially, MIRA plans to re-engage with the real estate market through club deals with a small number of investors in order to build the brand again, as opposed to raising a large fund, but the firm remains open to the “appropriate model in the appropriate market,” according to Matthew Banks, global head of real estate for MIRA.