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SUN rises for Lopez

Dennis Lopez, head of real estate at structured finance specialist Cambridge Place, has joined an emerging markets firm owned by India's Khemka family.

If you track Dennis Lopez's career this decade, it is possible to get a summary of the way the real estate markets have developed.

At the start of the decade he made his name in mergers and acquisitions and other corporate advisory work while head of real estate investment banking in Europe for JPMorgan. He left the bank in 2004 to join the global alternative asset manager, Cambridge Place Investment Management, which manages vehicles focused on asset-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations, among other strategies.

Now he has joined emerging and transforming markets firm SUN Group as chief executive officer of its real estate activities.

According to a spokesperson for SUN Group, he has been hired to become head of SUN Real Estate. He will mainly be based in London, though he will be clocking up the air miles travelling between SUN's other offices and the markets it is operating in.

His departure from Cambridge follows a tough time during which it has been buffeted by the dislocation in the credit markets, according to one investor in a pan-European office fund managed by the firm. Stephen Day, executive chairman of Australia's Valad Property Group who also sits on the board of Cambridge's €850 million ($1.35 billion) Crownstone fund, said the firm had “felt the full force of the credit crunch.”

Speaking during a published earnings presentation for Valad on February 25, Day said: “That's because much of [CPIM's] business is involved in structured debt products, so staff reductions have ensued in that part of the business, and some of this has spilled over into their real estate business.”

He added: “We were disappointed to hear of the departure of their real estate head, Dennis Lopez, earlier this month. Nevertheless, the remaining real estate team are largely intact, and they're actually exceeding on business plan.”

SUN, the firm Lopez has joined, is a private investment group and private equity firm created by the Khemka family and is named after the initials of founder Nand Khemka and his two sons, Uday and Shiv.

From offices in New Delhi, Moscow, London and Johannesburg, the firm employs 150 professionals primarily focused on Russia and India as well as other emerging and transforming markets in the energy, mining, real estate, infrastructure and technology sectors.

One of its greatest achievements to date has been to build SUN Brewing/ SUN Interbrew into the twelfth largest beer company in the world.

The Khemka family has been active in Russia since 1958, managing to do business in a country which traditionally places a heavy emphasis on blat, a term describing the use of informal agreements and contacts.

In India it has been picked to build several hydro electric power plants in conjunction with Russian firm, RusHydro, which was formed in 2004 during Russia's reform and unbundling of its electricity monopoly.

The Kempka family has been investing privately in real estate for decades, beginning in India, but it has branched out to become a fund sponsor given its large pipeline of deals, according to the spokesperson.

It invests in real estate directly often as a fund sponsor and often with strategic partners. Last year it raised $630 million for the SUN-Apollo India Real Estate fund, a vehicle partnered by New York-based Apollo Real Estate Advisors.

The fund has an advisory team based in Mumbai headed by real estate pro Chetan Davé, formerly chief investment officer for Transwestern in Houston. He was previously a principal in the real estate group at JPMorgan Partners in New York.

Marathon staffs up in Turkey
Mehmet Budak, a former employee of The Carlyle Group, has joined New York-based hedge fund manager Marathon Asset Management to head its new office in Istanbul, Turkey. Budak was responsible for making private equity investments in the financial services industry and developing countries for Carlyle. Marathon's office in Turkey is being used as a base to originate and execute private equity, real estate, principal finance and public equity deals throughout Turkey, Southeast Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Marathon has a dedicated real estate team, which is co-headed by Jon Halpern and Ron Bernstein from New York.

Duo join Seven Dials
Mikola Wilson is to join London-based research, consultancy and fund manager Seven Dials to help expand the firm's property vehicle product range. Wilson, who stepped down as chief executive of Teesland iOG this year following its takeover by Australian firm Valad Property Group, will be re-united with Seven Dials' co-founder Brett Robinson. The pair once worked at running property funds managed by insurer Guardian Royal Exchange and later joined property fund manager Teesland where they launched the Teesland Advantage Property Income Trust. A third former Guardian and Teesland professional, Darren Fennell, is also joining Seven Dials. The firm manages the open-ended Seven Dials European Property fund of funds.

Star lawyer turns investment pro
Raymond McKeeve, a lawyer at Kirkland & Ellis who has built up a roster of private equity clients, is to turn real estate investment principal at R20, the property firm set up and run by Robert Tchenguiz. London-based McKeeve has counted Apax Partners, Barclays Capital, FL Group, MidOcean Partners, Rianta Capital, Mountain Capital and Kingsbridge Capital Advisors as well as R20 among key clients. McKeeve joined Kirkland & Ellis in 2006 from Linklaters. His area of expertise is advising private equity houses and portfolio companies on acquisitions, recapitalisations and exits. Notable deals include acting for Tchenguiz in the £431 million ($860 million; €546 million) acquisition of Odeon cinemas while he was at Linklaters.

Sutton heads Fidelity Euro aspirations from Munich
Keith Sutton, director of European real estate, has moved to Fidelity's recently opened office in Munich from where he is responsible for direct Continental real estate investments. “Munich lies in one of the strongest economic regions of Germany,” said Sutton. “It is the perfect location for the real estate business' latest European office. From Munich, I can be close to the key real estate markets on the continent, some of the best talent in the industry is located here, and it puts us at the heart of where our German clients need us.” Fidelity International, which manages approximately £151 billion ($298 billion) of assets outside the US, decided to enter into the direct European real estate market in 2006.

Lone Star delivers deal in Germany
Lone Star has scooped a €1 billion ($1.5 billion) deal with Deutsche Post World Net to acquire 1,300 properties, mainly in Germany. Deutsche Post said the transaction would be made in several tranches with the largest of them expected to be made by the end of the year. The sale is mostly structured as a sale and leaseback transaction of logistics properties located within Germany and is part of a pledge by Deutsche Post to raise at least €1 billion from its real estate assets by 2009.

Apollo signs €330m Ukraine JV
New York's Apollo Real Estate Advisors has struck a development JV with European Future Group's Black Sea Enhanced Returns Fund (BSREF) for a €340 million ($541 million) business park in Kiev, Ukraine. Proliski Business Park will comprise a total of 115,000 square meters of office accommodation in eight tower blocks, 13,900 square meters of retail and a 6,000 square meter hotel with parking. Apollo has invested in Russia, Turkey and other emerging and transforming markets along with a host of other international real estate firms of late. The latest commitment comes hot on the heels of the closure of Apollo European Real Estate III, which raised $1.4 billion for its third dedicated European vehicle.

Citi, Gazit to invest €800m in Meinl
Citigroup Property Investors and Gazit-Globe have agreed to invest up to €800 million ($1.2 billion) in Vienna-listed European developer Meinl European Land. Citi and its partner, which is an international developer listed in Tel Aviv, are to fund the investment via €500 million of subordinated convertible debt securities and a €300 million rights issue underwritten by them. In exchange, Citi and Gazit-Globe will end up with a 30 to 40 percent stake in the company depending on how many shares are taken up in the rights issue. Meinl European Land owns properties worth around €1.8 billion as well as a development pipeline estimated to be worth €3.7 billion, according to Meinl Bank, which established the company in 1997. The agreement with Citi and Gazit comes six months after Merrill Lynch was appointed to sound out potential investors and examine options for improving corporate governance at the company.

Morley bags first in Slovakia
The Aviva Central European Property Fund has acquired the Shopping Centrum Hron in Bratislava, Slovakia, for an undisclosed sum. A trio of firms manage the vehicle. They are Morley Fund Management with Germany's SachsenFonds and property services firm King Sturge being joint asset managers. The fund invests in a diversified portfolio of retail, office and industrial assets across countries in Central and Eastern Europe. The Aviva Central European Property Fund was launched in January 2005 and has raised a total of €211 million ($336 million) of equity following a fifth and final closing in February 2007. By the end of 2007, the fund had acquired approximately €526 million of property in Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Romania.