Union Investment acquires office in Chile

In a sign that German open-ended funds are continuing to look to emerging markets, the firm is steadily expanding its Latin American portfolio acquiring a 20-story property in Santiago de Chile.

Union Investment Real Estate, a Hamburg-based open ended fund manager, has acquired  the Torre Paris property for its open-ended real estate fund UniImmo: Global. The property is located in Santiago de Chile, Chile. The purchase price was not disclosed.

Completed in 2001, the 20-story Torre Paris building comprises some 13,300 square meters of office and retail space. It occupies a prominent location within the Providencia submarket on a corner site on Santiago’s northeast and southwest tangents. The building has attracted a variety of tenants including Dell Computers, Telefonica, Barrick, a representative office of the European Union, as well as a Starbucks on the ground floor.

The firm first entered the Chilean property market in December 2006 with the acquisition of office property Birmann 24. The firm said that UniImmo: Global has invested some €274 million – approximately 15.7  percent of its property assets – in Latin America’s commercial real estate markets. Its regional investment focus is currently on Mexico, where five properties are held either directly or via real estate companies.

Michael Montebaur, Management Board member of Union Investment Real Estate AG, said the firm is aiming to expand and further diversify its Central and South American holdings. “Chile and Mexico – two countries offering a high level of economic and political stability – provide the ideal conditions for real estate investment at present, across all usage types.”

Unilmmo has been steadily expanding its investment remit beyond Europe recently. It has acquired property in Canada, the US, Mexico and Chile. In February it invested in the Shiomi-Koyama office block in Tokyo for 20 billion yen (€130 million, $188 million) in its first office deal in Japan. Last year it acquired six residential buildings in Tokyo.

German open-ended funds in general are flexing their muscles in global markets now that they are enjoying net capital inflows again.

As recently as 2006, Germany’s open-ended property fund industry suffered net outflows amid a crisis of confidence stemming from corruption scandals, a lack of transparency and poor valuation methods.

However, last year the funds began to surge back. By November 2007 net inflows stood at €6 billion, according to the German trade association BVI.

The clear trend has been toward international investment, with most of the new investment going outside Germany. In September 2007 68.3 percent of assets under management were outside Germany, compared with 43.5 percent in September 2006.