USAA Real Estate expands into Europe(2)

The real estate investment arm of the United Services Automobile Association has struck its first deal outside of the US with the formation of a new joint venture and has opened an office in Amsterdam.

USAA Real Estate has taken its operations overseas and has chosen Europe as its first area of focus outside of the US. The real estate investment arm of the United Services Automobile Association, a San Antonio-based group of financial services companies, initially will be focused on providing capital for logistics development throughout the region.

Under this initiative, USAA has forged a new partnership with Mountpark Logistics, the logistics arm of London-based real estate developer Mountpark Properties.  Mountpark Logistics, led by John Cutts, has developed more than 30 million square feet of warehouse space for a variety of tenants and investors across Europe for the last 25 years.  Logistics is expected to be the main sector focus for USAA in Europe, while the Mountpark joint venture will be its sole strategic partnership in the region for the foreseeable future.

“We have a number of institutional clients in Europe, so we have a long history of spending time in that market,” said Len O’Donnell, chief executive of USAA Real Estate. “It provided a logical place for us to expand abroad.” Likewise, the company has had a long history of investing in logistics development in the US, so “it’s a logical place for us to transition into in a new market,” he added.

In support of its European push, USAA has opened its first overseas office in Amsterdam, which will be headed by David Buck, an 18-year veteran who most recently served as executive managing director of global logistics development. The firm also has hired Maximilian von Below, formerly of Munich-based AM alpha, to oversee management of USAA’s European client base while also helping Buck to source investments on the Continent.

Under the partnership, USAA will contribute the majority of the capital in each individual transaction, although Mountpark also will make a significant investment. The joint venture will pursue a dual strategy of acquiring land with development potential as well build-to-suit projects. Buck currently is evaluating opportunities primarily in Poland and the Czech Republic, but also Germany, the UK and the Netherlands, among others.

O’Donnell said USAA has not set a specific target for how much it will invest in Europe. However, he expects that USAA to execute at least two or three transactions in Europe over the next 12 months, including an initial deal that could close this year.