REAL ESTATE - German pensions and insurance giant Allianz last week outbid Henderson Global Investors to acquire John Laing, the UK infrastructure firm, for £957.5m (€752.5m).

Allianz hopes the acquisition – which is subject to regulatory approval – will give it better access to Europe’s largest market for private financial initiative (PFI) projects. The firm has a portfolio of 50 PFI projects, 28 of them operational.

It also provides Allianz a beachhead to emerging infrastructure markets in mainland Europe through Laing’s nascent operations in France, Germany and Italy.

The Benelux countries and EU accession countries are also likely to be future targets. The developer recently opened a Central European office.

"We expect Europe to be a major growth area for PFI in future, with significant opportunities from both established European economies and new joiners in the European Union," said a spokesman.

The firm has not ruled out further corporate acquisitions in continental Europe.

The Laing deal will enable the German firm not only to bid for larger projects – it is understood to be interested in hospitals and roads – but to instigate its own infrastructure projects.

Laing initially recommended Henderson’s offer to shareholders but withdrew its backing when Allianz came in with a better offer.

Asked whether the out-played firm would scout new corporate acquisition targets, Henderson spokesman Richard Acworth said it was too early to say. "We’re still considering our options," he said.