ASIA - The Asian Public Real Estate Association (APREA), which represents the listed sector, has launched a certification programme for regional real estate investors.

The eight-month programme, which targets middle managers, covers fund management, valuation techniques, investment structures and regulation. It combines distance learning and case study workshops run by local and imported experts.

Peter Mitchell, chief executive of APREA, told IPE Real Estate: "Skills and resources are a problem all over the world, especially in Asia, but [people in] emerging markets are keen to up their skills.

"The market doesn't grow from nothing to this without putting a strain on available capabilities," he added.

A shortage of industry nous has long been of concern to investors in the region. HSBC, for example, last year stalled its Chinese fund recruitment effort citing the market's limited fund culture as an obstacle.

Aggressive acquisition activity among highly-liquid Asian investors - including sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) and public pension funds - is also beginning to unseat European and US investors' domination of Asian real estate markets.

Notably, the lifting of overseas investment restrictions on Korean pension funds has encouraged "the broader acceptance of real estate as an attractive asset class", according to Eduard Wehry, head of institutional clients at ING Real Estate, Asia.

The Korean National Pension Service, for instance, plans to allocate 10% of its portfolio - around US$43bn (€28bn) - to alternative investments by 2012. Overseas investments currently make up around 2.8% of its assets, against a target of 6.8%.

And according to Watson Wyatt's most recent ranking, two of the world's top five pension funds are Asian: Japan's Government Pension Investment Fund, with $936bn (€591bn)in assets under management and Korea's National Pension fund, with $203bn (€128bn).

That said, obstacles to listed property investment include variable REITs regulations. Despite ongoing discussions, neither China (excluding Hong Kong) nor India - the two dominant emerging markets - has implemented REITs regulations.

But this has allowed REITs-enabling markets such as Singapore to adopt cross-border investment strategies that include regional real estate assets in their portfolios.