EUROPE – Australia's Industry Funds Management (IFM) is opening an office in Germany as it sees new investment opportunities in the country and seeks to attract locally based institutional investors.

Lars Bespolka, head of the new Berlin office, told IPE that the company – owned by 30 Australian pension funds – expanded into Germany for three reasons.

First, he said, IFM already owns a stake in 50Hertz Transmission, one of the four electricity transmission system operators in the country.

He said IFM was interested in a number of similar investments in German-speaking countries, including Austria and Switzerland.

Bespolka added that IFM also saw opportunities in neighbouring countries, including regulated gas and electricity transmission and distribution businesses, as well as transport, gas storage and other infrastructure sectors.

"The regulatory structure and framework are relatively well advanced and have developed quite favourably for infrastructure investors," he said.

"The current transformation of the energy sector presents different opportunities we can look at."

Bespolka also noted that 50Hertz Transmission, headquartered in Berlin, played a "critical role" in the Energiewende, the German policy programme outlined in September 2010 that aims to drop coal and other non-renewable energy sources in favour of more renewable energies.

According to him, over the next decade, 50Hertz will have a capital investment programme in excess of around €4bn.

"This is a major organic expansion of one of our assets, and we want to be close to this," he said.

Lastly, he said that Germany was a good base to attract local pension funds to join the company's investor base and invest in its global infrastructure fund at a time when IFM was seeing "significant interest" from German investors.

"We first started working with Australian superannuation funds before opening up our business to investors in the US," he said.

"We are now committed to attracting German pension investors."