Australian investment management group QIC is close to investing a further $750m (€686m) in the US shopping centre market, bringing its US real estate portfolio to nearly $4bn.

Its subsidiary QIC Global Real Estate has acquired a 51% stake in the $500m Ridge Hill mall in Westchester in the state of New York and is expected to make further investments in Florida and Virgina in the next few weeks.

All three deals will be joint venture transactions with current owner and operator Forest City. QIC and Forest City have existing joint ventures; in 2013 they set up a $2bn partnership to co-own eight shopping centres.

Steven Leigh, managing director of QIC Global Real Estate, said the transactions will further diversify QIC’s existing US retail property portfolio”.

He said the Ridge Hill deal was a “unique” opportunity to take a strategic stake in a quality retail asset within a tightly held institutional asset class, while providing even further geographic exposure to the US East Coast.

Leigh says the expanded joint venture with Forest City cements QIC’s position as a key player in the US retail property market.

“We view the US retail market as being very attractive, and our existing portfolio is achieving good income growth off the back of robust retail sales, coupled with a sustained low interest-rate environment,” he said.

“The continued expansion of our interests in the retail sector across the US is a key element of our investment strategy, and this acquisition is a logical next step in our constructive working relationship with Forest City.”

Leigh said the US real estate market offered further opportunities for QIC.

In 2015, QIC acquired a 100% stake in The Shops at Tanforan shopping centre in San Bruno, California, in the San Francisco Bay area and worked with Australia’s largest industry super fund, AustralianSuper in acquiring a 25% stake in Honolulu’s Ala Moana Shopping Centre for  AUD1.1bn .

Leigh told IPE Real Estate last year that there were simply more opportunities abroad. The Australian market has become very crowded, especially for core assets.

QIC accelerated its offshore real estate programme three years ago when it became clear that opportunities in Australia were becoming increasingly scarce.

QIC entered the US market through its joint venture with the New York Stock Exchange-listed Forest City Enterprises to acquire eight regional malls in 2013

“We chose the US because of the relative value of assets there,” Leigh told IPE Real Estate at the time.

QIC first ventured overseas in 2006 when it bought a 50% in Merry Hill, a regional shopping centre in the UK on behalf of QSuper and another Australian superannuation fund.