BELGIUM - ING Real Estate has entered the Brussels office market with the €22m acquisition of two recently refurbished and fully-let prime office buildings.

Leo Weidenaar, fund manager for the ING Real Estate European Office Fund, pointed to the market's stability, thanks to the weight of institutional tenants such as NATO and the European Commission, as its reason for making the purchases and said the firm had been "looking there for years".

While spokesman Wieger Sietsma described the fund's portfolio as "well-filled", Weidenaar said the firm would continue off-market deals across Europe.

"You find them everywhere. Only in France and Spain are off-market deals difficult. They are not rare in Brussels."

The fund has picked up momentum this year with acquisitions totalling €300m in Barcelona, Lyon, Munich, Frankfurt and Milan, the largest of which was the purchase of Bodio in Milan for €152m.

Weidenaar attributed the recent spate of acquisitions after a slow start to better local knowledge.

"We've penetrated the market well; we know about every deal; we know what's going on," said Weidenaar.

"It takes a while to get the right touch and the right attitude. Then you develop momentum and flow - especially in the markets we're in." 

He acknowledged recent changes in European markets, including moderate interest rate rises, had helped the firm build up its pan-European portfolio.

Moreover, the firm is expected to announce an additional German office acquisition within weeks.

"The market is tightening, and investors are hesitating - at least professional investors are waiting to see what happens," added Weidenaar.

A shortage of property in the centre of Brussels, meanwhile, has encouraged investors to look outside the prime segment. International Real Estate last week said it had acquired a leasehold laboratory site outside Brussels from a subsidiary of oil major Shell. Its acquisition comes with permission for a 50,000-metre extension.