EUROPE - Central and Eastern Europe is still too overpriced to be worth investing in, despite greater differentiation between prime and secondary real estate pricing, according to Scottish Widows Investment Partnership's head of property Malcolm Naish.
Speaking ahead of a trip to identify potential property investments in Japan and China - for a fund likely to launch next year - Naish indicated the fund manager would likely bypass emerging European markets investments for those available Asia.
"There's an interesting growth story in the Far East," he said. "We'll invest in a few markets to begin with and form an impression about timing. If the story is as strong as we think, we'll look to pursue it over the next 6-18 months."
The fund manager's will scout assets primarily in commercial and retail, although Naish said he would be "going with an open mind".
"It isn't a question of either/or Eastern Europe or Asia;" he added, although he expressed continued concern the property market correction in emerging Europe had not yet gone far enough.
"If a market is too perfect, all the news is in the price. You need to make sure you understand where the value is," he said.
In Asia, he cited an upward trend in Japanese pricing driven by economic recovery, although he added it wasn't yet clear whether this applied to markets outside Tokyo. China, he said, "feels a bit like Central Europe did a few years ago", with strong growth, new assets and improved means of access.
"Despite being a global asset class, property is always a local asset and it's driven by local factors. It's been difficult to access property in some foreign markets, unless they were really major investors," said Naish.
Increased appetite among UK pension funds for overseas diversification across asset classes was driving demand for global real estate investment, said Naish, further adding: "It's the same pattern as in equities and bonds. It's becoming natural to think in regional and global terms."
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