NETHERLANDS - APG, the investment arm of ABP, has acquired a 5.77% shareholding in French shopping centre developer Altarea.

The €218bn Dutch pension fund acquired the holding as part of a capital increase involving two million new shares priced at €170 per share. The share issue raised €374.5m, mainly from existing investors.

Euronext-listed Altarea targeted APG as a strategic shareholder, offering the scheme an appointee on its supervisory board. Although the scheme's rules prevent managers taking a seat on the board, Altarea spokesman Jean Silvain Camus said a seat on the firm's supervisory board would be occupied on the scheme's behalf by "someone close to ABP, though not from ABP".

Camus said there Altarea had no imminent plans to target other new shareholders. "Some of our shareholders have been there since before we floated in 2002, so maybe one will sell shares. But we have no precise plans," he said.

The acquisition positions ABP as the firm's fifth largest investor after Morgan Stanley (6.80%), Prédica (10.87%), Foncière des Régions (12.04%). Altarea founders Alain Taravella and Jacques Nicolet between them own 55.8%. ABP does not comment on its equity holdings.

"At the moment the company effectively belongs to a few shareholders, although decisions are made on the basis of consensus. In our vision, it's important to get investors such as ABP on board," said Camus. 

France, Italy and Spain currently make up the firm's focus - a focus ratified by consensus among the shareholders.  Shifting the consensus towards greater pan-European investment is likely to be a slow process.

The fact that ABP is a pension fund was a secondary consideration to its pan-European real estate experience.  "It's a giant pension fund - but it has also invested in every major real estate firm in Europe," he said. "It has a vision of the market - a continental vision we don't have and don't always have time to look for. This way we can get advice, share information and gain a market vision - but we weren't looking specifically for a pension fund, no.

"ABP's involvement doesn't mean we'll expand within Europe tomorrow, but it is important to have a vision in many, many markets," said Camus.

Altarea's portfolio is valued at €2.2bn. Shopping centres make up €1.8bn.