BELGIUM - Brussels is the new Berlin, International Real Estate (IRE) indicated when it announced a sharper focus on value-added opportunities in Brussels real estate.

Posting interim results up to €4.8m, compared with €1.2m in the same period the previous year, the firm said it saw potential for value uplift from refurbishment programmes in the Belgian capital.

"The influx of EU institutions is the driving force," said chief executive Daniel Akselson.

"We've been doing business there for 20 years and we still see opportunities there. If we're lucky, we'll get opportunities in that market - both off-market and on-market."

That said, despite an emphasis in its results announcement on Belgium, Akselson said "our main focus is on Germany - that hasn't changed as the macro outlook is still very promising".

The firm will mainly target the residential sector of the German market, although Akselson said the positive impact of increased economic activity was showing in the office space.

"It makes office look good, I must say," he said. "But there's been no decision. We've made some small purchases but no major acquisitions."

Most of IRE's German residential assets are held in Berlin, Magdeburg, Halle and North Rhine-Westphalia.

Recent investor opinion on the Belgian real estate market has ranged from semi-warm to indifferent.

ING Real Estate European Office Fund recently acquired two prime Brussels office buildings with some enthusiasm.

In contrast, ABP real estate portfolio manager Robert-Jan Foortse described the site of three recently acquired Brussels hotels as coincidental

 "We have no strong view either way about Belgium - neither positive, nor negative," he said.