GERMANY - Universal-Investment is to launch its first real estate fund, with a former Aberdeen Property Investors Deutschland (API) managing director hired to spearhead the German company's expansion.

Universal said it would focus on real estate Spezialfonds rather than mutual funds, with a spokesman confirming the intended launch date as autumn.

Alexander Tannenbaum, former managing director and fund manager at API, will head up the company's efforts, as well as join Universal's board of management. 

He has previously worked for Commerz Grundbesitz, now known as Commerz Real, as well as Credit Suisse Asset Management.

Board member and spokesman Bernd Vorbeck argued that expanding into real estate was the next logical step for Universal's KAG offerings, as it would allow institutional investors to combine all investments in a single manager.

The company was also keen to stress that, at a time when incoming Solvency II regulation was expected to demand a 25% capital reserve from pension funds for any real estate investment, such an arrangement would benefit investors in areas of risk, as well as asset liability management.

Universal said it expected to work closely with existing real estate KAGs, finding a partner to take responsibility for the fund's asset management, while it oversaw all aspects of administration.

Tannenbaum highlighted European core markets of Germany and France, as well as Scandinavia, as regions recovering from the downturn and therefore of interest.

He also singled out office and retail developments - especially if these were environmentally friendly at a time of rising commodities prices - as objects investors would increasingly focus on.

As of the end of April, Universal manages €130bn in institutional investments. Last month, it announced it would seize on a growing interest by German investors in environmental, social and governance issues by offering Spezialfonds investors engagement services, such as proxy voting.