GERMANY - ING Real Estate Management intends to significantly increase its presence in Germany in 2007, in order to profit from the continuing improving market fundamentals.

In its annual report, ING Real Estate Group announced it also expects to launch several pan-Asian funds shortly, as it considers Asia one of its future growth engines.

With a 39% increase of its assets under management to €66bn, the Investment Management branch (REIM) was the main contributor to the company’s growth.

Its €2.3bn purchase of Summit Real Estate made REIM the largest owner of industrial real estate in Canada and the group’s portfolio grew by 30% to €91bn in 2006 while net profits increased by 79% to €409m.

After a loss in 2005, ING Real Estate Development (RED) returned to a net profit of €57m, "due to large office project sales and a new management structure".

As a consequence of an additional strategic reorientation, RED will redirect its focus to specific regions and cities in its existing European markets, it indicated. It aims to significantly accelerate growth in Spain, Germany and France.

Furthermore, RED plans to increase its activities in Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Italy on a project basis and is researching an expansion into the Nordic countries, as well as markets in Romania, Turkey and Russia.

ING Real Estate Finance increased its international lending portfolio by 8% to 38%, and has indicated it is aiming for a further increase to 50%.

Its finance portfolio grew by €2.2bn to €22.6bn while the company has plans to grow further into Central and Eastern Europe as chairman and CEO George Jautze remains upbeat about the company’s prospects.

"We will continue to diversify the portfolio of our three business lines, and create cross-selling opportunities, making the company a one-stop-shop for clients and enabling it to withstand individual market movements," said Jautze.

"We expect real estate to remain competitive over the next 1-2 years, with above-trend growth rates and flow of capital to real estate. Given its increased liquidity and transparency across the world, real estate is becoming a less risky asset class," Jautze added.

He announced the appointment of Willem Steenhoven as Chief Risk Officer on the management board as of 1 March.

ING Real Estate is now has offices in 21 countries in Europe, North America, Asia and Australia.