AUSTRALIA - LaSalle Investment Management has increased its presence in the Australian real estate market by agreeing to acquire Trinity Funds Management.

LaSalle is acquiring the Brisbane-based property fund manager from Trinity Group and Clarence Property Corporation in a deal worth AUD$9.25m (€6.97m).

The news comes soon after unconfirmed reports in the press that LaSalle is in talks to acquire the European business of private equity real estate manager JER Partners.

Trinity Funds Management operates four Australian real estate funds with approximately AUD650m of assets under management.

They include the AUD$580m Trinity Property Trust, the firm's flagship open-ended fund that pursues a diversified core-plus strategy. LaSalle plans to rename it the LaSalle Australia Core-Plus Fund.

LaSalle's parent company, Jones Lang LaSalle, is to acquire a 6.2% co-investment stake in the core-plus fund from entities associated with the selling parties.

The ownership of Trinity Funds Management is currently evenly split between Trinity Group and Clarence Property Corporation, another Australian fund manager that acquired a 50% stake in 2010.

LaSalle will integrate Trinity Fund Management's 30-strong staff into its new Brisbane office - in addition to its presence in Sydney and Melbourne - increasing LaSalle's on-the-ground presence in Australia to approximately 40 staff.

Steve Leigh, current chief executive at Trinity Funds Management, will become head of Australia for LaSalle.

Leigh said he and his team had been working hard to "completely overhaul the funds management operation" at Trinity over the past 18 months.

He added: "The fact that an organisation of LaSalle's calibre sees the platform as high quality is a testament to the team's commitment and the results achieved."

Following the takeover, Leigh will report to Philip Ling, chief executive for LaSalle Asia-Pacific.

Ling said: "We have spent a great deal of time working to identify potential acquisition candidates in Australia, as part of our business strategy to grow our competitive presence in a country where we foresee strong growth prospects.

"The acquisition of Trinity Funds Management represents the preferred near-term opportunity and entry point for LaSalle into the Australian market, providing immediate scale, visibility and profitability."

Ling said he saw "a significant amount of potential upside for the Australian business in terms of both expanding LaSalle's presence in the local market and the potential to assist Australia's institutional investors as they increasingly look to take advantage of international real estate opportunities."

The acquisition will increase LaSalle's Australian non-listed real estate assets under management to approximately AUD$1.7bn, and will lead to the global fund manager having close to US$9bn (€6.37bn) in non-listed real estate in the wider Asia-Pacific region.

The transaction is expected to be completed on or around 1 August 2011.