AXA Real Estate has hired John Eland to lead the creation of a €1bn data centre portfolio over the next three years.

Eland, CEO of Data City Exchange, is joining to support the fund manager’s ambitions in the emerging property sector.

AXA Real Estate will build up the portfolio using capital from its insurance clients as well as teaming up with other third-party investors on a deal-by-deal basis.

It will take a flexible approach, from acquiring existing data centre real estate and developing assets to buying data centre operators.

The group already has exposure to data centres, mainly in France.

Eland will report to Riccardo Dallolio, AXA Real Estate’s head of alternatives and special situations.

Dallolio told IP Real Estate: “We think it’s a possibility to be at the forefront of investing in this niche sector.

“If you can understand both the property side and the data centre side of the business – the mechanical and electrical components, data centre operation and how tenants wish to deploy and manage their data centre portfolio now and in the future – you can add value and generate pretty high returns”.