NORTH AMERICA - MetLife has announced plans to setup a third-party investment management business in the real estate sector that will go by the name of MetLife Real Estate Investors.

Robert Merck, MetLife's global head of real estate investments, is to lead the new company. 

He said his goal would be to leverage MetLife's real estate platform to become a top five institutional real estate investment manager. 

Mark Wismann, who has led MetLife's commercial mortgage operation since 2003, will head the equity strategies group.

The company will have investment platforms on both the equity and debt side of the real estate investment business. 

MetLife owns and manages a $10bn (€7.8bn) global portfolio of direct real estate investments and a $43bn loan portfolio. 

All of these investments have been made for the general account of MetLife.
Merck said: "We will be targeting attracting capital from other institutional investors.

These would include capital sources like pension funds, sovereign wealth funds and smaller life companies that don't have the investment staff in-house to purse traditional real estate investing."

MetLife will focus initially on capital that would be invested in real estate in the US and the UK. 

Other potential areas include regions where the company already has offices, such as Mexico, Japan and Chile.

On the equity side, the Real Estate Investors organisation will focus on investing for the most part in core properties with a long-term holding period. 

Merck said: "We have a long history of owning and managing this kind of real estate. It would be a logical extension with this strategy. There also is the fact there is a lot of interest from investors in owning this kind of real estate today."

From a property type standpoint, the company will stick with the types invested on behalf of MetLife's general account, namely office, industrial, retail, apartments and hotels.

Brian Casey, who previously headed up the company's Washington, DC regional real estate office, will lead the new company's debt strategies group.

The focus in the debt sector will start off with mostly senior mortgages on traditional real estate. 

Other kinds of debt strategies will include structures such as senior mezzanine debt loans and B-notes.