EUROPE - The European Property Investors Special Opportunities (EPISO) fund has increased its property holdings in France after purchasing a €145.6m portfolio from Credit Agricole Asset Management.

The fund, which is run by Curzon/AEW Europe and closed to investors in May 2008 after accumulating just under €800m in equity, has purchased the portfolio as part of a four-year investment project which it hopes will generate a total portfolio of about €2.5bn.

The portfolio is made up of 32 office assets all over France, with a total occupancy of above 85% and an approximate surface area of 62,000sqm.

At least 10% of this portfolio is located within central Paris, while 67% is located the Parisian suburbs and the remaining 23% is scattered across the rest of France.

"This is an attractively-priced and defensive portfolio that should perform well even in challenging economic times," claimed Rob Reiski, head of investments at Curzon/AEW Europe.

The EPISO fund is made up of approximately 15 pan-American investors, most of which are pension funds, and has a strategy of targeting cheaper property prices that have resulted from the economic downturn.

Ric Lewis, chief executive officer for Curzon, was confident of the EPISO fund's performance will hold up despite the current market conditions.

"These are very difficult times in the market and we are in a proactive mood rather than a reactive mood. We have been relatively unhurt by [the market]."

Commenting on the fund's latest deal - conducted through Curzon Global Partners/AEW Europe and Cleaveland Asset Management - Lewis said: "We bought in advantageous conditions and I think there are a lot of things we can achieve with it."

EPISO hopes to raise net returns of 16%, after fees and expenses from its latest portfolio investment.

The fund also recently embarked on a joint venture with Mountgrange's Real Estate fund to acquire a £140m (€180m) portfolio from Prudential Property Investment Managers Ltd.

The fund has made only two portfolio purchases since starting the four-year investment project.