UK - The BBC Pension Trust, SAUL, BHS Pension Scheme and P&O Pension Scheme have sold their shareholdings in Jersey-based property investment firm Equest Partners.

Scottish fund manager Artemis sold its entire shareholding - 20, 610,438 shares - on the schemes' behalf.  It also sold shares in the firm for the City of London pension account.

Equest subsidiary companies focus on southeast European real estate markets, notably Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia. Asked if Equest retained its optimism in Balkan markets, the firm's investor relations officer, Naomi Kora, said "absolutely".

Serbia has emerged in recent months as a potential alternative to saturated Central and Eastern European (CEE) markets. Merrill Lynch is among the investors currently scouting Serbia for potential acquisitions following one last month of a shareholding in Serb developer MPC Properties.

Although that acquisition predated current rioting following Kosovo's declaration of independence, Roger Barris, European head of Global Principal Investments (GPI) - the bank's real estate capital arm - said 7% GDP growth made the market attractive, and played down the potential for political risk, by arguing Serbs saw violence as "not a viable strategy".

He told IPE Real Estate: "Serbia is at least 5—10 years behind the Czech Republic and Poland.  We view the potential for regional expansion as a big part of the opportunity. Because of the [earlier] conflict the Serb market is way behind." 

He described the market as "a huge opportunity".