PFA Pension, Denmark’s largest commercial pensions provider, has bought a 40% stake in the Borgen shopping centre in Sønderborg in Jutland in the first of several planned retail investments.

The DKK417bn (€56bn) institutional investor says it aims to diversify its property investments across a broader range of sectors, becoming less reliant on offices which now make up around 90% of its domestic real estate exposure of DKK16bn.

Globally, PFA Pension has DKK25bn invested in real estate.

Michael Bruhn, director of PFA’s property arm PFA Real Estate, said: “This is a segment to which we have been underexposed.

“We have been looking for opportunities to get good retail properties into our portfolio, but it’s important to us that we invest in good quality properties, and that we don’t just buy in order to buy,” he said.

The Borgen shopping centre has more than 50 shops, 600 parking spaces, 18 homes and 6,000sqm of office space. Several of the offices were leased to Sønderborg municipality.

PFA bought the 40% stake from the shopping centre’s developer A Enggaard, which retains a 20% stake. 
A further 20% is owned by Bitten and Mads Clausens Foundation, and the remaining 20% held by Danish company Linak.

Bruhn declined to confirm reports by the Danish media that the stake in Borgen cost DKK100m.

He told IP Real Estate PFA was happy with the 40% stake, but added: “We wouldn’t mind increasing it at some stage.”

Over the past 18 months, PFA had been looking at ways to diversify its property portfolio into areas other than office, he said.

“We are looking at retail and we could be looking at residential, which we don’t have either,” he said, adding: “It’s just a natural evolution of the Danish portfolio.”

PFA is nearing completion of a similar-sized investment in a shopping centre in Esbjerg, also in Jutland, called Broen (The Bridge). 

This deal had been expected to be PFA’s first completed retail deal, Bruhn said, explaining that it had been delayed because of complications over obtaining permission from Danish Rail to build over a railway line.

However, the project was still on course to begin construction in November, he said.

PFA was also looking at a high-street retail project in Copenhagen worth around DKK700m, which could be completed in December, and another project somewhere outside the capital, likely to complete at a later date.

Bruhn did not rule out cooperating with other Danish pension funds over future retail property investments.

“We have made some attempts to do things with some of our colleagues, and we are open-minded about that,” he said. “If there was an opportunity to use a pooled vehicle alongside others, we would be interested in that as well.”