NETHERLANDS - Progress, the Dutch pension fund of food giant Unilever, is close to completing the disposal of its entire directly-held real estate portfolio.

CB Richard Ellis, which has been handling the divestment of the €500m-plus portfolio, said it had sold 43 of the 54 of the underlying assets, and is undergoing due diligence on a further nine properties.

The remaining two assets - two shopping centres located in Oss and Tilburg - have yet to be marketed.

Progress commissioned CBRE in January 2009 to sell its direct assets, comprising 54 mixed-use, office and retail properties across the Netherlands, as part of the pension fund's strategy to switch to a fully indirect real estate exposure.

CBRE confirmed it had sold 43 assets, 35 of which have been transferred to their new owners, with the remaining eight yet to be transferred.

The properties consist largely of residential-led mixed-use developments, comprising a range of residential units, garages and shops.

So far, Progress has sold a total of 1,720 residential units of varying sizes, 245 garages and 85 shops, totalling approximately 16,000 square metres, plus a further 24,000 square metres of office space from the Unilever corporate headquarters.

"In the current market it is a challenge to successfully sell any large real estate portfolio," said Eric Langens, associate director, capital markets at CBRE in the Netherlands.

"By splitting up the Progress portfolio and selling each property individually, we have managed to attract significant interest and many good offers for each individual property."