CANADA/RUSSIA - Ivanhoe Cambridge, the €8bn shopping centre subsidiary of the CA$155.4bn (€98.3bn) Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, has acquired a Moscow shopping centre for an undisclosed figure.
The firm's first investment in Russia is a 60-40% joint venture with Austrian fund manager Europolis.
Although the Caisse's strategy is to form joint ventures with market-savvy partners, the acquisition of the year-old Vremena Goda centre represents only Europolis's third in Russia - suggesting there is competition for joint venture partners as well as assets.
Ivanhoe, which in addition to the Caisse has four Canadian pension funds as shareholders, claimed in a statement the Russian market represented the world's third most attractive retail market and offered "excellent growth prospects" for investors.
Its position on Russia contrasts a declared strategy based on contrarian approach to international investment. Baltic Property Trust Group's (BPT) acquisition manager Ilya Kutnov last month identified Ivanhoe as among the fiercest competitors for Russian retail assets.
Ivanhoe's approach to acquisitions in the Russian market echoes its broader prognosis for European retail as chief executive René Tremblay recently claimed shopping centres would continue to attract cross-border property investments because they offer secure income and low risk compared to other assets.
Other investors in Russian retail, notably East Capital, have suggested there is less value in prime retail than in provincial shopping centres.
The Quebec pension scheme allocates 18.7% of its overall portfolio to property in North and Latin America, Europe and Asia. Amid poor returns across asset classes, real estate last year returned 12%, down from 20% the previous year.
The Caisse's other two subsidiaries are Cadim, which invests in residential and hotels, and SITQ, which invests in office and business parks.