NETHERLANDS - SBZ, the €2.2bn Dutch pension fund for care insurer employees, has made its first two disposals of direct property holdings as part of a transition to a wholly indirect real estate exposure.

The pension fund has sold a shopping centre with apartments in Hardinxveld-Giessendam and an office building in Zeist, both in the Netherlands, to real estate company Newomij, together representing approximately one-fifth of SBZ's total property portfolio.

The move from direct to indirect is part of SBZ's decision in 2007 to outsource its asset management, although real estate was the only asset class not to be taken on by fiduciary managers Fortis Investments and Russell Investment Group.

"The sale of the direct portfolio is also part of outsourcing our total investment plan to our fiduciary managers. The direct portfolio was left out when the outsourcing process started," said Peter van Gemst, director of finance and investments at SBZ.

The pension fund has spent three years studying how to outsource its real estate portfolio and is intending to invest in real estate via funds in the future.

This could take place as early as the second half of this year, but may have to wait until 2010, "depending on sales transactions in the direct portfolio," van Gemst said.

Gemst added that he hopes to sell the remaining direct assets "as soon as possible", but stressed that they would not be sold "at any price".

When SBZ begins its indirect investment programme it will be targeting a real estate allocation of 6%, which is lower than in previous years.

The pension fund had already reduced its allocation from 15% to 10% in 2007.
Gemst said the reduction in weighting was for "strategic diversification" purposes, to allow the pension fund to invest in other alternative asset classes, such as infrastructure.