NETHERLANDS - Progress, the Dutch Unilever pension fund, has committed €35m to a core pan-European real estate fund managed by Aberdeen Property Investors.
The Aberdeen European Balanced Property fund (AEBPF) is the latest vehicle to attract investment from Progress following the sale of the pension fund's directly held property portfolio in the Netherlands.
Progress made the decision to switch from a direct exposure in the Netherlands to an international one in 2009.
Having completed a long disposal programme of assets, it is now seeking to invest in international non-listed real estate funds, with heavy weighting to Europe.
The latest commitment follows the decision to invest in two Dutch real estate funds managed by ING Real Estate Investment Management.
The Aberdeen fund, which was launched in 2006 and has more than €300m of assets under management, offers investors a low-risk core exposure to a number of countries and sectors in the euro-zone.
Nico Tates, fund manager of the AEBPF, said: "Unilever made a very thorough analysis of the fund and decided to commit to our fund.
"They invest in a number of funds, but they were very keen in the AEBPF because it is a diversified portfolio.
"This is a fund for investors who would like to have in their strategy a diversified core fund and then add niche funds to their portfolios. The strategy is core to core-plus, although we are now focusing more on core."
The fund is invested in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Finland and is positively weighted (50%) to the retail sector, with smaller allocations to offices (32%) and industrial assets (18%).
Tates said: "We see on the continent that the retail sector is not only the least volatile but also the best performer in the past relatively."
He added that Aberdeen's forecast models suggested the retail sector would outperform other sectors on average in the euro-zone.
The fund is especially positive on retail assets in Finland, France, Belgium and Germany, offices in France, Finland and Germany, and industrial assets in Finland and Belgium.
Tates said Aberdeen's forecasts were "very important in implementing our strategy".