NETHERLANDS - CB Richard Ellis is in negotiations with an unnamed investor to exchange on the remaining assets of the domestic real estate portfolio of Progress, the Dutch pension fund of Unilever.
CBRE, which has been handling the divestment of Progress' directly-held €500m-plus portfolio since January 2009, has recently sold one of the pension fund's remaining shopping centres, located in Oss.
Erik Langens, associate director for capital markets at CBRE, said this meant there were only seven assets remaining, which CBRE is hoping to sell in one final transaction by the end of June.
"We are now selling it as a whole to one party and we hope to finalise this transaction somewhere in the second quarter of this year," he said.
De Ruwert aan de Sterrebos in Oss was sold to investment company De Hoge Dennen Vastgoed for an undisclosed sum.
The shopping centre comprises a total of approximately 7,300 square metres of retail space and includes tenants Albert Heijn, Nettorama, Etos, Bakker Bart, Shoeby, Marskramer and Zeeman.
Although it has taken more than 12 months to sell the majority of the Progress portfolio, Langens said the disposal programme had been fairly successful, mainly because the majority of the assets were residential and retail properties.
"Both sectors are suffering less than the office market is at the moment, so there was quite some interest from different investors," he said.
Dutch private investors were particularly interested in the residential assets, he said, while the retail section of the portfolio attracted interest from both private and larger institutional investors.
Buyers have been exclusively based in the Netherlands; "there hasn't been one international investor who was interested in buying anything," Langens said.
The lack of foreign investor interest could be down to the prevailing conservative investment environment, but it should be noted that the residential market in the Netherlands is dominated by Dutch investors.
Furthermore, many of Progress' retail assets were located in provincial cities and not in the main target locations of cross-border investors, such as Amsterdam or Rotterdam.
"Maybe one or two shopping centres normally would have been interesting for foreign investors as well, but they are still located in cities that are not really well known," Langens said. "It is still very local, so we expected it to be Dutch investors anyway."
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.