REAL ESTATE - The €4.5bn residential Dutch property investor Vesteda is considering starting cross-border operations, it has announced.

"The Netherlands has a closed housing market, in which the government decides the prices in almost the entire rental sector. This regulation, the tax-deductibility of the interest on mortgages, rental allowances and housing corporations active in the non-social segment, disturb the free market system," said chief executive officer Huub Smeets.

Vesteda reported 2006 returns of 14.7% on its own assets of almost €3.2bn. Its portfolio consisted of 28,000 homes.

The company returned 5%, or €149m, on rental income and sales. Value growth yielded 9.7% (€285m), it said. The occupation ratio of the portfolio was 97%.

Ten years after its start, Vesteda has returned 13.6% a year on average. While it reduced its initial portfolio from 52,000 to 28,000 homes, the value increased from €3.8bn to €4.5bn, it indicated.

"With the addition of new projects under own development, and the sales from our portfolio, we realised a strategy of further specialisation in the higher rental segment," it stated.

Meanwhile, property investment funds VastNed Retail and VastNed Offices-Industrial reported total returns on share value of over 50% and 42.5% respectively.

The €1.7bn retail fund’s investment results were up 9.5% to €173m, of which direct investments counted for €62.5m (5%) and indirect results for €110.4m (12%).

The fund has designated Turkey, Greece and Romania as new markets. After a recent initial acquisition of a retail centre in Istanbul, it intends to invest 10% of its assets in Turkey, CEO Reinier van Gerrevink said, citing the countries ‘relatively high returns’.

As a niche player, VastNed Retail will continue to invest in relatively small retail properties, such as smaller retail centres and individual shops, Van Gerrevink indicated.

The €1bn VastNed Offices-Industrial fund has entered the German market, the CEO announced. "Because of the historically low rental levels, there is space for growth," he explained. "Next year, there is room for investing 10 to 20% of the assets under management in Germany."

Although Van Gerrevink noted an improvement in the market of offices and industrial premises, the vacancy rate of over 10% is still too high, he said. The CEO also announced an increased focus on investment in the Dutch Randstad, "because of its more liquid market."

The €1bn VastNed Offices-Industrial reported direct returns of €32m and indirect returns of €17.6m.