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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

AMP to up investment

SINGAPORE: AMP Capital Investors said yesterday it was aiming to boost its long-term investment in Asia properties to A$16bil (US$15.3bil) and will kick off the plan by doubling its industrial property assets in Singapore.

The investment unit of Australia's top pension fund manager AMP Ltd is also looking to buy properties or acquire businesses such as real estate investment trusts and developers, in Japan and China.

“Generally markets are coming off, and we see that as a buying opportunity over the next 18 months,” said AMP Capital's chief investment officer Andrew Bird at the Reuters Global Real Estate Summit in Singapore.

Andrew Bird at the Reuters Real Estate Summit - Reuters

“We see an opportunity to grow our business in this kind of environment, to buy under-priced assets or under-priced businesses,” said Bird, whose firm now has about US$100bil in funds under management, including US$15.3bil invested in Australian property.

He said Singapore's industrial property sector had yet to reach its peak.

AMP Capital has acquired some S$300mil (US$220mil) worth of industrial properties in the city state since opening its first Asian office in Singapore February last year. The firm also set up a new Tokyo office in December.

Those Singapore assets are its sole property investments in Asia so far.

Bird said Singapore and Japan were the firm's top choices for acquisitions as it has staff on the ground conducting research, and plans to do the same for China soon.

“The next place we want to have people on the ground will be in China, as long term that is a very attractive market to us,” Bird said.

“We don't believe in flying into a place with our cheque books and fly out again with assets. That tends to be a good way to lose money,” he said.

Bird said the firm had scrapped plans to list the Singapore properties through a real estate investment trust (REIT) due to poor financial market conditions and volatility, and now preferred to focus on unlisted wholesale funds.

AMP Capital, whose Global Direct Property Fund has raised A$200mil from pension fund managers since it was launched in 2006, also acquired three properties from the United States and Italy last year, worth a total of A$122mil.

“The reason we haven't invested any money from that fund in Asia is because Asian markets have been very strong, while the US market was probably the first to decline,” he said.

With the Australian stock market facing a downturn, Bird expects to see further consolidation among Aussie firms and said AMP Capital was looking at buying opportunities in the market.

By Reuters

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