Russell Investment Group believes international property will continue to grow as an asset class and has appointed a head of property, Asia Pacific, to look at strategies including the possible launch of an unlisted global opportunistic real estate fund next year.

Sally Haskins, a property specialist at Russell’s Tacoma, Washington, head office, is to take up the new Asian Pacific role, based in Sydney. She takes control of Russell’s domestic property, including the Australian property securities fund, as well as new property products in the region. An early project will be to research the private property markets in the region as well as to assess the appetite for a global opportunistic fund. “We’ve been looking at unlisted real estate in terms of taking a product to market mid 2006,” Stephen Roberts, Russell Institutional Investment Services managing director, said. Haskins will complete the final due diligence on a number of managers Russell is considering for the new fund. Russell already manages an unlisted property mandate for a private client but Roberts said the underlying managers for the new fund-of-fund would depend on what was available at the time. “We believe there’s demand for this type of product,” Roberts said. He said large Australian investors were following their pension fund counterparts around the world in seeking new global property opportunities, including alternative strategies such as global real estate private equity funds. This had been, in part, driven by the increasing concentration of the Australian LPT sector, and the weight of local money pushing Australian funds to seek higher growth opportunities offshore, he said. “The property sector has globalised rapidly over the past two-three years and investors now have access to an increasingly broad range of global property investment opportunities. Some of the most exciting property markets are on our doorstep, with REIT and private real estate investment sectors evolving quickly in Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan.” In her previous role for Russell in the US, Haskins evaluated real estate capital and property market trends globally and reviewed investment products and managers for Russell’s real estate group. Before joining Russell in 1999, she was a portfolio manager with US group Institutional Property Consultants, where she managed several client relationships and conducted due diligence on investment managers. She has also worked as an acquisition officer with the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio (STRS) where she managed real estate investments.

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