Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Citigroup Raises $1.29 Billion to Buy Real Estate in China, India, Asia

Citigroup Inc.'s property unit said it raised $1.29 billion for its first fund to invest in real estate and related assets in the Asia-Pacific region, with a focus on China and India.

Citigroup, the largest U.S. bank, and its investment professionals committed $200 million to the fund, CPI Capital Partners Asia Pacific LP, according to a statement from the New York-based bank. The fund will be managed by a Hong Kong-based team of more than 25 employees led by managing director David Schaefer. About 40 percent of the fund has been invested or pledged already.

Fund managers are trying to profit from fast-growing economies in Asia and capture more fee income from managing assets on behalf of pension funds seeking the annual returns of 10 percent or more that funds such as Citigroup's are designed to provide. Since the beginning of 2006, U.S. managers have raised more than $5 billion to invest in Asian real estate, according to Private Equity Intelligence Ltd. in London.

``Asia is a compelling market for private equity real estate investments,'' said Joseph Azrack, 59, president and chief executive officer of Citigroup Property Investors, in a statement.

Property Investment

Azrack, who came to Citigroup in 2004 from Boston-based AEW Capital Management LP, is expanding real estate offerings as Wall Street banks and buyout firms raise record funds for global property investment. Morgan Stanley is raising $8 billion for what would be the largest real estate fund of its kind and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. also is forming a new real estate fund. Blackstone Group LP, which bought Equity Office Properties Trust earlier this month in the largest-ever leveraged buyout, plans to raise about $10 billion for a new real estate fund this year.

Azrack's division oversees more than $9.8 billion and invests in publicly traded and closely held securities in a variety of asset types, including office, industrial, apartments, retail and hotels.

Citigroup also announced yesterday that it plans to raise $3.5 billion for a fund to invest in companies in emerging markets such as India, China, Estonia and Chile.

Citigroup will commit $1 billion to the fund, called Citigroup Venture Capital International Growth Partnership II LP, and expects to raise the rest from employees and clients, according to a marketing brochure.

In December, Citigroup Property Investors said it raised $2.1 billion for its first high-return real estate funds, one for Europe and the other for North America.

Citigroup Property Investors is part of Citigroup Alternative Investments, one of the bank's four main business divisions. Besides Hong Kong and New York, the property unit has offices in Shanghai, London and Los Angeles and a presence in Mumbai.

source:- bloomberg


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