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Aviva to expand into European CRE lending

The new European real estate lending team will be led by a new hire, Romain Linot, and launches with a new mandate.

Aviva Investors is expanding its real estate debt offering onto the Continent with a mandate from Aviva France and a new appointment to lead the business, PDI sister title Real Estate Capital reported.

Romain Linot, who comes from a senior fund manager's role at AXA commercial real estate, will head the new debt team from Paris and begins this week.  

“Romain will be spearheading our investment into Continental Europe where we haven't had a debt offering in the past,” said Barry Fowler, Aviva's managing director of real estate finance. “We are close to securing a mandate from Aviva France that will give us the capability to invest in euros.”

Aviva's real estate debt lending is currently focused on the UK, with the majority of the book being fixed-rate lending on behalf of the annuity business. But a strategic shift in the past year to help expand its opportunities has seen it come out of the insurer's life business and into Aviva Investors.

Aviva recently hired Gregor Bammert from Barclays, who joins as head of origination this month, and Nick Solomon from the Royal Bank of Scotland's real estate finance division, who joins in November. Part of their remit will be to help expand the business into more shorter-term, floating rate financing, as well as fixed-rate. The new Paris office will open up new euro-denominated territories.

“The Aviva France fund is some €76 billion in size but it's not an annuity fund like we have in the UK,” said Fowler. “So, we can invest in floating rate debt, we can take participations from banks and we can leverage the knowledge that Aviva Investors has across the broader European market.”

Aviva's real estate lending business, which has a total loan book of about £10 billion ($15.5 billion; €13.7 billion) provided about £800 million in new loans in the first eight months of 2015 compared with £1 billion for 2014.