DIFA Deutsche Immobilien Fonds AG expands Paris portfolio

Hamburg-based DIFA Deutsche Immobilien Fonds AG is on course for further international growth. In the fourth quarter of last year, the specialist investment institution for open-ended real estate funds within the FinanzVerbund der Volksbanken Raiffeisenbanken group invested some 310 million euros in attractive commercial property in London, Madrid, Marseilles and Paris, boosting its portfolio outside Germany from 21 to 31 properties in the course of the year.

DIFA’s expansion policy has a special focus on up-and-coming Parisian office locations: DIFA-Fonds No. 1 â€" which began investing in Paris in 1999 â€" is committing funds to the Equinox office complex in the suburb of Clichy, while DIFA-GRUND is taking a stake in the France Avenue development in the 13th Arrondissement. After the Axialys and eurostade projects, these make the third and fourth development projects in the French capital for DIFA, part of the Union Investment Group. The total investment volume of the company’s most recent projects amounts to some 234 million euros.

The Equinox office complex comprises three separate units and is due for completion in March 2003. It is already fully let on a nine-year lease to MMA Mutuelles du Mans Assurances, a major mutual insurance group which plans to establish its biggest French office in the attractive Seine-side location. “Besides the long-term tenancy taken out by MMA, the crucial factor behind the acquisition of Equinox was the property’s highly flexible structure combined with good transport links in one of France’s most promising office markets,” says Dr. Reinhard Kutscher, DIFA board member in charge of investment outside Germany. “With Equinox and France Avenue we are adding future-proof addresses to our Paris portfolio which offer excellent quality and the prospect of outstanding returns for investors.” DIFA is involved in eight properties and projects in Paris, making the French capital a key foreign investment location for the company alongside London.

Rents rise at Berges de Seine ZAC office location
The Equinox office complex is situated in the Berges de Seine ZAC development area southeast of the Clichy district, which borders the 17th Arrondissement and forms the centre of the axis linking La Défense, Saint Denis and Charles de Gaulle airport. Over the past few years a high-calibre, modern office location has emerged along the western curve of the Seine, and one which ranks among the clear winners over the most recent market cycle. This area saw the highest increases in rents and property values, along with Croissant d’Or, the adjoining area to the south. “The entire area benefits from its close proximity to the city, from the good infrastructure provided by the independent local authorities in the environs of Paris and â€" last but not least â€" from its attractive location on the banks of the Seine,” says Dr. Reinhard Kutscher.

After completion, the seven-storey Equinox development will offer some 16,000 square metres of office space and a canteen measuring just under 1,200 square metres beneath an elegant aluminium and glass roof. A further 5,000 square metres on the first and ground floors are set aside for service and activity provision, which is expected to include a club restaurant for MMA employees, and conference and meeting rooms.

Design and engineering courtesy of Norman Foster
Through its most recent development project, France Avenue, DIFA enables its investors to own a share in another spectacular property designed by British architect Sir Norman Foster. As impressive, architecturally-speaking, as Foster’s corporate headquarters for Sainsbury’s at 33 Holborn in London, which was also acquired by DIFA-GRUND, this DIFA project (due for completion at the end of 2004) covers an entire block and benefits from a prominent corner location right above the busy Bibliothèque François Mitterand métro station. Besides the imposing glass façade and energy-saving construction, the main features of France Avenue will be the numerous gardens a

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