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INTERVIEW-LaSalle to invest up to $1.8 bln in Japan this yr

Financial NewsFeb 17, 2011 05:00AM ET
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* LaSalle Japan head says residential market unattractive now

* Eyes buying or developing shopping malls, hotels, ofc bldgs

* Need to find good investment themes for Japan (Adds details, quotes)

By Mariko Katsumura and Michiko Iwasaki

TOKYO, Feb 17 (Reuters) - U.S. real estate investor LaSalle Investment Management is prepared to spend as much as 100 billion to 150 billion yen ($1.2-1.8 billion) in Japan's property market this year, where it plans to buy or develop shopping malls, hotels and office buildings, the head of its Japan arm said.

LaSalle Investment Management, a unit of property services firm Jones Lang LaSalle, last year spent 140 billion to 150 billion yen in Asian property markets, mostly in Japan and Australia, which were seen as market laggards.

In Japan last year, LaSalle bought a dozen properties including apartments, office buildings and logistics centres as well as an outlet shopping mall.

"We want to invest (this year) about the same or more as what we spent last year," Yasuo Nakashima, chief executive officer of LaSalle's Japan arm, told Reuters in an interview. "Luckily, our war chest is big enough."

Nakashima, who studied architecture and real estate development at Columbia University's graduate school, said the U.S. investor was keen to pour its resources into basic real estate investments requiring operational knowhow, such as development and leasing of hotels, shopping malls and office buildings in selected areas.

LaSalle does not see Japan's residential property market as an attractive area for investment at this moment, however, as most deals are too small, Nakashima said.

"We almost always have concerns about Japan's macroeconomic outlook, but Japan still is an attractive market for long-term investment given low borrowing costs, if you have good investment themes," he said.

LaSalle Investment Management, ranked No.17 in the global list of active property buyers in the past 12 months, has $45 billion in assets under management globally. In Asia, LaSalle manages about $8 billion, of which Japan accounts for about 60 percent. ($1=83.58 Yen) (Reporting by Mariko Katsumura; Editing by Edmund Klamann)

INTERVIEW-LaSalle to invest up to $1.8 bln in Japan this yr

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