Business Immo: How is the Allianz Real Estate debt platform in Europe structured? Which markets does it operate in?
Roland Fuchs: Set up in 2011, the real turning point for this European debt platform came in 2013/2014, when it became a team capable of delivering large volumes. This team is now split into three: origination Paris, led by Carole Tran Van Lieu; Loan Asset Management for Europe, headed by Julia Marciano and also Paris-based; and origination Munich, under Helmut Mühlhofer. This organisation has been built up in several stages and is, to a large extent, complete. There are a few posts still to fill in 2016 and 2017, particularly in the Loan Asset Management team. But we are now fully operational for tackling the huge challenges of property loans. Although this platform for Europe is relatively recent, debt is not a recent discovery for Allianz, which has been active in the sector for thirty years in the US. What's more, debt – with loans to private individuals – represents Allianz's 3rd-largest area of activity in Germany.
BI: What is your approach to debt in what remains a competitive environment?
RF: Our European platform does not depart from the fundamentals of traditional loan activities: diversifying investment by developing a third area of activity to complement equity and indirect investment. Our profile as an insurer sets the tone for our profile as a lender. We often say that we finance assets that we would have been able to buy – along the lines of core, prime assets for single deals of € 100-250 million – even if we have increased our intervention thresholds we don't rule out more sizeable transactions. Then, what sets us apart is debt maturity: we lend over the long term (between 7 and 20 years) and mainly for fixed rates.
Carole Tran Van Lieu: Our benchmark is always based on OATs (French treasury bond Obligations Assimilables du Trésor) or other government bonds, which remain the most secure index. We respect local loan-to-value regulations (75% for Germany, 65% for France and 60% for Italy). Finally, Allianz must always – it's an absolute requirement – remain one of the leading mortgage lenders. In terms of asset classes, Allianz Real Estate considers office and commercial space core, although we are expanding our horizons into commercial products and do not rule out logistics. What's more, we are heavily invested in multi-family in the United States, which is not the case for Europe.
BI: What is your track record for 2015? And what will your roadmap for 2016 be?
RF: 2015 undoubtedly Allianz Real Estate's weight in finance beefed up significantly. Our watchwords will have been growth and diversification at all levels: in loan volumes and internal sources of financing, but also geographical diversification, with financing commitments in ten European countries, including Austria, Spain, the Netherlands, the UK, Ireland and Belgium. Property finance remains a very competitive sector.
We work with everyone: we've put together bank/insurance company club deals with banks in France, Germany, the Netherlands, etc. As property managers, we have a major advantage: we know this asset class very well. Finally, we should specify that, unlike other lenders, we only work for insurance companies of the Allianz Group. The appetite for property in Europe will still be very strong in 2016. Allianz Real Estate no longer operates exclusively in the German and French markets. So, we're continuing our European diversification and we also hope to better position ourselves on portfolio financing.