Real-estate specialist LaSalle Investment Management plans to increase its activities in China and Japan and has hired Asia property veteran Mark Gabbay as Asia-Pacific chief investment officer in Hong Kong.

Gabbay will join on July 1, having spent more than 12 years in Asia, most recently for two years with Nomura International in Hong Kong and before that at Lehman Brothers as Asia-Pacific co-head of real estate in the same city. The Japanese bank acquired the Asian and European parts of the US firm that collapsed in 2008.

"Mark will be focused on investment for LaSalle IM's new acquisitions and work with [former CIO and now fund president] Ian Mackie and myself as our activity level increases in the region," says Jack Chandler, Hong Kong-based Asia chief executive of LaSalle IM.

"We felt with some of the opportunities we're seeing and frankly with a guy of his calibre, this was a chance to really add some skills to our team," he adds, "particularly as he's done a lot in the structured debt world."

One-fifth of LaSalle's $40 billion in assets under management is invested in the Asia-Pacific region, and Chandler expects to see that $8 billion rise to $12 billion in the next two to three years. A little over half of the firm's Asia-Pacific assets are in Japan.

For the coming six to 12 months, Chandler says LaSalle IM will continue to be active in Australia, mainland China and Japan, as well as Hong Kong and Singapore. He sees the biggest opportunities in the next year coming in Japan in the form of recapitalisations and restructurings, but the firm will also be putting capital into new development projects where it sees strong fundamentals.

The logistics sector -- warehouses and supply-chain-related buildings -- continue to be attractive, especially in Japan, he says. That's due to the high demand for modern, functional and efficient warehouses and the fact that real-estate funds and developers have become less active due to financial concerns.

LaSalle continues to pursue new investments in Greater China, but remains cautious as the recent government moves to cool property prices filter through the markets, says Chandler.

He is more bullish on the residential than the commercial sector, however. "Underlying demand for housing is very robust, given the increasing urbanisaton, for groups who can deliver the right product and price point," adds Chandler. "In the mid-term we're very optimistic about the sector, and a price correction and decrease in liquidity is probably a good thing for the markets, longer term."

Yet he is more cautious on the commercial and retail sectors. "There have been an awful lot of projects launched -- some will succeed, some won't," he adds. "There will probably be a shake-out in this asset class in several countries."

LaSalle IM has close to 200 investment staff in the region and plans to add 10-15 people in the next six to 12 months as the firm makes more acquisitions.