US-based property investment firm Heitman has hired Catriona Forrester as an assistant portfolio manager in its Asia-Pacific public real estate securities group.

Based in Melbourne, she reports to John White, managing director and lead portfolio manager for the Asia-Pacific team.

White himself joined the firm this June to round out the $22 billion manager’s plans to establish a comprehensive global business. The bulk of these assets are in North America.

AsianInvestor understands that Heitman is poised to add a senior analyst on its Melbourne team, while discussions are also underway about establishing a regional marketing team. At present, Heitman’s sales force is based out of Chicago.

The company is also awaiting a licence from the Australian Securities & Investments Commission, which it is anticipating before the end of this year.

Heitman’s assets are largely in institutional accounts with the bulk of its Asian assets sourced from Japan. The group is seeking to expand its assets under management across Asia throughout both the private equity and public real estate securities divisions.

In discussing Asia’s real estate markets, Forrester notes increased activity from South Korean pension funds seeking to diversify into overseas real estate assets. She also sees plenty of well-priced opportunities for direct investment into Asian real estate, partly driven by the low-interest-rate environment.

“Hong Kong is an interesting market, with significant growth in residential prices and strong momentum in the office sector,” she says.

Further, she highlights a rebound in sentiment for Singapore’s office segment, as well as an appetite for quality real estate offerings in the Singaporean market. “In the past month Singapore’s market has displayed a strength that I think has surprised some investors," she says.

“Two recent IPOs were heavily oversubscribed [Global Logistic Properties and Mapletree Industrial]. These were both quality offerings priced at attractive levels, and it just shows the high level of demand in the sector for the right names.”

Forrester also describes the IPO pipeline in Asia as significant. “You can expect some more [IPOs] out of Singapore and Hong Kong in the near future,” she adds.

Forrester has over seven years of experience in Asia-Pacific’s direct and indirect real estate markets. Before joining Heitman she served as a portfolio manager in the real estate securities division of ING Investment Management. From 2004, she was a fund analyst for ING Real Estate Investment Management Australia.

The majority ($16.6 billion) of Heitman’s assets are in private real-estate equity, $3 billion in public securities, and $1.5 billion is in real-estate debt.