27/11/2007 - 22:00

Property focus for Freehills partner

27/11/2007 - 22:00

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Former Perth lawyer Simon Taskunas has become a partner of Freehills in Singapore where he has a property focus.

Property focus for Freehills partner

Former Perth lawyer Simon Taskunas has become a partner of Freehills in Singapore where he has a property focus.

Previously based in Freehills’ Western Australian office, Mr Taskunas was seconded to the Singapore office in July 2006 as part of the firm’s international strategy.

He said he practised mainly in the area of corporate real estate development and investment, including the growing real estate investment trusts – the international equivalent of Australia’s property trust sector.

While Australia has one of the oldest listed property trust sectors, the terminology globally has become dominated by the US name of REIT. Australia is understood to be officially adopting this tag in the near future.

Singapore has sought to stimulate this sector in its own economy by encouraging a REIT market to develop.

“It has been undergoing significant growth in the past couple of years because the government has been marketing a Singaporean listed property exchange,” Mr Taskunas said.

“They want it to be a hub for raising capital.”

He said there had been significant Australian interest in this sector, with both listed and unlisted property trusts looking to establish a presence in the Singaporean market.

“They [Australian trusts] are looking to broaden their investor base and grow their funds.”

Singapore had a more advantageous tax regime and was governed by similar laws to Australia, which positioned it well for funds looking to invest throughout Asia, Mr Taskunas said.

Among the Australian entrants on the Singapore market are the Allco Commercial Real Estate Investment Trust, 50 per cent owner of Perth office tower Central Park, which listed in Singapore last year, and MacarthurCook, which launched MacarthurCook Industrial Real Estate Investment Trust on the Singapore market in April.

In his work in Asia, Mr Taskunas has assisted Lend Lease establish its Asian Retail Investment Fund and advised United Group on projects in the region.

 “We are also seeing a lot of unlisted funds being established through Singapore,” he said.

“Property prices in Australia are at a peak; it is very expensive.”

Mr Taskunas said he’d had some interest from WA investment vehicles but was unwilling to reveal who they might be.

He also works with clients that have cross-border investment projects in other sectors including infrastructure and resources.

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