UK - Morley Fund Management is to start an indirect property investment unit in continental Europe to “roll out” its UK property fund management business.

Morley has appointed fund manager Ben Stirling of the external funds team at the property department, to head up the move.

Stirling, who has joined the company at the end of 2003, also manages one of the four indirect investment vehicles within the external funds team.

“In his new role, Ben will be seeking to identify suitable partners across continental Europe in order to replicate the successful model that has been established in the UK” Morley said in a statement.

Sister company Norwich Union has committed up to one billion pounds to European property, Morley also said. The decision to move to the continental market has been ‘underpinned’ by the investment a spokeswoman told IPE.

“For asset allocation decisions, continental European property will be treated as a distinct asset class from UK property” Morley added.

Stirling said: “ We will be principally partner-led, however we are prioritising what we consider to be the more attractive property markets in the region.”

France would be “a key focus” for its size and liquidity but opportunities in Southern and Central Europe, where returns are “relatively attractive”, were also being sought.

Morley has also appointed Simon Clements to the newly created position of portfolio constructor in its global equities team to ensure the ‘smooth running” of an internal one billion pounds mandate from Aviva the second half of 2004.

Clements is moving from Morley’s risk management team, where he has worked for eight years.

Parent company Aviva said its total worldwide assets under management at its asset management arm have risen to 242 billion pounds at the end of June from 240 billion pounds at year-end.

Morley’s operating result rose to 17 million pounds from 10 million pounds before.