NORWAY - Paul Golding is joining Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM) to prepare what appears to be the bank's first foray into international real estate to invest assets of the NOK1.88trn (€230bn) Norwegian Government Pension Fund - Global.

Golding is the former head of Merrill Lunch's real estate investment banking business in Europe and the Middle East.

Norges Bank also announced it will be looking for a new head of corporate governance as Henrik Syse will return to his work at the International Peace Research Institute within the next six months, having joined the NBIM in 2005 to build up a corporate governance department.

Trond Grande has also joined the bank as chief risk officer from Storebrand Livsforsikring where he had a similar role.

No final decision has been made yet on whether the largest European pension fund is going to diversify into alternative asset classes such as real estate. The finance ministry "will take a decision on investment in real estate at a later date," said NBIM which is managing the fund's assets.

The bank is currently waiting for a study to be finished in mid-June on tax issues relating to investments in real estate and infrastructure in 32 markets outside Norway.

The Norwegian Government Pension Fund returned 1.5% for the first quarter beating the benchmark set by the finance ministry by 0.09 percentage points.

NBIM said the return was boosted by the advance of international equity markets and in particular Europe, the US and emerging market.

This quarter, the finance ministry transferred the record sum of NOK93.4bn into the fund, the highest quarterly inflow in the fund's history. This money came from revenue the government earned selling oil.

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