Franklin Templeton raises $383 mln for Asian property fund

SINGAPORE, March 17 (Reuters) - U.S fund manager Franklin Resources BEN.N said on Tuesday it had raised a $383 million Asian real estate private equity fund to invest in cheap and distressed assets in the region.

The global market turmoil and reduced access to financing have created unique investment opportunities in both the developed and emerging Asian property market, the fund manager, which operates as Franklin Templeton, said in a statement.

Commercial property prices in financial centres Singapore and Hong Kong are tipped to fall 50-60 percent over the next couple of years as banks and fund management firms slash jobs and rent less space, analyst say.

As banks cut their exposure to property, landlords in Japan, China, India, Australia and other countries could be forced into firesales if they fail to refinance loans, putting more properties on the market and driving values down further.

“We believe that 2009 and 2010 should provide excellent opportunities for real estate investing in Asia,” Glenn Uren, the fund’s portfolio manager said. “Savvy investors are cautiously exploring the region looking for undervalued and distressed assets.”

Franklin Templeton, which has been investing in Asian real estate for the past 12 years, also transferred two senior staff members to Singapore and Hong Kong to focus on real estate.

Wenning Jung, vice president, relocated to Singapore office from California and Donna Ming-Yuan Lee, research analyst relocated to the Hong Kong office from New York, the statement said. (Reporting by Saeed Azhar; Editing by Lincoln Feast)