ZBI as a centre of expertise for residential real estate
In September 2020, Union Investment increased its share in the ZBI Group from 49.9 percent to 94.9 percent. Dr Daniel Günnewig from Union Investment and Jörg Kotzenbauer from ZBI report on the strategic decision leading up to the integration.
Mr Kotzenbauer, what led to the partnership between Union Investment and ZBI four years ago?
Jörg Kotzenbauer: Real estate property is and will continue to be a highly sought-after asset class. Residential real estate in particular has a high risk-return profile with low volatility. The ZBI Group is one of the leading specialists for residential real estate in Germany and has been setting up residential real estate funds for private and institutional investors since 2002. When Union Investment received the proposal to invest in ZBI, it marked an important step for the company on its path toward real estate asset management.
The partnership with Union Investment is crucial for ZBI’s future security. As the previous founder of the ZBI Group, Peter Groner, began to age, a plan of succession had to be established.
“When Union Investment received the proposal to invest in ZBI, it marked an important step for the company on its path toward real estate asset management. The partnership with Union Investment is crucial for ZBI’s future security. “
CEO of the ZBI Group
Dr Günnewig, what is the strategic significance of Union Investment’s start in the residential sector?
Günnewig: Our task is to develop asset management within the Genossenschaftliche FinanzGruppe cooperative network on an ongoing basis. ZBI is our centre of expertise for residential real estate. The collaboration has been highly successful right from the start. Union Investment was able to offer its first open-ended residential real estate fund, UniImmo: Wohnen ZBI, marking its successful start in the cooperative sale of open-ended retail funds very quickly and with extremely impressive results. Together with its proposal for special residential real estate funds for institutional investors, the ZBI Group had AUM amounting to the impressive sum of around 6.5 euros as of 31 December 2020. Our partnership with ZBI therefore offers us excellent growth potential.
The acquisition of the additional 45 percent last September came more quickly than planned. How did it come about?
Kotzenbauer: Firm plans for a majority takeover had already been made right at the start of the collaboration between ZBI and Union Investment in 2017. The takeover was brought forward because ZBI had outgrown its existing structures and future decisions on necessary investments were pending. It was only sensible that these decisions be made by the future owner.
Günnewig: The premature acquisition of shares has strengthened the collaboration between ZBI and Union Investment. Acting together, we can now consolidate and further expand our strong position in the German residential real estate sector more quickly.
“The premature acquisition of shares has strengthened the collaboration between ZBI and Union Investment. Acting together, we can now consolidate and further expand our strong position in the German residential real estate sector more quickly.“
Dr. Daniel Günnewig
Head of Group Strategy, Management and Sustainability at Union Investment
How is the integration of ZBI progressing?
Günnewig: Work began on drawing up and implementing the minimum supply capability immediately after the contracts had been signed. As part of the DZ Bank Group, ZBI must also comply with the necessary regulatory and accounting requirements of a systemically important bank. We managed to do this on time thanks to pragmatic approaches.
What goals do you both have for ZBI and how would you like to achieve them?
Kotzenbauer: We are working on the further development of ZBI. The first step is to take stock of the situation, identify and address current pressure points, and get a clear picture of the initial situation of a total of 40 work packages. It is on this basis that we are creating our vision of tomorrow’s ZBI.
Günnewig: “Together, we intend to continue our success story and develop the ZBI Group into a leading portfolio holder and a high-performing residential real estate investment company which offers promising products for private and institutional investors. We also want to inspire and win over ZBI’s more than 800 employees at its 36 locations for the “new” world as part of the Union Investment family.
Thank you very much for the interview.
Timeline of the partnership between Union Investment and ZBI
With 24 years of experience on the residential real estate market, the ZBI Group is considered one of the leading specialists for residential real estate in Germany. The Erlangen-based issuing house has been successfully setting up residential real estate funds for private and institutional investors since 2002 and has a sustained excellent track record with19 funds launched to date. Today, the ZBI Group employs around 750 people at 36 locations in Germany, Luxembourg and Austria. Currently, the ZBI Group manages around 62,000 residential and commercial units and the volume of transactions carried out to date amounts to around 10.7 billion euros.
Dr Daniel Günnewig is Head of Group Strategy, Management and Sustainability at Union Investment.
Jörg Kotzenbauer is CEO of the ZBI Group. Before 2019, he was Head of Group Development in the Group Strategy and Steering division at Union Investment.