Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. has formed a joint venture partnership with Colonial First State Property Management, Australia's largest full-service retail real estate firm, to capitalize on tremendous retail growth opportunities in emerging Asian markets.

Stewart Hutcheon, formerly deputy managing director of Leasing for AMP Capital Shopping Centres, a division of Australia's AMP Capital Investors, has been named CEO of the venture, which will be called Sandalwood. The Singapore-based firm will offer a full range of real estate services across Asia, including consultancy, leasing, development and management.

The new company already has contracts for 46 projects throughout Asia, according to Peter Barge, CEO for JLL Asia Pacific, most of which are ground up projects.

“This is a new industry in Asia, and there's enormous opportunity over the next 18 months,” he says. “Owners are putting centers in second tier cities in India and China, so every few weeks we'll kick off a few.” He expects to add another 15 to 20 projects by the end of this year.

Asian countries are among the fastest growing economies in the world with overall real GDP average growth of 9 percent annually over the past five years, and 20 percent growth in retail real estate during the same period, notes Darren Steinberg, CFSPM head of Listed Property Funds.

Sandalwood is also pursuing property management contracts. Asian owners think they can manage assets themselves, explains Barge. All too often a property ends up looking 20 years old within two to three years because the owner does not put enough effort into maintenance or sells off individual stores, leaving maintenance up to various new owners.