GE Real Estate, one of the more prominent American players in the European real estate market, has expanded its retail holdings in Germany. In late March, the firm bought 15 retail centers there for approximately $40 million.

Located in the suburbs of major West German cities, including Hamburg, Stuttgart and Cologne, the properties include a total of 366,000 square feet and are currently leased to Domicil Mobel GmbH, a German subsidiary of Singapore-based furniture retailer HTL International.

The move is part of GE's expansion plan for Germany, according to Rainer Thaler, a locally based managing director with the company. “We continue to look for investments in all sectors across Germany that offer opportunities for strong long-term returns,” he said in a statement.

In 2006, Europe became the world's most active real estate investment market, with $305 in transactions, according to research from Jones Lang LaSalle. Germany, which accounted for 20 percent of that deal volume, with $62 billion, was among the countries most favored by investors.

It ranked second behind the United Kingdom, which saw $101 billion of real estate activity, and ahead of France, which posted $30 billion in deals.