Logistics no longer immune to crisis, says Clarion Partners

Rory Buck, head of investments at Clarion Partners Europe, has a hunch that the logistics market has reached its peak.

Possible future scenarios range from the sluggish to the downright alarming, Buck said at Expo, while reaffirming his faith in the sheds business.

‘Earlier in the year, the word was that the logistics market was immune,’ he said. ‘Now, everyone agrees that prices are moving. In my opinion, there’s a lot more to come.’

He added: ‘There’s an emotional component to real estate and accepting lower prices is an emotional decision. It’s also true that there’s not a lot of motivation to sell. Most people are very well capitalised, they have lots of cash on their balance sheets.

‘What I’m interested in is finding out what will motivate people to sell. We are now seeing more sale-and-leasebacks, particularly from those that don’t have real estate as a core competence. I think a big push will also come in H1 of next year. Valuations are likely to really start reflecting what is happening by then. In June, if you looked at some of the listed players, their valuations hadn’t shifted at all, but that can’t last.’

Looking at the positives, he added: ‘Logistics is very well placed on the inflation side as leases are index-linked. US investors love that and are keen to get a piece of the action. But I think that steep interest rates are likely to become the main driver behind disposals.

‘Distress will happen,’ he added. ‘I anticipate values falling by as much as 30% in the sector, which means some players will default.’

However, several aspects of the market still look rewarding for long-term owners.

‘Tenants are coming to us to ask for help in improving the energy profile of the assets they occupy, and ESG trends are still strong. I think we are starting to see evidence of a brown discount and we are still motivated to buy standing stock and transform it into something more efficient, while the other part of our strategy is working with developers on a build to core basis.’

However, Buck said that there was a real risk of a softening in the occupier market. ‘We had three great years of take-up and occupier demand. You would have to be pretty optimistic to think that could continue unabated. There’s still demand for onshoring and nearshoring strategies, just in case and just in time needs. A big part of the demand has been related to consumer discretionary spending however, and that is now under pressure. We are seeing developers come to us with land prices that don’t make sense anymore.’

He concluded: ‘Development has its own challenges – with energy costs affecting the production of concrete for example, although many constructors have been hedging against such factors. Construction firms may have to accept lower profits to keep the market going.’


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