Sunday, September 13, 2009

Industrial Property



Industrial Property
Publisher: Emerald Group Publishing | ISBN: 1845441613 | edition 2005 | PDF | 84 pages | 1,07 mb

Historically, industrial property has always been the poor relation in any sectoral assessment of real estate markets. A preference for owner occupation, a high degree of integration between processes and the built fabric and location in often unfashionable places, have always made the sector the preserve of the specialist investor. Over the past 15-20 years, better and more rigorous analysis of performance has raised the profile of the sector in the UK. This, combined with the development of a distinct distribution sub-class has led to more mainstream investment. In particular distribution warehouses and multi-let industrial estates are in demand to the point where yields have been driven down to record lows in many industrial locations. The European Union holds within it the entire spectrum of real estate from sophisticated mature markets like the UK to relatively unsophisticated developing markets such as may be found in the new member states in central Europe. Here industrial remains a country cousin set against the glitzy new office blocks and shopping centres that are fast becoming a feature of the urban landscape. The geography of industrial production is changing to keep up with the major structural changes in processes wrought by the economics of globalization, environmental pressure and technological change. Factories located to serve parochial national and regional markets are bowing to the exigencies of expensive local labour and shortages of skills, while global supply chains are being constructed around increasing levels of customer expectation and expenditure. The growth of China and India as both manufacturers and consumers colours every aspect of production. From the perspective of industrial real estate this manifests itself in changes to almost all the parameters governing location, specification and performance. The urban taxonomy used to describe industrial location has been rendered almost redundant by changes in the flow of goods – proximity to a motorway junction is of far more importance than adjacency to a particular town or market for example. As demand for goods have moved beyond the capacity of local production so the general trend in European logistics has moved from manufacturer-led to retailer-led supply chains and the spotlight has shone brightly on the costs of distribution itself. New technologies, new processes and rigorous and continuous optimisation have become pillars of the logistics process. In some respects the real estate industry has watched this rapid and far-reaching change with bemusement as demand has moved from simple sheds to complex distribution centres. In others it has accepted the change as another variation on a theme, remembering, no doubt, that these reflect the cutting edge of the distribution process and that much of the warehouse stock is just used to keep the rain off things. From an investment standpoint the relatively high returns achieved by industrial property over the past five years have given the sector credibility. Industrial investors are now looking actively for capital growth as well as an income return and are selecting stock accordingly Despite a clear European dimension to industrial real estate, most of the papers presented here are determinedly UK-focused, reflecting no doubt the absence of a decent time-series of market data in most industrial markets across the channel. Inflation is one of those factors placed in the “too difficult” tray by many property professionals. Those brought up in the industrial boom times of the late eighties find it hard to believe that, for much of the decade, real rents had fallen. I remember a very senior Landlord and Tenant partner who listened patiently to my presentation on the subject at the time then gently took me to one side and admonished me for showing that real rents had fallen when he was busy negotiating big rental uplifts on behalf of his landlord clients. Sadly he is no longer with us, but if he were, Jackson and White’s paper might help to explain the relationship between inflation and rents to him. The role of distance in the determination of industrial rental values is a live issue feeding off models that optimize warehouse location in supply chains – Dunse et al. shed some light on the spatial pattern that has emerged. In the forecasting of industrial rents, affordability is an important factor not normally captured by conventional economic data. Tsolacos and McGough evaluate the extent to which additional data can improve forecasts. I confess to a very modest contribution to this paper myself but the analysis remains strong nevertheless. To round off this special issue Roulac, Adair, McGreal, Berry, Brown and Heaney examine the role of corporate real estate decision making by reference to empirical data that compares industrial occupiers with other sectors. These papers, and others like them herald a big change for industrial property – it has become fashionable as a sector and an investment class. This special issue is a timely reminder of the research that underpins its position.

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