By Tom Arnold and Saikat Chatterjee

LONDON, March 10 (Reuters) – With its putting facade, Palazzo delle Poste in the heart of Milan is a person of the extra exquisite workplace spaces in Europe, web hosting the likes of JPMorgan and Italy’s very first ever Starbucks outlet.

Having lain vacant for section of 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic sent business office employees property, the early 20th-century setting up was marketed this thirty day period to a team of personal buyers coordinated by Italy’s Mediobanca for 246.7 million euros ($293.3 million), 27 million euros earlier mentioned the unique inquiring selling price.

The 2.8% capitalisation charge – the return the home is expected to produce – was a history for office environment authentic estate in Milan.

Pursuing a year in which remote working and social distancing have develop into very well entrenched, leaving metropolis-centre workplaces, retail and hospitality venues deserted, the richness of the offer may possibly look counterintuitive.

But market individuals say it illustrates a self confidence between traders that the prime finish of office environment true estate will stand up to the coronavirus shock – even as questions dangle about the viability of shabbier and a lot less well-found areas.

“Immediate investments in prestigious profits qualities stand for an possibility in phrases of diversification and return, as shown by the escalating curiosity of our extremely-superior-web-worth purchasers,” mentioned Angelo Vigano, head of Mediobanca Personal Banking.

Numerous investors are betting real estate returns will outstrip equities and bonds as the globe emerges from its pandemic funk.

At a time when just about $14 trillion of worldwide bonds pay back sub-zero yields, world wide genuine estate presents annual yields based on present-day selling prices of 3-4%, in accordance to JPMorgan and Refinitiv info.

That compares to 1.6% on U.S. govt bonds and minus .3% on German financial debt, or dividend yields of about 1.6% on U.S. equities.

Home is also viewed as a excellent hedge versus inflation, which is envisioned to rise in the coming decades many thanks to two-pronged stimulus campaigns by governments and central banking companies.

Inflation is “a gradual-burning fireplace hanging more than economical assets, but it is a tailwind for actual belongings such as serious estate”, mentioned Mike Kelly, head of multi-asset at PineBridge Investments, which purchased Britain-based mostly true estate fund supervisor Benson Elliott final October.

“At the second, these are extremely disrupted markets – which gives you a great entry location,” he included.

After a difficult start out to 2020, global authentic estate investments in the Oct to December period of time rose 65% from the earlier quarter to $267 billion, cushioning the year’s all round 28% decrease, Jones Lang LaSalle stated.

Knowledge from industry professional Worldwide SWF reveals public pension funds’ property investments hit a 2-1/2 yr large in December.

The disruption connected to the pandemic implies prospects in ageing workplaces that can be spruced up, beat-up retail parks that can be redeveloped, and warehouses springing up to cater to the e-commerce explosion.

Blackstone, the vendor of Palazzo delle Poste and proprietor of $368 billion in house assets throughout the world, recognises that article-pandemic working and buying could be radically distinctive.

“Our concentration is on developing the optimum top quality belongings, based mostly on what tenants will want tomorrow,” explained James Seppala, Blackstone’s head of European genuine estate.

“Especially in reaction to the pandemic, personnel basic safety and wellbeing is at the forefront of tenants’ minds.”

Smaller FOOTPRINTS

The problem of discovering the proper expenditure is appreciable. Numerous large town-centre companies these types of as HSBC and Conventional Chartered program to cut their place of work footprint by up to 40%.

Citi analysts predict the worth of office environment qualities throughout Europe could plunge by 25%-40% in excess of three many years, and advises purchasers to ditch shares in organizations providing business place.

South Africa’s Nedgroup Investments has by now drop detailed publicity to places of work in Paris, Sydney and specially New York.

But quite a few investors interviewed by Reuters keep on to home in on primary places of work. Tenants will possible consider a “hybrid solution”, with dwelling-doing work and offices complementing every single other, said Paul Kennedy, JPMorgan Asset Management’s head of method and portfolio supervisor for actual estate in Europe.

“These developments should really guard ‘core’ structures at the expenditure of extra marginal assets,” Kennedy additional.

Inspite of Brexit, central London business office revenue beats most European metropolitan areas at 4%, it is nicely earlier mentioned Frankfurt’s 2.8%, claims M&G True Estate’s head of strategy Jose Pellicer.

Consultants Knight Frank forecast London places of work should attract expenditure of above 10 billion pounds this yr, as opposed to 7.8 billion in 2020.

FROM Crisis TO Opportunity

Even a lot more alter is afoot exterior the business sector, with some buildings being repurposed absent from battling industries this kind of as retail and into extra buoyant parts this sort of as logistics and household.

Imaginative repurposing has morphed far more than 200 U.S. buying malls into warehouses, hospitals and even colleges.

In Europe, e-commerce huge Amazon past 12 months obtained a retail park and a Toys R Us outlet in London to turn them into logistics and distribution centres.

Retailer Marks & Spencer is proposing a potential redevelopment of one of its largest suppliers in London, a program that may perhaps encompass new workplace room.

Whether repurposed or custom made-built, warehouses and flats – “beds and sheds” in field jargon – are obvious pandemic winners. A record 39 billion euros flowed into European logistics final year, up 5% on 2019, Savills facts exhibits.

Logistics big Panattoni claims it is inundated by calls from traders previously focused on places of work but now lured by the prospect of lengthy-expression leases and yields of up to 5%.

“Numerous buyers came to the summary that the classic 15% allocation to logistics simply cannot continue” when thoughts hung around the foreseeable future of workplace, retail and hospitality, stated Panattoni’s European head of cash markets Artur Mokrzycki.

A quarter of British retail space, hollowed out by e-browsing, could be vacant by the finish of this ten years, actual estate agent Savills estimates, up from 12.6% now.

West Orchards, a mall in the British metropolis of Coventry, exemplifies the distress. Its leasehold, valued at $339.6 million in 2007, in accordance to PitchBook information, was marketed by auction past thirty day period for 4.9 million lbs ($6.8 million).

The vendor, RDI REIT, strategies to get rid of retail attributes to concentrate on the industrial and workplaces segments. ($1 = .8412 euros) ($1 = .7215 kilos)

(Enhancing by Sujata Rao and Jan Harvey)