(Repeats Wednesday’s story with no adjustments to the text)

By Tom Arnold and Saikat Chatterjee

LONDON, March 10 (Reuters) – With its putting facade, Palazzo delle Poste in the coronary heart of Milan is a person of the a lot more sophisticated office environment areas in Europe, internet hosting the likes of JPMorgan and Italy’s to start with ever Starbucks outlet.

Having lain empty for element of 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic despatched office workers dwelling, the early 20th-century creating was sold this month to a team of personal investors coordinated by Italy’s Mediobanca for 246.7 million euros ($293.3 million), 27 million euros earlier mentioned the unique inquiring price.

The 2.8% capitalisation rate – the return the house is anticipated to create – was a document for workplace real estate in Milan.

Next a calendar year in which remote performing and social distancing have turn into perfectly entrenched, leaving town-centre offices, retail and hospitality venues deserted, the richness of the deal may perhaps appear to be counterintuitive.

But market place contributors say it illustrates a self confidence between traders that the best close of office genuine estate will face up to the coronavirus shock – even as thoughts cling above the viability of shabbier and a lot less nicely-situated spaces.

“Immediate investments in prestigious earnings homes symbolize an opportunity in conditions of diversification and return, as demonstrated by the expanding interest of our ultra-substantial-web-value clientele,” said Angelo Vigano, head of Mediobanca Personal Banking.

A lot of traders are betting true estate returns will outstrip equities and bonds as the environment emerges from its pandemic funk.

At a time when nearly $14 trillion of worldwide bonds spend sub-zero yields, global authentic estate presents once-a-year yields centered on latest price ranges of 3-4%, in accordance to JPMorgan and Refinitiv facts.

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

Assets is also viewed as a very good hedge towards inflation, which is envisioned to increase in the coming yrs thanks to two-pronged stimulus strategies by governments and central banks.

Inflation is “a slow-burning hearth hanging more than fiscal assets, but it really is a tailwind for serious property this kind of as real estate”, mentioned Mike Kelly, head of multi-asset at PineBridge Investments, which bought Britain-based mostly true estate fund supervisor Benson Elliott previous Oct.

“At the instant, these are quite disrupted marketplaces – which presents you a superior entry location,” he added.

Right after a rough start out to 2020, world authentic estate investments in the Oct to December interval rose 65% from the past quarter to $267 billion, cushioning the year’s over-all 28% drop, Jones Lang LaSalle claimed.

Information from marketplace professional Worldwide SWF exhibits general public pension funds’ house investments hit a 2-1/2 year large in December.

The disruption connected to the pandemic means possibilities in ageing offices that can be spruced up, defeat-up retail parks that can be redeveloped, and warehouses springing up to cater to the e-commerce explosion.

Blackstone, the seller of Palazzo delle Poste and proprietor of $368 billion in residence assets globally, recognises that post-pandemic functioning and buying could be radically unique.

“Our aim is on building the highest high-quality belongings, centered on what tenants will want tomorrow,” stated James Seppala, Blackstone’s head of European serious estate.

“Specifically in response to the pandemic, employee safety and wellbeing is at the forefront of tenants’ minds.”

Lesser FOOTPRINTS

The challenge of finding the appropriate investment decision is substantial. Numerous major town-centre companies these as HSBC and Regular Chartered system to lower their office footprint by up to 40%.

Citi analysts predict the benefit of workplace attributes across Europe could plunge by 25%-40% more than three a long time, and advises consumers to ditch shares in firms supplying office place.

South Africa’s Nedgroup Investments has previously drop mentioned publicity to offices in Paris, Sydney and particularly New York.

But many buyers interviewed by Reuters proceed to home in on prime workplaces. Tenants will most likely acquire a “hybrid solution”, with dwelling-operating and places of work complementing every single other, explained Paul Kennedy, JPMorgan Asset Management’s head of system and portfolio manager for actual estate in Europe.

“These tendencies ought to protect ‘core’ structures at the price of far more marginal belongings,” Kennedy additional.

In spite of Brexit, central London place of work earnings beats most European towns at 4%, it is properly earlier mentioned Frankfurt’s 2.8%, states M&G Authentic Estate’s head of tactic Jose Pellicer.

Consultants Knight Frank forecast London workplaces need to attract financial commitment of around 10 billion lbs . this 12 months, compared to 7.8 billion in 2020.

FROM Crisis TO Prospect

Even far more alter is afoot outside the business office sector, with some buildings staying repurposed away from having difficulties industries these types of as retail and into more buoyant locations such as logistics and residential.

Imaginative repurposing has morphed extra than 200 U.S. procuring malls into warehouses, hospitals and even schools.

In Europe, e-commerce giant Amazon last year acquired a retail park and a Toys R Us outlet in London to convert them into logistics and distribution centres.

Retailer Marks & Spencer is proposing a opportunity redevelopment of a person of its most significant suppliers in London, a strategy that may perhaps encompass new workplace room.

No matter whether repurposed or custom-crafted, warehouses and apartments – “beds and sheds” in industry jargon – are clear pandemic winners. A record 39 billion euros flowed into European logistics last calendar year, up 5% on 2019, Savills facts reveals.

Logistics huge Panattoni says it is inundated by calls from investors formerly focused on offices but now lured by the prospect of long-expression leases and yields of up to 5%.

“Quite a few buyers came to the summary that the traditional 15% allocation to logistics can’t continue” when thoughts hung above the long term of business office, retail and hospitality, explained Panattoni’s European head of cash markets Artur Mokrzycki.

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

West Orchards, a shopping mall in the British metropolis of Coventry, exemplifies the distress. Its leasehold, valued at $339.6 million in 2007, according to PitchBook knowledge, was sold by auction past month for 4.9 million kilos ($6.8 million).

The seller, RDI REIT, programs to drop retail qualities to concentration on the industrial and places of work segments. ($1 = .8412 euros) ($1 = .7215 lbs .)

(Editing by Sujata Rao and Jan Harvey)