The FINANCIAL -- Knight Frank, the independent global property consultancy, on August 2 launches the Asia Pacific Capital Markets Report July 2016. With concerns over the state of the global economy, investors are balancing a need for security and liquidity, while searching for the next sources of growth.
Technology as a driver for real estate demand is not restricted to China (namely Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen). Most major regional markets are seeing growth in this sector, with a number of other tech hubs really standing out: Seoul and Bengaluru.
Asia-Pacific also saw a subtle change in direction in the first half of 2016, as Singapore and Hong Kong returned to the forefront of the region, accounting for the three largest investment transactions. Total trading was not restricted to these three deals, which were accompanied by a number of other significant transactions boosting volumes after a quiet 24 months in both markets, according to Knight Frank.
According to Matt Whitby, Head of Research & Consulting, Australia, “Commercial real estate volumes traded in Asia-Pacific were significantly down in the first half of 2016, with Australia and Japan, the two most dominant markets showing a year-on-year decline. With the amount of prime investment grade property for sale in these two markets at a premium, investors are increasingly looking at other markets for opportunities.
Nicholas Holt, Asia Pacific Head of Research, says, “Two markets that have recently seen an uptick in activity are Singapore and Hong Kong, two of the major regional financial hubs. The largest three deals so far of 2016 were transacted in these two cities. In particular, a willingness for previously significant pricing gaps to be bridged in Singapore led to the largest ever single-tower transaction in Asia-Pacific, bringing optimism that more deals could come to market.
“Elsewhere, Tier-1 Chinese cities are seeing their investment markets deepen and mature – and could start to be seen as core markets for regional or global investors. And India, due to its favourable demographics, infrastructure investment, growth in manufacturing and service industries, as well as initiatives such as the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor and Smart Cities, is proving attractive to certain investors with longer-term investment horizons.”
Cross-border activity (excluding land sales) in Asia-Pacific markets totalled US$54.5 billion over the past 18 months since 1 January 2015, accounting for approximately one-third of the total investment volumes.
The US is the most significant cross-border investor in the region, followed closely by Singapore, Canada, Hong Kong and China.
The major targeted markets remain Australia, Japan, China, Singapore and Hong Kong, although transactions in India, Vietnam and Malaysia demonstrate that there are opportunities in emerging Asia for those investors looking up the risk curve.
Looking at institutional investors, Neil Brookes, Asia Pacific Head of Capital Markets, explains, “Post-Brexit, the current market volatility has caused policy makers to renew their efforts in monetary easing, and as a result the ‘lower for longer’ view for property yields is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. The largest buyers of London commercial assets in 2015 – Chinese and Taiwanese investors – are now starting to switch their focus to other developed markets such as Australia, Japan and the US following the Brexit vote.”
According to Matt Whitby, Head of Research & Consulting, Australia, “Looking at diversifying portfolios away from pure Asian exposure, several large Singaporean institutions, such as Ascendas and Mapletree, have made large portfolio acquisitions in Australia. However, we expect volumes to be lower from these buyers as they now seek to grow organically in the Australian market.
“There has also been more activity from institutional buyers, including pension funds and sovereign wealth funds, seeking core returns. Generally, higher returning assets are more difficult to find in the developed markets of Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and Australia, albeit there are pockets of opportunity where yields on secondary properties are at a record high spread to prime yields,” said Mr Whitby.
"I expect Australia will benefit from Brexit and other global uncertainty, with many European (for example, German), North American and of course Asian funds to reallocate additional weighting to Australia over the coming 12 months. With volumes slowing over the past quarter, mainly on the back of limited supply of assets, I expect Brexit will accentuate the capital flows into Australia and volumes will pick up in H2 2016,” said Mr Whitby.
“At present, US opportunistic funds are focusing their interests on Europe and the UK, where currency movements and some anticipated market distress are likely to present more buying opportunities than in Asia Pacific. Conversely, appetite for US real estate has increased markedly from Asian buyers – with Japanese, Korean and Chinese funds now regularly outbidding the US investors for prime assets in the gateway cities,” concluded Mr Brookes.