2013 was strongest commercial real estate market in Asia Pacific on record

Last year was the strongest year on record for commercial real estate markets in the Asia Pacific region with direct investment reaching US$126.7 billion, according to data just released by Jones Lang LaSalle.

Transaction volumes over the year were up 29% on 2012, surpassing the previous record of US$120.5 billion in 2007, and volumes are expected to continue to grow in 2014.

‘2013 proved to be an outstanding year for Asia Pacific commercial property markets, exceeding our revised expectations of US$ 120 billion,’ said Stuart Crow, head of Asia Pacific capital markets at Jones Lang LaSalle.

‘Unrelenting demand has prevailed in spite of macro concerns around China’s growth outlook, stability in the EU, and the US government’s fiscal strategy. As the market gains further clarity on these issues, we expect a more stable growth outlook which should lead to activity in 2014 surpassing that of 2013,’ he added.

The firm’s report points out that the year’s record breaking growth was driven by the region’s core markets of Japan, China, Australia and Singapore as investor sentiment was lifted by on-going improvements in both debt and equity markets.

Throughout the year, commercial real estate markets experienced increased liquidity coupled with greater allocation from multi asset managers, causing transaction volumes in every quarter to record an improvement on their corresponding period in 2012.
The resurgent Japanese market was a major contributor to the growth in 2013, up 67% year on year, re-establishing it’s position as the third most active market globally after the US and the UK. Record levels of investment were also reached in China, Australia and Singapore, up 66%, 30% and 40% year on year respectively.

‘In 2013, we continued to see a mismatch between supply and demand across a number of markets in the region. As a result, investors moved up the risk curve in search of higher yields and to mitigate against potential pressures from global fiscal policy,’ said Megan Walters, head of Research for Asia Pacific capital markets at Jones Lang LaSalle.

‘While we did experience caution in the markets following the reduction of the US Federal asset purchases, interest rates across the region proved less reactive when compared to the response following the announcement earlier in the year. Given the strength of investor sentiment and on going demand, we expect markets to perform as well, if not better, than 2013 for the remainder of 2014,’ she added.

The report points that Japan continues to create headlines around the region, with transactions volumes reaching US$ 12.2 billion in the fourth quarter of 2013, bringing the full year total to US$ 41.7 billion, up 69% on 2012. In local currency terms, the growth is even more remarkable with yen volumes doubling that of 2012.

It says that portfolio deals accounted for the majority of transactions in the final quarter with retail assets comprising 46% of deals. ‘Despite competition from a liquid domestic market, interest from foreign investors remains high, although foreign group still accounted for more disposals than acquisitions through the year,’ it explains.

‘With the market performing well, renewed confidence and improving liquidity, 2014 could see a number of legacy assets come to the market as landlords take advantage of the improved conditions, it adds.

Increasing demand from both foreign and domestic investors led to strong growth in the Australian market with transaction volumes reaching US$ 6.4 billion in the fourth quarter of 2013, up 62% compared to the same period in 2012 while full year volumes set a new record at US$ 21.9 billion, up 33% on 2012.

‘Development activity and the subsequent fund-through deal flow has been a major contributor to investment volume growth in 2013. Foreign listed REITs have also become more active in the market towards the latter part of the year with a number of deals executed during the final quarter,’ the report says.

Investment activity in China also set new records on both a quarterly and yearly basis with transaction volumes reaching US$ 8.5 billion in the fourth quarter of 2013 and US$ 25.1 billion by the end of the year, up 71% on 2012. With a number of large properties trading in the final quarter, office assets accounted for the majority , 80%, of deal flow. ‘As China’s structural investment growth continues, it confirms its place as the regions second largest market by transaction volumes,’ the report says.

Despite subdued commentary from Singapore over the year, investment activity has lifted, registering US$ 3.3 billion in the final quarter of 2013 and setting another record full year figure of US$ 11.8 billion, up 40% on 2012. Despite this, volumes in the middle and lower segments of the market were suppressed with overall volumes supported by a few very large deals and REIT IPOs.

The report describes Indonesia as a standout performer in 2013, recording the highest rent growth in the region. ‘This has generated significant interest from both domestic and foreign investors, however accessing product remains challenging. Transactions on stabilised assets are rare and investors are looking at development, fund through and joint venture structures in order to gain exposure to the market,’ it adds.

Investment conditions in Hong Kong eased with end of year volumes down 35% on 2012 to US$ 7.3 billion. ‘With much of the institutional activity from Hong Kong groups currently focused on cross border markets, the bulk of domestic activity has come from end-users and local/PRC developers,’ the report points out.