PropertyEU CEE Logistics Roundtable: pandemic has fast-forwarded positive momentum

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated trends in the logistics market in Central and Eastern Europe, with increased e-commerce and nearshoring driving down yields, experts have suggested.

In a virtual roundtable hosted by PropertyEU, senior representatives from across the sector, all of whom work in Central and Eastern Europe, spoke about the surprising benefits that the pandemic has brought.

Participants included Luke Dawson, managing director and head of capital markets for Central and Eastern Europe at Colliers; Richard Wilkinson, deputy chief executive of CTP; Martin Polak, managing director for Central and Eastern Europe at Garbe Industrial, Agnieszka Stankiewicz, partner for Warsaw real estate at law firm Greenberg Traurig; and Pawel Sapek, regional head for Central Europe at Prologis.

Dawson kicked off the discussion by calling 2020 ‘the official coming out party for industrial logistics’.

‘Over the years prior to 2020 things have been growing, and there has been a lot of interest in industrial logistics. But I think the pandemic accelerated a lot of the trends that we saw heading into Covid-19. We've really taken that next step forward, in terms of the activity, both on the development, on the occupier side, and for investment,’ he said.

‘If you look at 2020, within Central Europe there was €3.27 bn traded over that year, which is a 50% increase from 2019 and amounts to pretty staggering growth in terms of the total volume.’

Wilkinson agreed: ‘There were a lot of very positive things driving the logistics industry pre-Covid, and Covid only makes them better. There was a significant acceleration in the growth of e-commerce and in nearshoring.

‘Central Europe was the part of Europe that grew the fastest pre-Covid, is going to shrink the least during Covid, and is forecast to grow the fastest post-Covid.’

The CEE market has remained strong, even where other markets have struggled, Sapek said. ‘Compared to Prologis’s Western European operations, CEE has been the most resilient from the occupiers’ perspective. Across our entire portfolio of more than 4.5 million m2 and a couple of hundred customers, only one customer defaulted. Whereas in France and in the UK, we had more bankruptcy protections or insolvencies for our customers, especially in retail and the exhibition businesses.’

Stankiewicz said: ‘Sales on standing income [logistics] buildings have become a bit crazy. The yields are now better than on core office assets, and the competition is fierce. We have just come out with one of our clients with quite a big asset on the market, and so far 40 parties have registered their interest.’

Polak explained that Garbe is looking to enter the CEE market as the next stage in its growth. ‘I think these are exciting times for us to come to the market. I think every market [in the region] has some evolution in terms of the people who are coming in or leaving, and the people who have been dominating who perhaps are no longer dominating.’