2020 was definitely not an easy year for business but you’ve managed to close successful acquisitions for the Prvý realitný fond. How has COVID-19 impacted the execution of your investment strategy?
The interesting thing about the whole COVID-19 situation’s impact is that, according to our experience, it brings more transparency into the transaction process. Basically, the execution of the transaction process has become more swift and outsourced to local lawyer companies and other services providers.
The next big change in daily operations affected asset management. Finally, there is a really strong and intensive online communication line with all service providers. Sometimes this makes the process more time-consuming, but this is the only way to successfully manage the whole asset management process.
Regarding the execution of our investment strategy, finding and concluding the right investment was more exhausting, especially to prepare analyses reflecting the current situation and to prepare scenarios with different outputs, but we were happy to increase our exposure to logistics.
How has your portfolio performed over the last 12 months in terms of occupancy?
Fortunately, we were able to keep the occupancy at a healthy level and there weren´t significant negative impacts. However, it required deep discussions with tenants about basic conditions in the lease contract to keep that level of occupancy. We have chosen a flexible approach and, in the end, our tenants have become more like partners rather than clients.
Was it more difficult to secure financing in 2020 than it was in the previous year? How do you expect financing conditions to change over the next 12 months?
This wasn´t an issue for us because we didn´t refinance any assets, but I definitely expect that banks are going to be more selective in what they decide to finance. I'm sure that banks will put some risk parameters into their evaluation model reflecting the “health and safety measurements” in buildings and focus more on the ESG criteria. Also, they are going to be more cautious towards retail properties until the situation will become clearer and reflect the market changes especially taking into account consumer behaviour changes.
Has the pandemic made you rethink how the fund’s investment portfolio should be allocated between asset classes?
Sure, as managers of open-end funds, we always have to be cautious towards the liquidity ratio in the fund and the liquidity premium in investment. The COVID-19 situation has further justified this thinking and our approach which means that we have to find a “new” balance level in portfolio management.
What kind of investment opportunities are you looking for this year? What are your expectations for 2021 on the CEE investment market in general?
The “wall of capital” is still looking and waiting for the right investment opportunity. We expect that transaction activity will return to the whole CEE, hopefully in the second half of 2021. In general, I expect some yield shift in retail and a stable level of yields in office investments, especially in prime locations. However, the situation could change in a negative direction if the pandemic situation will last longer than the market expects.
As a pandemic impact, we want to bring more diversity into our asset allocation, invest in some alternatives such as data centers, and increase our logistic portfolio by investing in last-mile assets. However, it will be challenging to find the right product with reasonable pricing.
Source:// Property Forum