Chilton REIT Team
All Properties are Not Created Equal: Industrial
It's a close race between the industrial and self storage
property types for the least aesthetically pleasing award. As such,
many casual observers could assume that all industrial warehouses
are pretty much the same, with the only differences being size and
location. Though size and location are still a big part of the
tenant's decision, there are other factors that they consider as
well. Much like the tendency for tech tenants to favor open areas
on large floor plates for their offices, there are certain
industrial buildings that will attract a certain type of
Accessibility for 18-wheeler trucks, ceiling (clear) heights,
ability to unload and load product, and how much office space vs.
warehouse space are just a few of the important aspects that
prospective tenants consider. Figure 1 gives an overview of the
different types of industrial buildings from the NAIOP, the
Commercial Real Estate Development Association.
Prospective industrial tenants tend to be shy about agreeing to
a lease until they can see and touch the building. Contracting with
a developer for a "build to suit" can be complicated and requires a
long lead time. As such, most industrial development is
speculative, implying higher risk.
New Supply Increasing, but from a Low Base
The industrial sector's close ties to the economy created a 500
bp increase in industrial REIT vacancy during the recession. As a
result, the need for new industrial buildings was close to zero for
several years as the vacant space was re-leased. As the economy
rebounded, demand slowly returned, and so has development. Due to
the relatively quick construction time for warehouses (6-9 months),
developers have the ability to capitalize on improving markets
assuming they can assemble the financing and find attractive
locations. In 2013, REIS, a commercial real estate research firm,
estimates that the total square footage of industrial space
increased by only 0.6%. Though this is up significantly from 2010
and 2011, it is still well under the 0.8% average since 1999. REIS
expects annual new supply to revert to the mean over the next 4
years, which should hopefully be close to the increase in
Capital has not been deaf to the lack of supply in the sector.
With some high quality industrial parks selling for cap rates in
the low 5%s recently, developing a park to a 7-9% yield can be
extremely profitable. Industrial REITs have been on the forefront
of development. On their 4Q 2013 earnings call from January 30,
Prologis (NYSE: [[PLD]]) CEO Hamid Moghadam was overwhelmingly
excited about the industrial business. In his opening statements,
We are seeing strong improving market conditions pretty much
around the world. The US markets in particular have been terrific
with record absorption and very low levels of new construction.
And, against this backdrop, our business has been firing on
pretty much all cylinders.
For PLD, that includes their profitable development and asset
management business, along with strong same store growth via better
occupancy and rising rental rates.
Eastgroup (NYSE: [[EGP]]) has an excellent reputation for
disciplined development of multi-tenant warehouse space. EGP is a
small cap industrial REIT that owns approximately 33.8 million sqft
across the southern US, from California to North Carolina. EGP has
developed over a third of their current portfolio, and it derives
almost 40% of its net operating income (NOI) from such
In 2013, the company started 13 projects totaling 1.2 million
sqft, and they project starting at least 17 projects encompassing
1.3 million sqft in 2014. Besides being multi-tenant,
EGP-constructed buildings are LEED-certified distribution
facilities with a moderate percentage of office space. Finding
multiple 5,000 to 50,000 sqft tenants to fill a building may
require a little more work on the leasing side than one big 200,000
sqft tenant, but it lowers the long-term risk of having empty
EGP projects an average stabilized yield of 8.6% on its
development pipeline today. With an average cap rate of 6% for high
quality industrial properties, EGP is developing to a profit margin
over 40%. EGP's pace of approximately $100 million in development
stabilizing per year equates to over $40 million in value creation,
or almost $1.40 per share per year. EGP's share price as of
February 28 was $62.04.
Sources of Demand
Due to the risk associated with speculative development, REITs
need to be highly confident there will be demand for the product
they are providing. In general, industrial warehouses benefit from
growing global consumption. The process of bringing goods to the
end user requires warehouse space- everything from manufacturing,
wholesale and retail inventories, logistics (trucking, rail,
shipping), and importing.
Putting the "E" in Warehouse
In particular, the growth of e-commerce has had a significant
influence on demand. Despite the headlines of the negative effects
of online retail sales on retail REITs, the industrial REITs are
direct beneficiaries of the shift toward online purchases.
'Area Development' Magazine
, "…one third of all demand for big-box space in the US in 2012 was
tied to multi-channel retail or E-Commerce." Retailers still need
to keep inventory in a building and the ability to ship it to the
consumer. In fact, the new trend to attempt to ship to the consumer
within 2 days or sooner (like Amazon prime) has dramatically
increased the amount of space Amazon needs to fill orders on time.
As of the end of 2012, Amazon had spent almost $14 billion on 89
new warehouse buildings, and anticipated building at least 5 more
In 2013, an estimated 9% of retail sales were done online;
Deloitte projects this will increase to 24% by 2018, and Dematic,
another research firm, projects o
nline sales will reach 30% by 2025
. Though the last minute Christmas deliveries didn't go too well
for UPS this season, we suspect the growing market share by online
purchases is inevitable, and industrial REITs will be a prime
beneficiary of the switch.
Industrial Occupancy Up… More
In our REIT outlook from
titled "Industrial Occupancy up with Manufacturing," we discussed
the hiring for construction and manufacturing that had reversed
trend from the almost 15 years of declining job growth in these
sectors. As of June 30, 2012, the weighted average industrial REIT
occupancy was 92%. Since then, the manufacturing and construction
trend has only gained steam adding over 1 million employees, and
the weighted average industrial REIT occupancy was up to 95% as of
December 31, 2013, which is within 100 bps of the 2007 peak. Not by
coincidence, industrial production is now within 2% of the 2007
peak according to the NAICS.
Geographically, pockets of industrial strength are being driven
by market-specific demand generators. Texas is benefiting from the
domestic energy boom and population growth, which is fueling single
family home building. Florida demand is being driven by a growing
pharmaceutical sector due to the ageing demographics. The middle of
the country is feeling the manufacturing renaissance, while the
West Coast has remained strong thanks to the busy ports in Los
Angeles and Long Beach. The widening of the Panama Canal will
likely be a factor for ports that are deep enough to handle the
large ships, but it is unlikely to have any impact on broad demand.
Rather, it could shift demand to different parts of the country.
The completion of the expansion is at least 2 years away, so the
effects are to be determined.
The combination of the accelerating demand and measured supply
growth has created an overwhelmingly positive environment for well
located ('in-fill') high quality warehouse space. Cap rates on such
stabilized properties have fallen to 6% and even 5% in hot markets
like the Inland Empire in California, Houston, New Jersey, and
Dallas. The low acquisition cap rates have driven most public
industrial REITs to use development to grow their portfolios,
generating stabilized yields of 8% and above, which drives higher
cash flow growth and NAV accretion.
Multiples are currently well above the REIT average, reflecting
the growth and positive sentiment around the sector. Within the
sector, we prefer companies that have strong management teams and
multiple prongs of growth, including redevelopment, development,
and same store growth opportunities. Figure 3 depicts the
development pipelines for each of the REITs as of September 30,
2013. However, managing the land bank size, picking quality
locations, and timing the market can drastically affect long-term
I am long EGP, PLD, DRE, TRNO. I wrote this article myself, and it
expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it.
I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is
mentioned in this article.
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