30th October 2014

Finding value for investors in the syndicated commercial property market

After adding £10m of new acquisitions in the first half of 2014, taking the Rougemont Estates portfolio to £40m, managing director James Craven talks about finding “pockets of value” for investors in the syndicated commercial property market.

The commercial property market is once again thriving and we are seeing big increases in occupier demand alongside a renewed appetite and rising confidence among developers. This is also resulting in renewed interest among both domestic and international investors who are looking to cash in on the resurgence of the commercial property market following the pressures of the economic downturn.

For high-net worth individuals looking for solid investments in commercial property this can cause significant challenges, but there are still some pockets of value around the country. As the market has recovered over the past year, we have still been able to find investment properties that continue to deliver income returns way above the norm.

Commercial Property Investment

This year our investments have included a £6.5m whisky maturation warehouse in Edinburgh and a £1.5m property in the heart of York. We’re also currently closing a £6.6m deal for a prime retail unit in St Helier, Jersey.

The whisky warehouse, near to Edinburgh Airport, is backed by drinks giant Diageo on a 15-year lease. The whisky market has grown 80 per cent in the past decade and the warehouse has scheduled increases in rent, delivering an 8.75% per annum return that is paid to investors quarterly.

Stamford House in York is home to the law firm Lupton Fawcett Denison Till. The property delivers a 10 per cent per annum return and has great potential for future growth.

We moved quickly on these deals because of the potential they offer our high-net worth investors and the next deal we’re chasing in Jersey is another deal that will deliver similar returns. We wouldn’t typically consider retail investments as many UK High Streets remain fragile, however, Jersey is an island with one high street, a queue of retailers requiring a presence and a captive market. That all adds up to a solid investment.

Strong income returns

While it’s true there is fierce competition from major institutional funds, we are confident of buying more quality assets for investors and continuing to deliver income returns of up to eight per cent per annum – compared to the one per cent you can usually expect from the mainstream banks.

There’s more confidence back in the market and tenants are beginning to commit to longer leases. We are also seeing a growing appetite among high net wealth individuals for this type of investment.

With this type of investment there is a huge difference between the return on a Government gilt, which is typically 2.5-3 per cent. Commercial property is delivering average returns of around 6-7 per cent and we are doing better than that.

Minimising property investment risk

Risk in this sort of investment is minimised by buying properties in prime locations that offer strong prospects for growth through lease renegotiation or property conversion.

We aim to buy bullet-proof assets. There is still a significant lack of quality stock and you have to be careful, but we are still confident. We look to operate in a niche area, picking up properties that are too expensive for individual investors but that are too small for the big institutional funds.

The big funds are coming in with such an impetus that they are driving up prices by competing amongst themselves. We don’t wish to play on their ‘pitch’ and consequently have been finding value in alternative property assets such as the whisky maturation warehouse and the current Jersey offering.

Confidence in future of property

We are being careful and selective. Syndicated property investment still offers a good, long term, predicted income stream above market level. Interest rates will be slow to recover and we are way ahead of what the banks can offer.

While many are still wary of syndicated commercial property investment, for the right investor, this is a sector that can deliver solid returns and rising confidence in the market means the opportunities are continuing to grow.

We are confident about what lies ahead for commercial property and I’d welcome your thoughts on what you expect to see in the months ahead and whether you think investor confidence will continue to rise.