CBRE Portugal has an extended experience of over 30 years on the local market, specializing in commercial real estate services for investors, tenants and owners alike.
What footprint does CBRE have in Portugal and across which sectors is your activity mainly concentrated?
CBRE Portugal has around 280 employees, covering all sectors, with the exception of the residential B2C market. We are present in Porto and Lisbon with offices, but we also have teams on the ground all around the country, managing different assets. In the past few years, we have diversified across sectors, from tourism to healthcare. Two years ago, we also started an agribusiness line split between Portugal, Spain and Italy, really stretching CBRE’s reach. Additionally, we have Capital Advisors, which is our real estate investment and banking activity branch, unique to Portugal and helping us stand out.
Last year you created a new business unit in Portugal that targets small and medium investments, what motivated this change?
We call it "Small and Medium Caps" and it's part of the investment properties department, targeting EUR 500,000 to 10 million deals and with a special focus on high-net-worth individuals, family offices and institutional investors that prefer smaller assets. Although CBRE is known for big tickets, we wanted to diversify. Our intention is to cater to everyone, and institute this branch in Portugal, which has already proven a big success in Brazil and the UK.
Given the wide range of market segments, which are the most dynamic at the moment for CBRE?
Offices and logistics are the main drivers, as well as retail - which is still strong not only on the property management side, but also on the leasing side. Hotels and resi are profitable, and in 2021 we sold a portfolio of 4,400 apartments to a French investor – the largest deal in Portugal to date.
Retail has been universally hit quite badly by the pandemic, you are saying it has still been performing well under your portfolio?
Some years ago, we set up an Iberian Property Management platform across Spain and Portugal, a merger which helped us flourish, even despite the pandemic. We started this cross-platform with the retail sector (hence the ongoing success), but soon after we expanded it to offices and logistics. In Portugal we manage 16 retail assets (shopping centers and retail parks), soon to become 18 assets under management, for which we perform property management, design & project management, rent collection, marketing and leasing services. In 2020 we did see some negative impact, and went through negotiations with some of the tenants, but already by 2021 things were faring well.
Looking at the Portuguese market in its entirety - what are some key trends that are defining it nowadays?
Portugal was an interesting but small market for a long time and as of 2014 it opened up (more) to foreign investment, starting with the residential sector. Nowadays, a lot of companies in the offices sector choose Portuguese cities thanks to the quality of the workforce, the business costs and the overall quality of life. Peculiarly, we are seeing a big rise in the logistics sector in the context where Portugal was never a logistics hub; but with the increase in e-commerce, strong interest was guided towards this sector.
The residential sector has been very successful on the high-end market but there is a shortage of products for the middle and lower classes, which struggle with the current housing prices. There is a strong need for affordable housing, but rising construction costs and lengthy licensing process have been refraining the supply increase.
The sure way to increase the market stock would be for local municipalities to speed up the licensing process and provide the land needed for new developments. On the bright side, the government decided to apply a 6% VAT rate (instead of 23%) for affordable housing projects.
The build-to-rent sector is also starting to catch developers' and investors' eye more by the day.
Other than permitting, what are the main challenges that a new investor should keep in mind?
If we were able to solve the licensing and financing challenges, Portugal would be a heaven for investors. Portuguese banks are not that cognizant of the real estate market's specificities. Our debt advisory teams when looking for lending opportunities for our clients found local banks to be highly conservative and risk averse, but through communication we are making some headway, slowly but surely.
What would you like to achieve with priority in the next two to three years?
We always aim for a leadership position and are achieving it through service diversification. ESG is an important part of our plans, since sustainability will be integrated in each and every project in the coming years.
We took a winning bet on strategic advisory which we will keep. Likewise we wish to continue our “Iberian approach” and tighten the collaboration with Spain. Within Portugal, Porto and the Northern region of Portugal are the areas where we wish to consolidate our presence.
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