Panattoni is a logistics-industrial real estate developer with a strong footprint across Europe. In 2020 the company has expanded to Spain & Portugal.
Panattoni has an extensive international presence, and recently also started operations in Spain and Portugal. What has this new beginning been like?
We opened the Madrid office in March 2020, just 15 days before the country went into lockdown. We managed to create a strong team, however, travelling restrictions made it difficult to properly settle in Portugal and some of our business plans did see some delays. Fortunately, 2021 has been a good year and in a few months we'll be able to announce various land acquisitions and development transactions.
The market here is small compared to other logistics markets in Europe, but it features ample opportunity and has the potential to play an important role in this sector in Southern Europe.
Without disclosing too much about the projects to come, can you outline their present status?
At the moment we are performing due diligence for a large project, and sooner rather than later we hope to buy the land and start development. In parallel, we are identifying other business opportunities both in Lisbon and in Porto because we plan to increase our footprint in Portugal as fast as possible.
Wherein lies most opportunity in the Portuguese industrial & logistics market in your view?
Over the last few years, around 50% of the demand has been coming from 3PLs.
Portugal has an ownership-oriented market rather than a leasing based one - when this tide will change, we'll see more transactions and we'll have more clarity about the profile of customers.
For now, our focus is on speculative projects in Lisbon and Porto because these are the cities that attract most investors due to the concentrated industrial activity in their outskirts. But we are also seeking build-to-suit opportunities in other corners of Portugal, as long as we have a solid relationship with the customers that are doing business there. Our goal is to develop for the clients who can't afford or don´t find strategic developing or buying their own logistics facilities. E-commerce is not yet a strong driver in the logistics sector in Portugal, but we are expecting it to grow very soon, and we want to be ready to cater to new retailers when that time comes.
Every country has its pros and cons and as a newcomer you are probably highly aware of them. What has been challenging for you and made you cautious about Portugal?
One of the main challenges is the legal framework for planning and zoning because the entire workflow depends on the expertise of municipalities and how fast they can make decisions. And what we learnt is that the process is not fast at all.
The lack of suitable land, as well as its high price and the uncertainty that surrounds the authorization process of building permits are other major issues that make us cautious about this market. It's a paradox how the land price in Portugal is higher than in France or in Poland, where the logistics sector is more developed. If the public administration would play their role efficiently and would clear the way for transactions, the logistics sector would definitely see an unprecedented growth.
"Invest with Panattoni" is a particularity of your business model - is this an opportunity for joint-ventures and does it apply to your business in Portugal?
Our business model is based on working with a wide range of investors rather than working exclusively with our own investment vehicle or a sole capital partner. This gives us the freedom to go wherever we want and we deem it convenient to develop, without having limitations regarding the type of property, size and investment modality. This is one of the main drivers of our success and becoming the leading developer of Industrial and Logistics real estate in Europe.
Regardless of the challenges we touched upon earlier, what would you say are the main opportunities that make Portugal a worthwhile objective?
There is a great deal of opportunity in Portugal and a lot of companies are interested in expanding into this market. There are few A grade logistics units and there's plenty of room for improvement, so investors can take advantage of this increasing demand and create the necessary supply.
The industrial sector in Portugal has a good growth prospect due to the relocation of companies, affordable workforce, proximity to ports and trading routes linking to Africa and Brazil. Developers need the support of the government to create a solid foundation that will further attract international companies and push forward the market.
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