The Portuguese Association of Real Estate Developers and Investors (APPII) represents investors in Portugal across all asset classes, accounting for EUR 30 billion annual investment (15% of the country’s GDP).
How do you balance APPII’s main goals, given the wide range of companies you represent and their high stake in the national economy?
Indeed, our 200 members account for 15% of Portugal’s GDP (17,4% of GDP if we also include the construction segment), which is as much as tourism brings in. Around 50% of our members are foreign companies, be it REITs, private family offices from the UK, Spain, Brazil, China, the Middle East, and a wide range of international institutional investors.
One of our goals is making them feel welcome and acting as the main gateway to Portugal’s business ecosystem. We have two programs that attract foreign investment, the Golden Visa, and the Non-Habitual Tax Resident Program (NHR). Private investors reach a value of EUR 5 billion investments per year, so their input is significant.
A 50% foreign investment share in the industry is quite an impressive feat – what do you believe are the main factors that draw foreign players to Portugal?
Broadly speaking, real estate has become one of the main refuges for institutional investors and private individuals alike. Covid-19 was a further catalyst, given the huge liquidity that accompanied it. Why Portugal? If we are talking private investors, they choose Portugal because of our 900 years of history, 1,000 km of stunning beaches, welcoming tax laws, and multi-lingual people, to name but a few. And with the Golden Visa and Non-Habitual Tax Resident Program, Portugal has widely opened its doors to foreigners from all corners of the world.
The Golden Visa offers non-EU citizens free entry in the Schengen zone, and after six years the chance to apply for a permanent residency permit, followed by citizenship in the seventh year. Portugal attracted EUR 700,000 million in 2019 through this program alone, testament to its success.
The NHR (Non-Habitual Tax Resident Program ) is equally appealing to investors, because those that spend up to half the year in Portugal are exempted from paying taxes for ten years (or paying as little as 10%).
Last but not least, we must look at the market fundamentals – real estate in Portugal is still competitively priced and rising steadily, even during the pandemic. For instance, in December 2020 residential prices were up by 4,8% compared to December 2019.
There has been growing pressure from the EU to put a stop to the Golden Visa, how has the discussion unfolded?
The current law will suffer some amendments as of 1 January 2022. The goal is to incentivize investments to the interior of the country, with some cities benefiting from a 20% discount of the minimum investment. Hence, what is changing is that any residential investments on the coast, including in Lisbon or Porto, can only be done through a private equity fund. Nothing will change regarding investments in short term holiday housing, offices, retail or industrial, the changes only apply to traditional residential.
There has also been a call from within Portugal’s governing bodies to potentially terminate the program?
Leaders from the left-wing parties did apply for the termination of the program, it is true, but last year the parliament majority overruled the request through a vote. Importantly, the dominant sentiment in the Portuguese government is in line with keeping the program, because they can see how positive it is for the economy, as declared several times by our Prime Minister.
What is the opportunity in Portugal currently for the commercial sector, which has seen significant fluctuations throughout Europe?
In 2019 commercial real estate in Portugal reached EUR 3.3 billion of investments. Logistics has been the asset class of the pandemic and it is still growing dynamically. As early as February 2020 Europe’s giants, foreseeing what was to come, started growing their presence in the Iberic Peninsula, particularly in last mile logistics.
Offices went through a spike in 2019, and while ongoing projects continued in 2020, the industry is now in a “wait and see” mode. Retail is in a similar spot, shopping centers were changing even before pandemic, and e-commerce only accentuated the transformation. In Portugal specifically the rise in street retail and urban regeneration means that investors need to rethink their retail asset classes.
What would you like to achieve with priority for the coming two to three years?
The number one mission for APPII is to make the public understand that real estate is truly one of the pillars of Portugal’s economy and future. As entrepreneurs, developers and investors we take our mission seriously in terms of shaping the urban landscape and prioritizing sustainable practices given the urgent need to fight the climate crisis as a community. This is a long-term prospect, and one that is also placing Portugal ever more firmly on the global map, consolidating it as a first line destination for foreign investment.
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