The warehouse segment is in for another heated year, with multi-billion investments and high demand for leasing. E-commerce companies, retailers and the pharmaceutical industry are in the front line, and there is a search for areas for storage, exchange and distribution of products from in places as diverse as the city of São Paulo – Brazil’s largest market – and states like Minas Gerais, Bahia and Pernambuco.
Warehouse gross absorption, an indicator of new leasing contracts, grew 19% last year in the state of São Paulo, to 2.75 million square meters, data by consultancy CBRE show. Net absorption, which is the difference between leased and vacated areas, expanded 22%, to 1.56 million square meters. The consolidated figures for Brazil have not yet been disclosed, but CBRE expects that gross absorption has exceeded 5 million square meters. Both indicators meant all-time highs. Vacancy fell 1.4 percentage points in 2021, to 12.3%.
The volumes seen in the state of São Paulo and in Brazil are likely to remain flat in 2022, said Fernando Terra, senior director of industrial and logistics for Latin America at CBRE.
On the one hand, a slowdown in e-commerce is not expected, Mr. Terra said. On the other hand, most of the main companies in the segment have contracted a substantial volume of large warehouses in the last two years. “Certainly, the big players will take smaller areas,” he said. At the same time, e-commerce players that arrived recently in Brazil, like Shopee and Alibaba, are likely to pick larger warehouses.
As the vacancy rate of warehouses fell, the next effect of the heated demand will be higher rental prices, said Giancarlo Nicastro, CEO of SiiLA, a consultancy focused on real estate. In view of the high new inventory expected for the Brazilian market, however, there may be some increase in the share of vacant spaces in relation to the total.
“The year starts with scheduled delivery of 3.7 million square meters in Brazil, an all-time high. Even if the total reaches only 2.6 million square meters, the vacancy rate tends to rise a little,” Mr. Nicastro said. The announced figures are usually adjusted later, he said. In 2021, the initial projection of new warehouse stock was 3.38 million square meters, but the real volume was 2.2 million.
There may be some delay in construction works, said Mariana Hanania, head of research and market intelligence in Brazil at Newmark. Part of what is under construction is already leased, she said, so there is no risk of oversupply. “Even as there was an important growth in stock, vacancy is falling,” the executive said. In the state of São Paulo, deliveries of projects have occurred mainly in regions with almost no vacancy, and a relevant part of the new stock results from the expansion of already existing projects, she added.
Amid the heated demand, warehouse developers continue to disburse large amounts to expand their assets. Bresco plans to invest R$1 billion this year as part of a plan to have a portfolio twice as large by 2024. In 2021, its assets totaled R$3.2 billion.
The consortium formed by Credit Suisse, BTG Pactual, Construtora São José and Fram Capital, which will develop a set of warehouses on land that once belonged to Ford in São Bernardo do Campo, São Paulo, estimates to start deliveries in a year’s time and to finish it by 2024. Total investments in the purchase of the land, permits and construction work are estimated at R$1.3 billion.
Although most of the segment’s funds are destined for locations up to 30 kilometers from the city of São Paulo, there has also been the development of projects in other states. “Those who live in Pará or Amazonas also want to receive the product in one day, just like in São Paulo. This results in an avalanche of investments,” said Celina Antunes, CEO at real estate company Cushman & Wakefield.
Log Commercial Properties is the country’s most geographically diversified warehouse company. Considering finished projects and works in progress, it has facilities in 39 cities. The company expects to invest R$900 million this year. “We will have a very active year, with record investments and revenues. We will deliver almost 500,000 square meters of GLA [gross leasable area], most of it with construction already started,” CEO Sergio Fischer said. From the total to be concluded, 70% to 80% is already leased.
There may be an excess supply of warehouses in two years, considering that technological advances for cargo movement may result in the need for fewer square meters, said Nessim Sarfati, founder of Barzel Properties Gestora de Recursos. “But there is still much space for absorption of warehouses.”
Bruno Mendonça, a real estate market analyst at Bradesco BBI, expects more demand than supply of projects. But just like other segments of the real estate market, the one of warehouses has been impacted by the pressure of input costs, according to him.
Walter Cardoso, CEO at consultancy CBRE, believes that purchases and sales in the warehouse market are likely to fall this year after reaching R$8.7 billion in 2021, an all-time high. The potential drop would be driven by higher interest rates and lower fundraising by real estate investment funds. If an entire portfolio of warehouses is traded, however, the 2021 figure may be surpassed, Mr. Cardoso said. The executive also said that, in election years like this one, instability usually prompts a “flight to real estate.”
Source: Valor international