Business Times - 20 May 2009
Property investors going back to basics
There's more stress now on asset management
By UMA SHANKARI
THE property investment landscape has changed significantly because of the global financial crisis, speakers at a panel discussion said yesterday.
For a start, investors are going 'back to basics', said Blake Olafson, director and head of the Asia real estate group at international investment bank Arcapita.
For example, pension funds that used to invest in riskier asset classes are now beginning to redirect their investments into less risky assets, he said.
Agreeing that the industry is going back to basics, John Evans, managing director of Tractus Asia, said: 'Looking at it from a global economic perspective, the Asian real estate market had become a market where everyone was trying to get in, everyone was becoming a property developer.'
Mr Olafson and Mr Evans were speaking at Cityscape Asia, an annual real estate exhibition and conference aimed at investors.
The 'back-to-basics' approach includes a focus on making existing assets work harder.
'There's a lot more emphasis around true asset management, a shift towards hiring third-party facilities managers, and much more effort is going into tenant retention strategies,' Mr Olafson said. 'Before the downturn the focus was on building development, now asset management has become a lot more important.'
Players in the industry are going back to their core competencies and this, combined with tighter credit conditions, is driving a 'flight to quality' and a focus on assets that generate cashflows from day one, he said. 'There is liquidity, but it is being driven towards good quality projects.'
Panellists agreed that liquidity is beginning to return to the Asian market, although banks are still very selective about which projects to back.
Speakers were also quizzed about when they expect real estate markets to emerge from the current slump. In response, the panellists said there was no way to put a timeline to recovery.
'Everyone is trying to tell where the bottom is,' said panellist Stuart Labrooy, chief executive of Malaysia's Axis Reit Management. 'I think the full effects of the recession have not reached Asia yet.'
Property valuations should start to bottom out in Asia in the second half of 2009, he said.
More than 3,000 real estate developers, investors and regulators are expected to attend Cityscape Asia, which focuses on all aspects of real estate development, on May 19, 20 and 21.