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A boom in pharmaceutical and food industries across Asia Pacific has thrown a light on one of the most demanding segments of logistics real estate, cold chain logistics – and is presenting an exciting opportunity for investors.

Cold chain logistics – the process of storing and transporting perishables in specific temperatures – has a complex and specific set of needs that regional air hubs such as Singapore and Hong Kong are clamoring to meet.

Ageing population drives demand
With its affluent but ageing population continuing to drive healthcare spending, Asia Pacific will remain integral to the commercial growth prospects of multinational pharmaceutical firms.

The region is projected to see medicine sales rise by 5 percent in 2017, from US$305 billion in 2016 to US$321 billion, as countries like Indonesia and the Philippines get ready to follow suit on China’s implementation of universal healthcare.

And, global companies have been quick to spot the opportunity. Last year, Swiss global transportation and logistics firm, Kuehne + Nagel, unveiled a 50,000 square meter built-to-suit facility in Singapore – more than 40 percent of which was furnished with chilled storage specifically designed for pharmaceuticals and healthcare companies operating in Asia.

In April this year, global real estate investors, PGIM Real Estate, acquired a cold store logistics facility in Singapore for S$194 million (US$140 million). The seller, Warehouse Logistics Net Asia, is a leader in cold supply chain in Singapore and will lease back the property for 10 years at a rental rate that translates to slightly above seven percent net yield.

This comes in well above traditional industrial yields of between four percent and six percent.

Meeting the demands of the wealthy
Healthcare is not the only industry driving demand for cold storage, according to Myles Huang, Director of Capital Markets Research at JLL.

“As the region witnesses rising income levels, there is a growing demand for premium produce – including seafood and meat – that requires cold chain logistics to be transported,” he explains

“The growing middle class in China have become accustomed to e-commerce and to-door-door deliveries, which is furthering the demand for refrigerated deliveries and warehouses near major population centers.”

Hong Kong logistics player, DCH, is the cold chain industry leader in China while Swire Cold Chain Logistics operates seven facilities across the country.

And, it’s not just Asia that’s seeing a shift in demand. Historically dominated by domestic investors and owner-occupiers, the Australian cold chain logistics market has started to see a more diverse range of investors competing for assets. Capital sources ranging from domestic superannuation funds to Asian and European institutions are all seeking an allocation to this Australian growth sector.

As domestic and offshore capital look to diversify their portfolios and continue the hunt for greater yields, the cold storage sector is benefitting and early movers are being rewarded.

In May this year, Frasers Property Australia secured the first major tenant for its Chullora site in Sydney, after signing a leasing deal with PFD Food Services for AU$70 million (US$53 million). The cold storage and food production warehouse due for completion in 2018.

And, while the cold chain logistics industry in Asia Pacific still has a lot of room to grow, willing capital is set to have a highly investable product, says Huang.

“Currently, opportunities can mainly be found in the more established markets such as Australia and Singapore, but there is no doubt that this evolution will follow to the rest of Asia,” he says.
“In turn, investors with local knowledge – particularly in less transparent markets where data is scarce – will certainly be able to find some good deals.”

Click here to find whether logistics is Asia Pacific’s hottest property sector

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Myles Huang

Asia Pacific Capital Markets Research Drector, JLL

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