Aware Super’s office in London, projected to be completed by the end of 2023, will allow the Australian pension fund to maximise opportunities in international property, infrastructure, and private equity investments, according to Damien Webb, deputy chief investment officer and head of international.
“For a fund of our scale, with A$160 billion ($102 billion) under management and growing, there’s a whole suite of benefits in having an on-the-ground presence in a global investment hub like London,” Webb told AsianInvestor.
Webb, who will relocate to London in October to oversee the expansion, said that having a physical presence in overseas markets for private market investing gives Aware Super a competitive advantage.
“In particular, it will enhance our capacity to source compelling deals in the UK, Europe and internationally by tapping local expertise widely and efficiently,” said Webb.
The local presence will also allow the fund to be closer to its existing portfolio and drive operational uplifts, in addition to being closer to information flows that will better inform investment decisions, he said.
“To achieve that, we’re aiming to have up to 14 staff – local hires in addition to some staff moving from Australia – by the end of this year. We’ll be leveraging our existing networks across the UK and Europe as well as building new ones.”
While no rigid headcount has been set for the London office over the next three years, Webb believes the super fund will have 30 to 40 people by the end of 2026.
“Across our broader investment team, both in Australia and abroad, we expect we’ll have around 200 people helping the fund manage A$250 billion ($160 billion) in assets globally at that point.”
Aware Super also plans to open a second overseas office in North America within the next 3-4 years.
Australian superannuation funds are increasingly looking overseas and towards private assets for growth. The country’s pension industry is now the world’s fifth-largest system with total combined assets of around $1.9 trillion and these funds are seeking to invest that capital directly in companies and assets.
From its London office, Aware Super plans to increase its direct investments in private equity, property, and infrastructure assets, said Webb.
The fund plans to invest several billion dollars in these asset classes in the coming years, with a significant portion allocated to international markets, making the move to diversify geographically and gain exposure to different assets directly in line with the Aware Super’s strategy.
“We’ve already had significant success with our direct property and infrastructure strategies internationally,” he said.
“In real estate, we have a strong focus on the living and logistics sectors. We’re looking to grow our exposure to the living sector – including in build-to-rent, senior living and other mixed-use developments – materially. Digital infrastructure and the energy transition are two areas we’re focused on in infrastructure.”
Aware Super already has an existing portfolio of digital and energy transition infrastructure assets among its international private asset holdings.
In 2021, the fund partnered with Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets to acquire Vocus Group, a telecommunications provider, and subsequently merged the Vocus New Zealand business with 2degrees, another New Zealand telecommunications provider.
In terms of energy transition assets, Aware Super’s investments are diversified across various platforms, including Intera Renewables and Tilt Renewables in Australia, Terragen Renewables in the US, and Generate Capital for emerging and ancillary, smaller-scale investments in the US.
EARLY MOVER ADVANTAGE
As Aware Super increases its offshore investments, “the value of having access to early deals speaks for itself,” said Webb.
“By leveraging our on-the-ground presence in London and using the networks we already have in Europe more efficiently, we’ll be far better placed to secure an ‘early mover’ advantage in deal making,” he said.
The London hub will also allow the fund to become less reliant on external investment managers, which ultimately is beneficial for members.
“By bringing more asset management in-house, reducing our reliance on external investment managers, we’ll also be reducing costs for our members. And further diversifying our portfolio with additional quality investments internationally will reduce investment risk and help in delivering strong long-term returns.”
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SINGAPORE: NTUC Enterprise’s real estate unit Mercatus Co-operative is understood to have quietly put on the market a portfolio of 18 commercial properties in Housing Board estates.
The properties have a total indicative price of around S$265mil.
The 18 properties add up to about 170,000 sq ft of space in Housing and Development Board (HDB) shops, shophouses and low-rise commercial blocks. The portfolio has full occupancy.
About 80% of the space is leased to FairPrice, which is set to keep its long-term tenancies in the properties.
The properties are in locations such as Bukit Merah Central, Kallang Bahru, Bishan, Hougang, Serangoon North, Holland Drive, Tampines, Bedok, Buona Vista, Clementi, Choa Chu Kang, Jurong East and Jurong West.
The balance tenures for the properties vary, but average at around 57 years.
Word in the market is that the 18 properties have been split into three bundles, with prospective buyers able to submit offers for individual bundles, or the entirety of the portfolio.
Clemence Lee, executive director of capital markets for Singapore at property consultancy CBRE, said: “Mercatus is exploring a sale of a portion of its assets via an expression of interest exercise. CBRE has been appointed as the agent.”
He confirmed that the assets would be sold with existing long-term tenancies in place but said that “we are unable to disclose details of the portfolio due to commercial sensitivities”.
“There is no certainty or assurance that this exercise will lead to a transaction and we cannot speculate on the outcome of the exercise,” he added.
A spokesman for Mercatus said it regularly reviews its portfolio to deliver greater social impact and generate long-term sustainable returns for its stakeholders.
For now, it is business as usual and Mercatus remains committed to safeguarding the interests of all stakeholders, including its tenants and their customers, it added.
Over the past nine months, Mercatus has sold a chunk of its Singapore retail assets for a total of slightly above S$3bil.
In late December 2022, it entered a deal to sell Jurong Point and Swing By @ Thomson Plaza to Hong Kong-listed Link Real Estate Investment Trust for S$2.16bil.
In late January 2023, it struck a deal to sell its half stake in Nex mall in Serangoon Central to Frasers Centrepoint Trust and Frasers Property in a deal that valued the prime suburban mall (100% interest) at S$2.08bil.
Market watchers noted that the 18 properties being offered via expression of interest are in mature HDB estates, with a captive catchment of heartlanders shopping for daily necessities.
The assets may appeal to prospective investors focused on stable income with built-in rental increases.
The smallest property is a 797 sq ft first-floor shop unit in Hougang Avenue 3 occupied by a Cheers outlet.
This is the convenience-retail format of supermarket chain FairPrice.
The other 17 properties are anchored by FairPrice supermarkets. FairPrice is part of the FairPrice Group, which comprises FairPrice, NTUC Foodfare, Kopitiam and NTUC Link.
The NTUC Enterprise group of social enterprises are: FairPrice Group, NTUC First Campus, NTUC Health, Income Insurance, NTUC LearningHub, Mercatus and MoneyOwl, which is closing shop by the end of 2023. — The Straits Times/ANN
he capital’s commercial property sector today urged the Government to push on with its plans for a HS2 hub at Euston “at pace”, amid concerns that the huge railway project may never reach central London.
In an open letter to Transport Secretary Mark Harper, the London Property Alliance (LPA), which represents more than 400 companies involved in central London real estate including developers, landlords and planning consultants, said the high speed rail line’s terminus in zone one would bring massive social and economic regeneration.
The association’s chief executive, Charles Begley, wrote: “Leaving up to 60 acres of Euston in limbo for years or decades to come would be a retrograde step and a disservice to both the capital and country.”
The line will initially stop at Old Oak Common, six miles from Euston. In March, Mr Harper said the last section to Euston would be paused as predicted costs spiralled to £4.8 billion from an initial budget of £2.6 billion.
The LPA pointed to the success of the Elizabeth line, with almost 200,000 new office jobs created in the local authorities served by its stations since 2012, and a host of developers committing to build new shops and offices near stations.
Room for a little one? Cramped home in an old shipping container – just yards away from West Ham’s London Stadium – goes on the market for £75,000
- Tiny one-bed one-bathroom shipping container on sale in Stratford
- Container described by agents as ‘testament to luxurious living’
- Home is yards from West Ham’s London Stadium and close to railway links
Those struggling to get onto the London property ladder can now live in a shipping container in Stratford that has gone on the market for £75,000.
The tiny freehold property, which describes itself as a ‘testament to luxurious living’, promises to be a tight squeeze for any new homeowners.
A double bed takes up the width of the studio in photos shared by estate agents, with a beside lamp encroaching on the pillows due to a lack of space.
The tiny home can also fit a sofa and has a cooking area. There is also a bathroom squeezed into the container, whose estate agents promise will provide ‘an unparalleled living experience.’
The Pudding Mill Lane property in Stratford, east London, which is just yards away from West Ham’s London Stadium, has been termed as a ‘rejuvenating atmosphere that enhances your well-being.’
The tiny shipping container is a stone’s throw away from West Ham’s London Stadium
It is described by agents as having ‘customizable interiors that cater to your unique desires’
It is also advertised as having good transport links with both Pudding Mill Lane Docklands Light Railway and Bow Road Underground stations within walking distance. It is being listed with estate agents iad UK on Rightmove.
While the container is cheap, it is likely not what most Londoners are looking for.
Research released in early September by Halifax showed that the average deposit for those buying their first home in London was an eye-watering £125,378.
Estate agency Hamptons suggested that young Londoners earning an average wage would have to move 25 miles outside the capital to afford a home.
The property description for the Stratford container reads: ‘Introducing the pinnacle of sustainable living: our low-energy, ESG-compliant 40HQ container house.
‘Utilizing live data and cutting-edge technology, this extraordinary home surpasses government building regulations and exceeds future home standards, delivering an unparalleled living experience.
‘Harnessing the power of live energy data, our container house takes environmental consciousness to new heights.
The home can fit a sofa, has a cooking area, and a bathroom squeezed in
‘Say goodbye to stuffy rooms and hello to a rejuvenating atmosphere that enhances your well-being,’ the description for the shipping container reads
‘Stay connected and informed as real-time data on energy consumption, air quality, humidity, and temperature are seamlessly integrated into your daily life.
‘Empowered by this knowledge, you can effortlessly make informed decisions and take control of your environmental impact.
‘At the heart of our container house lies world-leading ventilation technology.
‘Embrace a breath of fresh air as the system intelligently circulates and filters, ensuring optimal air quality for you and your loved ones.
‘Say goodbye to stuffy rooms and hello to a rejuvenating atmosphere that enhances your well-being.’
- Eight of the 10 areas that have seen biggest price cuts are in the South East
- More than 1 in 5 homes in Thanet have seen asking prices slashed by 5% or more
- We look at the best spots for bargain-hunting buyers in each region of England
Asking prices are being slashed across the South East of England as home sellers struggle to find a buyer.
Eight of the 10 places in the UK that have seen price reductions of 5 per cent or more are in the South East, according to data shared exclusively with This is Money by the property website, Zoopla.
Thanet in Kent, which includes the town of Margate, has seen more than one in five of all its current property listings have asking prices slashed by 5 per cent or more in the last 90 days.
Dover, Brighton and Hove and Surrey Heath have also all seen almost one in five available listings reduced in price by at least 5 per cent in the last 90 days.
Overall, 11.8 per cent of homes across the UK have seen their price cut by 5 per cent or more over the past 90 days, according to Zoopla.
In the previous five years, the proportion of homes that had their price cut over the same 90 day period was only 6.9 per cent.
HOW THIS IS MONEY CAN HELP
Rightmove has also also reported that more than a third of homes for sale have had their asking prices cut, the highest since January 2011.
It said the average home up for sale has had a 6.2 per cent price reduction, or a cut of £22,700.
Zoopla says many more home sellers are reducing their asking prices by 5 per cent or less, with some worried that larger cuts may impact what they can buy next.
However, more serious price reductions of 5 per cent or more appear to signal that increasing numbers of sellers, particularly in the South East, are becoming more desperate to attract interest from buyers.
Izabella Lubowiecka, property researcher at Zoopla says: ‘Asking price reductions show a greater realism from sellers on pricing.
‘Many sellers see that pandemic property value gains equip them with a buffer they can use to unlock sales.
‘Serious sellers looking to sell soon should have an honest conversation with an agent to make sure that the property they are selling is priced at the right level for the current market.
‘Asking price adjustments are happening across the board. As a downsizer or upsizer, this means that repricing will affect not only the property you are selling but quite possibly the one you may be looking to buy next.’
Is the property market ripe for bargain hunting?
Whether or not the market is ripe for bargain hunting will clearly depend on what happens to house prices.
It will vary from market to market, but there may be greater opportunity to haggle and negotiate below the asking price.
Charlie Lamdin, founder of property firm, BestAgent, argues that anyone who wants to buy at the moment should be aiming high and offering low.
‘In a falling market, you should view homes that have asking prices outside your budget,’ says Lamdin.
‘Agents are quieter now, and more willing to show you homes they were too busy to show you a year ago.
‘Motivated sellers are seeking certainty of sale over maximum price. This creates a great opportunity for well prepared buyers, particularly if they’re chain-free.’
Chris Sykes, associate director at mortgage broker Private Finance says he has noticed more offers accepted for high-value properties at significant discounts.
He says: ‘In recent weeks, we have noticed hints of a resurgence in demand for high-value properties from high-net-worth individuals and individuals with substantial incomes.
‘These properties, for which offers have recently been accepted, have typically been on the market for a while and are now being sold with roughly a 10 per cent discount off their initial asking price.’
However, Henry Pryor, a professional buying agent, says that buyers need to be wary of taking the asking price too literally.
In his opinion, an asking price is not necessarily an indication of value, nor is it a statement of what the seller might accept.
It is also not necessarily what the estate agent advised, or what a mortgage valuer might sign off on.
Pryor says: ‘It’s amazing how many people mistake an asking price for value.
‘It’s just part of the marketing, yet so many judge the success of a sale or purchase by reference to the ticket price.
‘It is a combination of the greed of the owner and the ‘enthusiasm’ of the agent to get the business.
‘The biggest discount to asking price that we have achieved so far this year is 11 per cent but one of our best deals resulted in paying 10 per cent more.
‘Remember, the asking price isn’t a statement of value or an indication of what the seller will accept.’
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- Estate agents say an electric car charger is a sought-after property feature
- In a tough market, having one could make a home stand out
- But the just is still out on whether being EV-ready helps boost your house price
Having an electric vehicle charging point on your driveway not only banishes the fear of running out of juice on your way to work, it can boost your home’s desirability, too.
Even with Rishi Sunak changing gear on net zero by postponing the ban on new diesel and petrol vehicles to 2035, estate agents say a home charger is a sought-after feature among buyers and they see the addition of green features becoming even more popular in the future.
Electric vehicle (EV) charging points made it into agent Jackson-Stops’s top-ten must-haves for the first time this summer.
Rightmove, meanwhile, said the number of homes listed for sale that mentioned EV chargers was up 40 per cent on last year and 592 per cent since 2019.
In Rightmove’s Greener Homes report, Tim Bannister, director of property science, said that in an increasingly price-sensitive market, homes with green benefits will stand out from their neighbours.
‘There will come a time, not in the too distant future, when more buyers are queuing up for homes with electric charging points and good insulation, instead of seeking out Victorian open fireplaces,’ he says.
But the jury is still out on whether an EV charge point adds value to your property.
The National Association of Property Buyers estimates they add between £3,000 and £5,000 to your home’s price tag, whereas some estate agents say they have yet to see charge points drive up values.
Aside from convenience, there are other benefits to having your own charge point.
James McKemey, head of policy and public affairs at EV charging company Pod Point, says: ‘Using a dedicated charger instead of a standard three-pin plug is much safer and faster for charging your vehicle.
‘A standard domestic socket is only 13 amps, whereas we typically install a 32 amp/7kw charger, which is almost three times faster.
‘A dedicated charger could give you around 28 miles per hour of charging, a standard plug just nine.
‘There’s a safety consideration, too. Domestic 13-amp sockets aren’t made to run at full pelt for hours. It could also impact your wiring by overheating. We’ve seen a lot of burnt-out wiring.’
It’s also cheaper to charge your car at home than using a public charger. If you have smart charging features, you can charge your car when the rate is at its lowest which is usually during the night.
Chargers vary in price from about £300 to upwards of £1,000.
So what affects the price? Cheaper models are unlikely to have installation included, which could cost an extra £400 to £600. An electrician can install it for you or there are companies who specialise in EV points.
More expensive chargers will have features for homeowners who have solar panels.
‘Integrating a home charger with solar power could mean free charging for homeowners
David Martell, founder of charge point manufacturer Andersen EV, says: ‘Integrating a home charger with solar power could mean free charging for homeowners. Compared to using a three-pin plug, the cost of installing a solar-integrated EV charger is typically recouped within a year.’
Homeowners who live in a listed building need to obtain planning permission before attaching a point to the wall.
If you own a flat, rent a home or are a landlord and have off-street parking, you could be eligible for an EV charge point grant, which entitles you to £350 or 75 per cent off the cost to buy and install a socket, whichever is lower.
When you’re not using your charge point, you can make a small amount of money by renting it out. Mr Martell explains: ‘The EVIOS One home charger has pin access so you can loan out your driveway to EV users and know exactly how much to bill them.
‘Companies such as JustPark and Co Charger can help with community EV charging by matching drivers with chargers and you can set your own rate.’
Residential property prices in Germany have fallen by their steepest decline since data collection began in 2000, with larger cities seeing harsher drops.
German housing prices fell by the most since records began in the second quarter as high interest rates and rising materials costs took their toll on the property market in Europe’s largest economy, according to government data.
Residential property prices fell by 9.9% year-on-year, the steepest decline since the start of data collection in 2000, the federal statistics office said on Friday.
Prices fell by 1.5% on the quarter, with steeper declines in larger cities than in more sparsely populated areas.
In cities such as Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich, apartment prices fell by 9.8% and single and two-family house prices dropped by 12.6% on the year.
For a decade, low-interest rates have fuelled a property boom in Europe’s largest real estate investment market. A sharp rise in rates and increasing construction costs have put an end to the run, tipping a string of developers into insolvency as deals froze and prices fell.
Building permits for apartments in Germany declined 31.5% in July from a year earlier, the statistics office disclosed on Monday, as construction prices rose by almost 9% on the year.
Germany aims to build 400,000 apartments a year but has struggled to meet the goal.
German Housing Industry Association GdW on Friday sounded the alarm over the situation calling for government support for construction companies.
‘The construction crisis in Germany is getting worse day by day and is increasingly reaching the middle of society,’ GdW, which represents around 3,000 housing companies nationwide, said in a statement.
GdW called for a cut in value-added tax (VAT) to 7% from the current level of 19% for affordable rentals and government funding loans with a 1% interest rate to support companies.
The government is scheduled to hold a summit with the industry on Monday to discuss the situation.
GdW and the Haus&Grund owner’s association said they were boycotting the summit as they had too little influence on its agenda.
The German cabinet plans to present an aid package for the industry by the end of the month after announcing plans to promote the construction sector, including reducing regulatory and bureaucratic requirements.