Navigating headwinds


Sound investment: The industrial segment will remain a bright spot with the eCommerce boom, says RHB Investment Bank.

AS property players move on from the pandemic, investor interest in real estate investment trusts (REITs) has certainly picked up.

However, experts and players are admittedly cautious about the outlook ahead, in light of current economic headwinds.

RHB Investment Bank property analyst Loong Kok Wen urges investors to be selective and prioritise asset quality within each of the different REIT sub-sectors.

“While we are turning more positive on the outlook for REITs, we maintain our “neutral” sector call, in line with the structural overhang and near-term macroeconomic headwinds,” she says in a recent report.

Loong says she expects rental reversion to remain in the low-single digit range, given the influx of retail space coming into the market this year.

“Despite the narrowing yield spread, we think the stable dividend yield, as well as the estimated double-digit earnings growth for 2022 are good reasons for investors that are looking for a flight-to-safety.

“We urge investors to be selective and prioritise asset quality within each sub-sector and think that the industrial segment will remain a bright spot with the eCommerce boom.”


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AmFirst Real Estate Investment Trust (Amfirst-REIT) chairman Soo Kim Wai meanwhile says the uncertain global economic outlook, rising inflationary pressure coupled with the Russia-Ukraine conflict will continue to pose challenges for the sector in 2022.

“We will tread with caution and adopt appropriate strategic and operational measures to deliver sustainable income distribution to unit holders.

“We are mindful that we are still not out of the woods yet and will remain proactive, vigilant and agile,” he says in the company’s latest annual report.

AmFirst-REIT has a diverse portfolio of nine properties located in the Klang Valley (including Cyberjaya), Melaka and Penang with a total net lettable area of 3.2 million sq ft as at March 31, 2022.

Despite the challenging property market outlook, Soo notes that momentum is improving on the back of the transition to the endemic phase of Covid-19, especially with borders reopening and the lifting of movement restrictions.“The supply of purpose-built offices in Kuala Lumpur went up marginally by 1.25% from 9.275 million sq metres in the second half of 2020 to 9.391 million sq metres in the third quarter of 2021, whereas the supply of purpose-built offices in Selangor stood at 4.075 million sq metres.

“Last year saw the addition of 70,000 sq metres of purpose-built office space, bringing it to a total of 23.969 million sq metres compared to 23.179 million sq metres in 2020.”

Despite the slight increase in take-up rates for these offices, Soo says the total occupancy rate dropped nearly 2% in 2021 to 78.3%.

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