Focusing our investment strategy exclusively on the Auckland industrial sector more than five years ago recognised the emerging trends and unique drivers that have since made this New Zealand’s strongest performing commercial real estate market. Demographic changes, regional growth, and the rapid expansion of online retailing have all contributed to the unprecedented level of demand for well-located and operationally efficient urban logistics space across the city.
While the pandemic has brought challenges, it has also accelerated the key structural trends that are contributing to GMT’s strong results.
There are over 220 customers that lease space in the Trust’s 1.1 million sqm portfolio. Demand from these businesses is at historically high levels, with the Trust’s investment portfolio effectively at capacity.
The strength of the current leasing market reflects a growing digital economy and the requirement for highly efficient warehouse and logistics facilities close to consumers. This trend is expected to continue, with Euromonitor forecasting e-commerce sales growth for New Zealand of 84% over the next five years.
1 Includes post balance date property acquisitions.
1 FY19 development commencements restated to reflect pausing of 10,000 sqm build-to-lease project at Highbrook Business Park in 2020. Project recommenced in FY22 as a 9,174 sqm design-build facility.
Customers are adapting to the growing online marketplace and demand for fulfilment services in a variety of ways.
Large freight and parcel delivery operators are leasing additional facilities to accommodate business growth, while some smaller customers are now incorporating e-commerce functions into existing warehouse operations.
Disruption in global supply chains is also contributing to higher inventory levels, creating additional demand for warehouse space.
Customers investing in automation and warehouse management systems to improve the efficiency of their facilities is another feature of the highly constrained leasing market. It is also reflective of growing inflationary pressures, with an increasing number of customers seeking to mitigate the impact of rising costs through better space utilisation.
Around 25% of the portfolio (268,042 sqm) was leased on new or revised terms since 31 March 2021, with customers renewing leases early, committing to longer terms and paying a rental premium for facilities in prime locations.
The strength of current customer demand is reflected in the 5.1% growth in annual rentals, on a like-for-like basis.
With the pandemic having a disproportionate impact on some industries, not all customers within the portfolio have been able to adapt so easily.
We continue to stay close to these businesses, supporting them through the challenges of the current operating environment to the extent we can.
GMT’s development programme has been an important contributor to its growth, with around 90% of the core portfolio developed since 2004. These new facilities have provided high-quality property solutions for customers and generated strong rental returns and investment gains for the Trust.
The rapid growth in demand for urban logistics space is also being reflected in a heightened level of development activity, with $300.2 million of new projects commencing during the year.
It adds to the current workbook, with seven active projects at 31 March 2022. With a total project cost of $426.0 million, the development programme includes additional facilities for Mainfreight and NZ Post, the Trust’s largest customers.
Two of the active projects are parcel processing facilities for NZ Post. Part of a wider business strategy to accommodate the rapid growth in its delivery services, the latest commitment is for a 17,992 sqm facility to be built on Bush Road in Albany. The expected completion date is June 2024, with construction to commence in 2023, following the expiry of existing leases on the brownfield site.
A commitment to sustainable development means all GMT’s current and future developments will be carbon neutral. To ensure its new facilities are industry leading, the Trust is also targeting a 5 Green Star Built rating for these projects. The certification, from the New Zealand Green Building Council, assesses the sustainability attributes of the project and the quality of the workspaces it provides.
With a substantial volume of work in progress, the Trust’s development programme is being closely monitored to ensure that risks associated with rising costs, material and labour shortages, and contractor solvency are all managed effectively.
To prioritise the development of new warehouse and logistics facilities, a previously announced office and carpark project at Highbrook Business Park has been paused. With a longer lead time, the build-to-lease development will commence when construction market conditions and office occupier demand are better aligned.
With the remaining development land at Highbrook Business Park now fully allocated, we’re increasing our investment in strategic locations to accommodate customer demand.
The acquisition of 34 hectares of light industrial zoned land in Māngere in August 2021 has replenished the Trust’s landbank. Adjoining the Villa Maria winery, and near the airport and other freight and transport infrastructure, the $75 million1 acquisition will provide a pipeline of large sites that is expected to support the development of up to 120,000 sqm of new warehouse and logistics space over time.
The masterplan vision is for a highly sustainable urban logistics estate that incorporates the natural features of the site and the unique cultural history of the area.
Four additional properties were acquired during the year:
1. Oji Fibre Solutions facility at 35 Hugo Johnston Drive in Penrose
2. Sky Network Television Campus in Mt Wellington
3. The Bush Road site in Albany to facilitate the development of a new parcel processing facility for NZ Post
4. A residential property neighbouring Favona Road Estate in Māngere.
The transactions had a combined purchase price of $175.6 million and a total site area of 11.1 hectares. Currently 94% leased, with existing improvements providing steady holding income, the new properties offer a range of immediate and longer-term redevelopment options.
1 At 31 March 2022 $10 million of the $75 million purchase remains subject to the satisfaction of a subdivision condition, expected to occur in FY23.
Following the Trust’s financial year end, the Sleepyhead manufacturing facility at 41-71 Great South Road in Ōtāhuhu was also unconditionally contracted for $49.35 million. With settlement expected later in May 2022, the four hectare property is a medium term redevelopment opportunity.
With a combination of greenfield and brownfield sites now within the portfolio, GMT’s future development pipeline is estimated to total over 400,000 sqm of urban logistics space.
A well-capitalised balance sheet has enabled the Trust to grow sustainably. Low gearing and substantial liquidity have provided the financial flexibility to target complementary acquisitions and commit to new development projects.
Ongoing capital management initiatives have added further liquidity and extended the range of funding sources available to GMT. They include:
Both the wholesale bond and green bond were successful new issues, achieved at competitive margins that reflect fixed annual interest rates of 3.656% and 4.74% respectively.
1 Following GMT’s FY22 balance date.
The creation of a Sustainable Finance Framework to support the first issue of green bonds reinforces our commitment to delivering sustainable business outcomes. It provides a platform for future debt issues that will finance new Green Star rated development projects and other initiatives that improve the environmental performance of the portfolio.
At 31 March 2022, the weighted term to expiry across all the Trust’s drawn debt was 4.6 years.
GMT is benefitting from a rapidly growing digital economy and sustained demand for warehouse and logistics space close to consumers.
Significant new leasing, high occupancy levels, continued rental growth, further development progress and strategic acquisitions have all contributed to the Trust’s strong operating performance and record statutory profit.
While the pandemic and other downside risks are likely to constrain economic activity over the short to medium term, the quality and scale of the portfolio, together with low gearing and focused investment strategy, give us confidence about the year ahead.
Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director
Chief Financial Officer