UBS Asset Management’s Real Estate & Private Markets (REPM) business has been investing in real estate for over 75 years, having launched its first real estate fund as early as 1943. Since then, the business has grown steadily, expanding the universe and scope of its real estate investments and adopting a truly diversified business model. On an assets under management basis, the business is one of the leading global real estate investment managers today. REPM’s capabilities include core, value add and, increasingly, opportunistic strategies on a global, regional and country basis.

These are offered through open- and closed-end private (unlisted) funds, fund of funds, individually managed (separate) accounts, REITs and publicly traded real estate securities globally. The business actively manages direct investments in the hotel, industrial, multi-family/residential, office and retail real estate sectors, as well as in farmland in the US – a business that specialises in the acquisition, management and disposition of agricultural real estate investments.

Sector forecasts

Industrial: Historically high demand is supporting industrial fundamentals with availability rates closing in on 20-year lows and rental growth well above average in many markets. New development is increasing, which suggests that rents will grow at a slower pace next year. There are a series of tradeoffs on the demand side. Rising tariffs, trade uncertainty, slowing growth in global economies and US manufacturing could offset some of the demand generated by the expanding e-commerce segment. Change is unlikely to be immediate. Effects will vary by industry and region. Positive expectations for the US economy, supportive consumer spending and a maturing ecommerce market will likely keep industrial in favour with investors and lenders.

Office: Office fundamentals are in a slow recovery, supported by strong job growth and profitable businesses but hampered by structural changes in demand. Shifting conditions in the growth of office-using employers temper the possibilities for faster growth. Publishers, advertisers and commercial banks are not adding jobs like they once did. Emerging office tenants, like high- tech and labs, are growing quickly but are too small to overcome lacklustre demand from behemoth traditional tenants. Delivery of new office buildings is expected to remain just below average; yet, capital expenditure requirements are increasing for US office buildings. Rising costs to add amenities and release vacant space will likely support income growth but not cash flow. If economic growth continues, office properties should experience level vacancy rates and inflationary income growth. 

Retail: Retail sector fundamentals continue to face structural headwinds from changing consumer preferences and expanding purchasing channels. With low unemployment and moderate debt burdens, consumers are spending money and should continue to drive growth in retail sales. Demand for space is expected to continue at a modest pace for neighbourhood, community and strip centres, supported by improving incomes and tightening labour markets. High-end malls perform better than their lower-quality counterparts; yet, uncertainty about the cost to transition to more mixed and entertainment uses is likely adding upward pressure on cap rates. On the supply front, construction has been low since the recession, as retailers slow net store openings in the face of uncertainty about the balance between physical store presence and e-commerce. Looking ahead, income growth is likely to be flat but with a wide range around the average.

Global: The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the global real estate market. Real estate values have shown some declines but held up well given the magnitude of the economic downturn. The market has been supported by swift and sizeable intervention by central banks and governments. The rotation online across the economy has affected most parts of the real estate market. Bricks and mortar retail has suffered as online shopping has been further turbo-charged, while demand for the logistics facilities needed to fulfil online shopping orders has increased. Offices have been impacted by the switch to mass home working and we expect this to continue to have an impact even once the pandemic has passed. Construction has been constrained and broadly the supply-side response has been muted this cycle, particularly in Europe. There has been a significant drop in real estate transaction volumes in 2020 due to uncertainty over pricing and as travel restrictions and social distancing requirements have impinged on the physical part of the transaction process.

Looking forward the outlook depends very much on how the virus evolves and its impact on the economy. A vaccination becoming available should curb the pandemic and allow the economy to recover, which would be supportive of real estate markets. However, the resilient appeal of global real estate remains, driven by a number of factors: ongoing low bond yields; the hunt for steady income; the importance of asset diversification; and a need for stability. Income returns tend to be quite stable over time, both within and across markets, while capital growth can vary tremendously depending on a market’s stage in the cycle. Global real estate remains attractive relative to other asset classes in the sustained low rate environment and provides the income and low volatility which many investors desire. Lower leverage and less exuberant pricing for lower quality real estate also means the asset class is less at risk than in the last cycle.

Performance verification

Source: UBS Asset Management, Real Estate & Private Markets; September 2020. Past performance is not a guide to future performance.


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