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JLL Industrial Outlook: More Ships, More Investment

U.S. supply chains evolve to changing demand.

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When the Panama Canal expansion finally debuts in spring of 2016, it will open to a thriving market that remains hungry for new and efficient distribution center space in nearly every major U.S. market. Retailers and e-commerce companies are already investing in new and larger distribution and fulfillment centers as the U.S. supply chain evolves to meet changing consumer demand and service requirements; especially near key ports, transshipment points and large population centers.

“In 2015, rents and sale prices in many U.S. industrial property markets exceeded historical peak values last seen in 2007 and 2008,” says Craig Meyer, president, industrial brokerage, JLL Americas. “Market conditions will remain strong, and we see no sign of a change in the coming months. Instead, all indicators point to demand again outpacing supply in 2016 with a continuing drop in vacancy rates to new all-time lows.”

Many industrial developments are preleased before ground is even broken and speculative construction is being leased up. These large buildings leased to credit tenants on long-term leases are highly attractive to global investors that are interested in safe and stable property investments.

Global investors – sovereign wealth funds, institutional advisers and insurance companies – have taken billion dollar positions in U.S. industrial portfolios over the last two years and continue to have appetite for investment grade properties. Increasing demand across the U.S. is pushing lease rates and building values higher.

Once unable to allocate enough funds into individual industrial real estate, global investors are now competing for the best industrial deals across the country, as sizeable portfolios that have been built or aggregated over the last five years have traded hands. Offshore capital has been the biggest participant in 2015’s race for U.S. industrial property investment, accounting for more than $11.5 billion in total investment at the end of the third quarter, according to JLL research.

Ownership of industrial real estate is being consolidated in the hands of increasingly fewer buyers, many of them now from outside the U.S. Continued acceleration in foreign direct investment into the industrial segment is expected as equity partners are sought to recapitalize the enormous portfolios acquired in 2015.

“We see this trend set to continue well in to 2016, as the occupiers of much of these portfolios are high-credit, national or multi-national corporations that provide stability and secure returns over long investment hold periods,” Meyer said.

Anticipation of the long-awaited Panama Canal expansion is expected to continue to influence long-term changes in global supply chain dynamics. Many ports have already invested heavily in their infrastructure, with ports in the Eastern U.S. expected to benefit most from Panama Canal expansion over the next decade, especially in seaport markets with the best connectivity to major metropolitan population hubs throughout the country.

“Logistics companies will favor ports with intermodal options to meet flexibility, cost and service requirements to bring products in by ship and transfer to rail or truck to their final destinations,” Meyer said.

In the third quarter of 2015, more than 170 million square feet of industrial space was under construction, up almost 20 percent from the same time last year.  Many large occupiers are driven into new development for lack of quality, existing space options. JLL’s third quarter 2015 U.S. Industrial Outlook report shows that current and projected demand is approximately double that of speculative construction now under way. The report anticipates that net absorption will surpass new completions for the sixth consecutive year in 2016.

“The major industrial hubs throughout the United States, like Chicago, Central Pennsylvania, the Inland Empire, Dallas and Atlanta, have seen a significant increase in industrial development,” Meyer said. “As e-commerce volume is expected to more than double, companies will need to build new efficient warehouses and expand their industrial footprint deeper into urban locations in order to support customer demand for one-day or same-day deliveries.”

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