State-owned investment funds invested the least in real estate in eight years in 2020, shying away from offices and hotels in particular, as the coronavirus crisis and Brexit sapped appetite.
In contrast, infrastructure, the other main real asset, pulled in $53.2 billion of investments from sovereign wealth and public pension funds during the year, only slightly down from the year before, the data from Global SWF, a financial boutique, showed.
Of the total $30.7 billion property investment in 2020, more than a third was funnelled into logistics, such as warehousing, the data showed.
“SOIs (sovereign-owned investors) see that the long-term infrastructural needs are going to be approximately the same but are pivoting towards logistics and away from offices in anticipation of a potential permanent change in working culture,” Global SWF said in its annual report.
Social distancing measures imposed by governments in various parts of the world in response to the pandemic have left prime office blocks empty, hotels half-vacant and retailers struggling to stay afloat.
It has also triggered sovereign funds to reassess a segment that has long been a mainstay of their strategies.
Offices accounted for $5.3 billion of their investment in 2020, nearly half the level of 2019, while hotels attracted $1.5 billion, down from $4 billion the year before, the data showed.
Offices had been losing their attraction for sovereign funds since Brexit prompted them to stop spending on prime London real estate, the report said, noting that investment in hotels in 2020 was half of 2015’s total.
“Real estate and infrastructure are still an important part of the portfolio of SOIs and will continue to be so,” the report said. “However, we have seen a decrease in the number of deals related to real assets, from almost half in 2015, to a little more than a third in 2020.”
Within infrastructure, transport accounted for the largest segment of investment by state-owned investors in 2020, 39% of all investments, despite temporary restrictions on travel imposed during the year.