(From L-R) Ng Hsueh Ling (Keppel REIT), Ho Sing (Starhill Global REIT), Soong Tuck Yin (Macquarie Securities), Ronald Tay (Ascott REIT), and Koh Wee Lih (AIMS AMP Capital Industrial REIT).(From L-R) Ng Hsueh Ling (Keppel REIT), Ho Sing (Starhill Global REIT), Soong Tuck Yin (Macquarie Securities), Ronald Tay (Ascott REIT), and Koh Wee Lih (AIMS AMP Capital Industrial REIT).

Amid a slowing economy, Singapore REITs are generally well-positioned to weather the downturn and adapt to industry disruptors across sectors that they operate in, said the CEOs of four REIT managers during a media roundtable hosted by Macquarie Securities on 31 August.

The session was attended by Koh Wee Lih, Ronald Tay, Ho Sing and Ng Hsueh Ling, CEOs of the managers for AIMS AMP Capital Industrial REIT, Ascott Residence Trust (Ascott REIT), Starhill Global REIT, and Keppel REIT respectively.

On the industrial front, the drop in global commodities meant some multinationals had reduced their space needs in Singapore but there is rising demand from Singapore companies, said Koh.

“Growing trends such as online retail has also created new opportunities for the industrial REIT sector. Whether you buy from Orchard Road or online, the fulfilment is carried out by warehouses so it will benefit the industrial sector, particularly the warehouse and logistics segment”, he added.

Stahilll Global REIT too has said that it remains unfazed on the growing popularity of online retail. “We remain strong because of our prime locations and tenant mix while catering to a differentiated segment of retail”, said Ho.

“In fact, online shopping has actually helped Singapore retail by educating consumers on new brands overseas, so that ups the game for retail and increases the opportunities where we can push for better shopping experiences and new tenant mix”, he added.

With regards to demand for hospitality properties and the effects of disruptors, Ascott REIT commented that it targets a different market segment than those who use services such as Airbnb.

“As a majority of Ascott REIT’s business is from corporate travellers, we do not see a significant impact on our business by sharing economy providers that appeal more to leisure travellers”, said Tay, adding that the REIT’s sponsor has also embraced the effect of disruptions by investing in Tujia, China’s largest online apartment sharing platform.

However compliance costs remain a challenge for Singapore REITs and the CEOs have reiterated the call for REITs to be differentiated from financial institutions in terms of scrutiny.

“I hope we maintain a good regulatory and compliance environment for attracting global capital into Singapore REITs”, said Ng, who added that Keppel REIT remains in good stead despite the slowing demand in office space due to a strategy of adopting forward renewals and lease extensions for existing tenants.

By Ridzwan Rahmat

Ridzwan has been analysing REITs and business trusts since 2008, and personally manages a portfolio comprising mainly of SGX-listed REITs. He founded REITsWeek in 2013.