Firm of the Year: Global
One deal stood head and shoulders above the rest in 2019: GLP’s $18.7 billion sale of its US logistics portfolio to Blackstone. Fittingly, the parties involved finished one and two in the vote for firm of the year, with the Singaporean logistics specialist edging the New York mega manager.
GLP has ridden the tidal wave of capital chasing distribution warehouse assets into the highest echelon of the most recent PERE 100, reporting a rolling five-year fundraise of $17.15 billion in 2019, the third-highest total in the annual ranking.
After exiting the US market, the firm redoubled its commitment to Asia-Pacific, ending the year by launching GLP China Income Partners I to recycle capital in China. It also began laying the groundwork for a new open-end fund in Japan. It formed a $600 million investment partnership with Allianz Real Estate to invest in both countries.
Industry Figure of the Year: Global
1 Ming Mei – GLP
2 Bruce Flatt – Brookfield
3 Gary Whitelaw – BentallGreenOak
Appropriately, the man at the helm of the industry’s top shop has earned his own recognition. Ming Mei, GLP’s co-founder and chief executive, guided the firm as it built its US portfolio from scratch and turned it into the biggest monetization the private real estate industry has ever seen in just five years.
GLP entered the US with an $8.1 billion acquisition of Blackstone’s IndCor platform in 2014. From there it grew its portfolio and flirted with the idea of public offering before inking the deal with Blackstone last year, a transaction that included some former IndCor properties being returned to the New York manager. Mei has also led the Singaporean firm’s expansion into China, Japan, Europe, India and Brazil.
As logistics has emerged as the property type of choice in recent years, GLP has become a marquee manager. The firm saw a great increase in rolling five-year fundraising between 2018 and 2019, according to PERE data, attracting an extra $6.5 billion and cementing its place as the top sector-specific manager in the PERE 100.
Deal of the Year: Global
1 Blackstone – GLP
2 Brookfield – Oaktree
3 SunLife – GreenOak
In a year otherwise dominated by corporate mergers and acquisitions, the top transaction was the sale of a portfolio large enough to rival many real estate operating companies. In fact, GLP nearly spun its US logistics platform into a publicly traded company. Instead, Blackstone pulled together nearly $19 billion from two separate pools of capital – its opportunistic Blackstone Real Estate Partners series and its core-focused, retail vehicle Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust – to keep the assets in private hands.
With the transaction, which closed in the third quarter of last year, GLP was able to achieve a record-setting exit from the US just five years after entering the market, and Blackstone supercharged its return to the logistics space, which began in 2016. The New York firm began offloading some of its recently acquired warehouses in October, through a $3 billion sale to London-based Nuveen Real Estate.
Institutional Investor of the Year: Global
2 Allianz Real Estate
3 AXA IM
Singapore’s $390 billion sovereign wealth fund was a $3 billion-plus net buyer in 2019, closing on nearly $6 billion of acquisitions valued at $10 million or more, according to the data firm Real Capital Analytics.
GIC also rolled out a $1 billion joint venture with Equinix, a California-based REIT that specializes in developing and operating data centers. GIC also partnered with Polymer Connected to develop a center in Jakarta.
Capital Raise of the Year: Global
The Toronto-based asset manager became just the second firm to raise a closed-end real estate fund on more than $10 billion. Brookfield’s Strategic Real Estate Partners III fund started 2019 with a bang, closing on $15 billion in January. In addition to more than 150 institutions, Brookfield tapped non-traditional sources to capitalize BSREP III, including its own publicly traded real estate platform.
Indirect Firm of the Year: Global
1 Madison International Realty
2 CBRE GIP
Madison went on a European buying spree in 2019. That included acquiring a majority stake in a public company, Capital Park, which gave the firm a diversified portfolio in Poland comprised of roughly 2.7 million square feet of lettable area – valued at €490 million – of which 77 percent is in Warsaw.
The New York-based firm also bought a 5 percent stake in a pan-European portfolio owned by the Austrian firm Signa for €12.5 billion. Finally, the firm secured a 3 percent stake in Capital & Counties Properties, a London-based operating company.
Office Investor of the Year: Global
1 Henderson Park
On the back of its debut fund, Henderson Park Real Estate Fund I, which closed on $2.2 billion last year, the London-based manager amassed an office portfolio of 8.6 million square feet throughout Europe. The rising firm also took its value-add strategy to three new markets last year.
It bought a 450,000 square foot building in Munich. In Ireland it acquired a 135,000 square foot mixed-use office space in Dublin as well as a 14-property portfolio secured through a €1.7 billion take-private of Green REIT. It also purchased a portfolio of 11 newly built office buildings in Poland.
Retail Investor of the Year: Global
2 Gaw Capital
3 Oxford Properties
While most investors and managers seek to maintain or minimize their exposure to retail real estate, Brookfield continues to renew its commitment to the property type. In the US, the Toronto-based firm purchased JP Morgan’s stakes in four major malls and sold its stake in a fifth mall to JP Morgan and New York State Teachers Retirement System simultaneously in a roughly $3.5 billion deal. It also bought a 460,000-square-foot mall in Shanghai as part of a $2 billion portfolio acquisition from Greenland Holdings.
Residential Investor of the Year: Global
2 Starwood Capital
3 Allianz Real Estate
The Charleston, South Carolina multifamily expert deepened its exposure to the asset class on both sides of the Atlantic. In Europe, Greystar launched a residential strategy that will target acquisitions and select development opportunities throughout the continent.
It acquired the French student housing manager Acteva, launched its debut UK multifamily development fund with a target of £750 million ($973 million; €893 million) and made entries into both the Spanish and Irish markets.
Meanwhile, it closed Greystar Equity Partners X on $2 billion, making it the largest value-add multifamily fund focused on the US to date.
Hotels & Leisure Investor of the Year: Global
Like retail, some firms have shied away from the hospitality sector of late, as they are wary of its exposure to cyclical fluctuations. However, for Blackstone it is more like logistics, a strong conviction play – at least in certain markets.
In particular, the firm has been drawn to the bright lights of the Las Vegas Strip. Through its listed vehicle, BREIT, it orchestrated a sale and lease-back of the Bellagio from MGM for $4.2 billion last year.
It would go on to execute a similar deal in early 2020 for the MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay with a price tag of $4.6 billion. The mega manager also partnered with the private equity firm Centerbridge Partners to acquire a 65 percent stake in Great Wolf Resorts.
Alternatives Investor of the Year: Global
3 Colony Capital
As investors seek yield in a mature pricing market and managers try to identify assets that will perform well in a downturn, niche properties are becoming an increasingly important part of portfolio construction. Brookfield proved to be a leader in this space in 2019.
The Toronto-based firm acquired Aveo Group, an Australian senior housing business, for $814 million. It purchased a trio of development properties in Spain which will yield 1,400 student beds. In the UK it added 36 student housing properties and five development sites.
Logistics Investor of the Year: Global
In addition to landing the biggest logistics transaction on record, Blackstone also scooped up another 60 million square feet of warehouse property in a $5.9 billion deal with Colony Capital. The New York manager also bundled together 1,000 industrial assets that it had amassed since 2017 and launched an €8 billion last-mile logistics company called Mileway. To cap things off, the firm began monetizing some of its new warehouse property, selling 29 million square feet to Nuveen Real Estate for $3 billion.