Commercial properties are fast becoming stranded across Europe

COPENHAGEN – Fund managers overseeing commercial real estate say significant chunks of their portfolios hold assets that can now be considered stranded due to energy efficiency requirements being rolled out in Europe.

A study published by Deepki, a data intelligence firm that focuses on energy efficiency, found that more than half of the roughly 250 European commercial real estate portfolio managers surveyed acknowledge that more than 30 per cent of their assets are currently stranded.

“These are buildings that have lost their value due to poor energy performance,” the authors wrote in their report published on June 19.

The asset managers, who oversee a combined €226 billion (S$328 billion) in the UK, Germany, France, Spain and Italy, are responding to stricter energy efficiency requirements that are only now taking effect.

The European Union just passed its Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, which forms part of a growing array of net-zero regulations.

Banks in the EU are already reacting by setting stricter conditions around commercial real estate financing. BNP Paribas, the EU’s largest bank, now targets cuts that may be as deep as 41 per cent of the emissions intensity of its portfolio through 2030.

Others, including Banco Santander, Barclays, ING Groep and NatWest Group, have either already taken – or are exploring – similar measures.

Mr Vincent Bryant, chief executive of Deepki, said he regularly sees banks raising the cost of borrowing for commercial real estate clients that do not live up to green energy standards.

To manage such risks, banks are increasingly relying on tools such as the Carbon Risk Real Estate Monitor, or CRREM, to screen clients.

Banks are telling clients that if they do not follow CRREM, interest rates will be as much as 15 basis points higher per year, Mr Bryant said. Conversely, those that perform well stand to see their borrowing costs go down, he added.

The development is playing out as the commercial market struggles to right itself after years of turbulence due to higher interest rates and volatile post-pandemic occupancy rates.

Mr Bryant says the Deepki survey indicates that energy-related headaches are likely to grow for property owners. Half of the managers surveyed said a further 20 per cent to 40 per cent of their real estate portfolios are at risk of becoming stranded assets in the next three years.

Data gathered by Deepki, which operates in 65 countries and whose clients span pension funds to insurers, asset managers and banks, indicate that managers whose properties are not meeting new green standards increasingly risk having to sell at a loss.

“We see daily examples of clients that face additional discounts when they sell an asset,” Mr Bryant said. And that is “due to the fact that the building is stranded, and it comes on top of other issues such as the vacancy or the modernity or the location of the buildings”. BLOOMBERG

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