Q&A: Panattoni opens up on funding model, development strategy and finding sites to feed the "hungry beast"

Article by React News, written by

Guy Montague-Jones, Analysis Editor

 

When Panattoni first entered the UK market with the purchase of First Industrial in 2017, the company’s focus on speculative development raised a few eyebrows.

Would it put rents under pressure by flooding the market with new stock? Five years on, the answer to that question is a resounding no. Panattoni has rapidly established itself as a leading force in the market, reaping the rewards from the UK’s logistics boom, at the same time as continuing to grow its presence on the continent.

Despite its growing scale, Panattoni has remained largely in the shadows, rarely speaking out in the press, giving little away on its financial model and strategic direction. In a rare interview, Nick Cripps, head of capital markets, UK, breaks this silence, giving the lowdown on Panattoni’s funding model, its approach to managing risk and future plans.

 

Now that you’ve been at Panattoni for more than a year, how are you finding the role and how do you form part of the UK and European business?

I joined Panattoni to head the capital markets team in the UK and also as a European director with responsibilities for managing our capital partners from across the globe who have investment strategies in Europe.

My role is made up of two key parts. Firstly, I am charged with facilitating our international investor relationships and those mandates that are actively deploying across Europe. Within this I am responsible for ensuring an efficient execution process through the transaction management of multiple projects across our platform. I work very closely with my colleagues across our international network, especially those in Europe, as the majority of our investors adopt pan-European or even global strategies. Since joining, I have been amazed by the scale of Panattoni, the market and technical expertise, and the incredible depth of our occupier and capital relationships.

The second responsibility I have is to assist in the formation of new investment strategies and the origination of new capital relationships. As a 35-year-old business with a US heritage, we have a large number of established joint venture partnerships; however, we actively seek to form new partnerships, especially where it will help us expand our platform.

Panattoni’s model allows us to cater for core, core-plus and value-add investment strategies and we pride ourselves on being the largest provider of direct investment opportunities internationally for industrial and logistics.

 

How does the UK fit in with your continental European business? You’ve focused a lot on the larger end of the market in the UK in recent years, but do you expect to shift the focus more towards the continent in future?

The UK forms an integral part of our global platform, not just European.

In Europe, we are active with a diverse range of investment strategies, most of which are cross-border and operate in harmony with occupier supply chains, of which the UK is an essential component.

Since Panattoni’s arrival in the UK, we have focused on larger lot sizes, where we have high conviction and still believe the market dynamics to be very favourable. This certainly doesn’t prohibit us from looking at the smaller end of the market or indeed other industrial sub-sectors away from e-commerce and logistics. However, at the moment this is where we have been seeing the volume.

If you are looking to build a truly diversified logistics platform or portfolio, you need to understand the make-up of international supply chains. You can’t approach pan-European logistics adopting an office or retail investment philosophy and simply focus on the key gateway cities. European logistics is all about products or goods moving along the supply chain, and that means you have to view Europe as one territory. As far as the occupiers are concerned, the continent is borderless. There’s no friction when it comes to the movement of goods across countries, which means a variety of dynamics are at play when it comes to occupiers deciding on where they want to be located. Ultimately, our objective is to be where the occupiers want to be, so understanding these dynamics is critical.

 

Can you reveal a bit more about Panattoni’s funding model and how the business has been able to grow so quickly, particularly in the UK?

We have access to multiple pools of capital through a series of mandates and joint venture partnerships. A number of these are deep-rooted capital relationships with large investors in the US, Canada, Asia and Europe, most of whom are seeking scale and breadth across the continent, all of which we can provide.

The benefit of our platform is that it gives us a global perspective, which is fundamental to our operation as it helps us identify emerging trends in both the capital and occupier markets. It gives us visibility across these markets, allowing us to adapt to a diverse set of geographical markets, dependent on local trends and dynamics. Where the occupiers want to be, the capital follows, and having this flexibility in our structure allows us to allocate capital into the markets where we see the greatest occupational demand.

In 2017, Panattoni spotted an opportunity in the UK logistics market and merged with First Industrial, an established developer, which allowed us to expand our footprint here and become the largest speculative developer in the UK. By doing this we positioned ourselves to capitalise on the rapid growth in occupier and investor demand for logistics space.

We have maintained our position as Europe’s largest developer for the last five years. This has given us the foundation to continue our expansion into new markets, which remains a key objective of ours.

 

Panattoni is best known for the size of its speculative development programme. How do you manage the risk involved and do you have any concerns about how the business would fare if the market were to cool?

The motivation to develop speculatively, and at scale, in the UK, was frequently questioned; however, the rationale is very simple – it is found in occupational activity. The convenience and reliability of logistics with the efficiency of its delivery channels continues to drive demand – principally through e-commerce and omni-channel retailing. The UK is one of the most sophisticated and prolific online economies in the world and our on-demand society has got itself hooked on instant gratification. Waiting for a build-to-suit project is simply not feasible for many occupiers operating in the extremely fast-paced and competitive e-commerce arena.

When Panattoni entered the UK in 2017, build-to-suit activity represented around 75% of the new build market, with speculative development making up the balance. This was almost the exact inverse to what we were experiencing in the US, which for us highlighted that the market was set for change. The UK market is now much more equal, with a broadly 50:50 split between speculative and build-to-suit, and we anticipate this trend continuing to shift towards a more US approach to development which favours speculative projects.

Today, we are seeing identical trends play out across Europe with customers needing immediate space as they rationalise and expand their supply chains, and we are responding to this – we currently have 32 million sq ft under construction across Europe alone.

Our corporate structure means we have the flexibility to adapt and respond to the ever-evolving occupier needs. Panattoni is a mature business with far-reaching expertise – we cover everything within the industrial universe, be it manufacturing, light industrial, data centres, cold storage or assembly plants, in addition to e-commerce and logistics.

 

How does this work on an individual scheme level, particularly for large projects like the Honda plant in Swindon where you plan to invest £700m? 

We are one of a small handful of developers that can operate at this scale and deliver a site of this size and complexity. Given the various stakeholders involved and the various local and national sensitivities, confidence in our deliverability was paramount. With an extensive network of capital relationships looking for sizeable commitments such as this, we were quickly able to secure and finance this project on behalf of one of our long-standing joint venture partnerships.

Panattoni plans to invest £700m in one of its largest logistics schemes to date after buying the former Honda plant in Swindon

Panattoni plans to invest £700m in one of its largest logistics schemes to date after buying the former Honda plant in Swindon

 

 

How did you approach 2020’s landmark £200m sale of the Amazon warehouse near Swindon?

This is an example of reacting to an opportunity to maximise investor returns by recapitalising a project with a much lower cost of capital through a forward-funding structure. Because of our model, we were able to decisively adjust our exit strategy based on the specific merits of the situation.

We had originally intended to deliver the site through a speculative build programme, but were subsequently approached by Amazon, which wanted to partner with us to develop the whole site for its sole occupation. We are one of Amazon’s largest delivery partners globally, and before agreeing the deal with the company at Swindon, we had just completed delivering the largest Amazon facility in Poland – in Gwilice – which is a four-storey, 2.1m sq ft facility. We currently have more than 70 active projects with Amazon in the US alone.

At Swindon, we were able to quickly meet Amazon’s delivery requirements for what was the largest single-asset logistics letting and forward funding deal ever negotiated in the UK.

 

Are we likely to see more sales in the UK as your projects progress? With investor demand so strong, are portfolio sales likely to be on the cards for Panattoni?

Nothing is off the cards. We recently disposed of our second unit at Panattoni Park Luton. Following the letting of the warehouse to Ocado on a 20-year term, it felt an opportune time to capitalise on the insatiable demand for logistics opportunities in close proximity to London. This traded in November 2021 at a record low net initial yield of 3.00% for this income profile outside London. At the moment, however, our primary objective is to build our project pipeline and delivery across the UK and Europe, so we can continue to meet the burgeoning occupier demand.

Over the last 18 months logistics has found itself at the top of the shopping list for our investors, not only because of its compelling growth story, but also due to the uncertainties surrounding other mainstream real estate sectors. Many investors are trying to rebalance their portfolios, reweighting their sector allocations in favour of industrial. The logistics sector was already feeling the beneficial tailwinds of e-commerce prior to the pandemic. However, the response to COVID by all property participants has been unequivocal, with a number of other dynamics coming to light in response to COVID that are further increasing occupational activity.

 

When looking to sell assets, are you likely to conduct formal processes or seek out off-market deals?

When it comes to selling assets, we don’t always have a fixed agenda and we are constantly working on a number of strategies simultaneously. Our approach to exit depends entirely on the business plan for an individual project, but, as with Amazon Swindon, we remain flexible with a focus on maximising investor returns. Whether we decide to sell on or off market will generally be dictated by the overall merits of the situation and the market dynamics at the time. Adopting either approach might also be accretive to a wider strategy of ours at that point in time.

Panattoni Amazon Swindon

Legal & General forward purchased Panattoni’s £200m+ Amazon-let warehouse near Swindon in 2020

 

 

Given that the outlook for the occupier market is so positive, is Panattoni planning to recycle capital more aggressively in order to put more money to work in new developments?

We’re focused on increasing our development programme and we have no need to recycle capital in order to expand the pipeline. The biggest challenge we have currently is finding good quality deliverable sites that allow us to react quickly to occupational demand. We’re currently working on a very exciting pipeline of opportunities but we’re a hungry beast and constantly on the lookout to expand our footprint, especially here in the UK.

 

How do you see Panattoni evolving over time? For example, with the launch of your own funds?

We’re a very ambitious business and are always looking at ways in which we can grow, however we are committed to remaining a pure play traditional developer-trader.

In our 35-year history we have focused on providing direct investment opportunities for investors, not creating funds for indirect investment which could compete with our investor base or restrict our ability to grow.

We have worked hard to build up a diverse range of capital relationships in the US, Canada, Europe and Asia, with a broad range of investor types, and this business model continues to be one of our USPs.

 

Fully automated warehouse for ViaPharma at Panattoni Park Prague Airport II Green Solutions:

BREEAM Outstanding at Panattoni Park Cheb, Czech Republic for Real Digital Green Solutions:

Fitting largest solar roof in the UK for M&S at EMDC​

Panattoni’s team developed the 900,000 sq ft solar array at the Marks & Spencer’s distribution centre in Derbyshire, making this the biggest in Europe at the time of installation. The array will generate over 5,000MWh of electricity per year and reduce the building’s carbon footprint by 48,000 tonnes over 20 years. The array provides almost 25% of the energy the distribution centre needs, making it nearly self-sufficient during daytime operations.

The Marks & Spencer distribution centre also has a solar wall that allows the building to passively regulate its own internal temperature, and the enabling work included 92,000 tonnes of concrete broken out and recycled on site.

These measures earned the building a carbon neutral certificate and BREEAM ‘Excellent’ accreditation.

Delivery of Energy Park in Kettering, UK

The extension to the existing Burton Wold Wind Farm involved the installation of nine GE 1.6MW turbines, the most efficient available when commissioned, to create a new 14.4MW wind farm at the site.

The wind farm saves an average of 12,831 tonnes of CO2 each year. In its remaining 15 years of life it is expected to save another 201,000 tonnes of CO2.

As part of this project, leading members of the team also designed a prototype for local energy generation that linked renewable energy technologies, local businesses and the local community in a virtuous circle of production and consumption.

Melissa Berry

Finance Assistant

Melissa works within the Finance and Accounts department at Panattoni in the UK. Her responsibilities range from facilitating payments for the development projects in the UK, assisting with accounting activities of all invoice reports and expenses from the UK teams. Prior to joining Panattoni, Melissa achieved a First Class BA Honours from Queen Mary University of London in History as well as a Masters in Law.

Faye Burrows

London Business Support

Faye works within Panattoni’s London Business Support team, where her role revolves around a robust administrative skill set. She ensures consistent organisation within the London office and team. Faye’s great attention to detail, contributes to the smooth operation of day-to-day activities, maintaining a well-ordered and efficient work environment. As well as this she consistently manages corporate schedules and coordinating essential tasks for all areas of the Panattoni team.

Jordan Madden-Nadeau

Financial Accountant

Jordan serves as a Financial Accountant for Panattoni. He is responsible for the accounting operations within the UK and for its projects, with a particular emphasis on ensuring tax compliance and facilitating with the audit process. A qualified member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), he brings over five years of experience in the property industry to his role. 

Grace Dignum

London Business Support

Grace works within Panattoni’s London Business Support team and plays a pivotal role in ensuring the company’s seamless operations.
Working closely with the team, she contributes to the efficient functioning of the London office while offering administrative support to various members of the business. Grace also works alongside the marketing team, where her specific function involves assisting in various UK events and marketing initiatives. 

Lydia Room

Marketing Associate

Lydia works within the marketing team as a Marketing Associate. Lydia is responsible for assisting the formulation of both corporate and scheme related material for Panattoni in the UK, alongside working with Francesca on the implementation of new marketing strategies. Lydia has a first class degree in Marketing & Communications along with a strong background expertise and practice in graphic design.

Harriet Wing

Marketing & Events Manager

Harriet is the Marketing and Events Manager at Panattoni, she is responsible for co-ordinating all events at Panattoni UK. Harriet’s impeccable organisation skills are integral to making all Panattoni events as seamless as possible. Harriet works very closely with the marketing team overseeing the consistency of Panattoni’s core values and brand positioning and that they are upheld throughout Panattoni’s messaging.

Francesca Linnitt

Head of UK Marketing

Francesca is Head of Marketing for Panattoni in the UK and is responsible for developing the corporate profile and executing marketing strategies for all the UK projects. Francesca’s role includes managing the external communications for Panattoni and bringing new and innovative marketing ideas to fruition. Francesca works closely with the Panattoni European marketing team to ensure a seamless brand across Europe and has brought many new ideas into the business.

Josh Butler

Senior Project Manager

Josh is an experienced project manager at Panattoni with over 15 years’ experience in the industry, he has delivered large scale speculative and build to suit projects across the whole of the UK. Josh has been heavily involved in large site remediation schemes over the course of his career and is from an engineering background. Josh has an extensive knowledge and expertise’s of onsite delivery.

Stephen Vickers

Commercial Delivery Director

Stephen manages the commercial delivery of our developments on a national basis and works within the project management team to deliver the high complex construction projects. He has spent more than 30 years in the industrial and logistics sectors, delivering a wide range of developments in the UK and Europe. He also has a vast knowledge of delivering sustainably accredited facilities, working with BREEAM, ESG, Net Zero and GRESB frameworks.

Owen Follett

Project Delivery Director

Owen has an impressive track record in the delivery of large scale build-to-suit projects with a particular emphasis on the delivery of industrial facilities for global automotive, aerospace and e-commerce occupiers. He has been responsible for the development of over 20m sq ft of new build industrial space in the UK and internationally. Projects include new automotive plants, aerospace manufacturing facilities, research and development centres and multi-modal logistics developments. Owen now works with the development team on a national basis in the delivery of highly complex construction and infrastructure projects.

Mark Powell

Project Delivery Director

Mark is a highly experienced delivery Director with over 20 years-experience in the industry, he has delivered both speculative and build-to-suit projects for a broad cross section of clients, ranging from aviation to manufacturing. Mark is capable of quickly assessing projects and implementing strategies to ensure all aspects of the scheme are delivered to exacting standards. A Fellow of The Chartered Institute of Building, Mark can deliver the most complex and challenging schemes.

Peter Carter-Wall

Construction Director

Peter is in charge of the on-site delivery and quality control of all construction projects at Panattoni. Peter has over 20 years experience in the project management sector and now specialises in the delivery of large-scale industrial buildings, site infrastructure & remediation. Peter has worked with the management team for over 10 years and is highly regarded in the market, with a reputation for his meticulous and diligent approach to construction management.

Simon Willgress

Project Delivery Director

Simon is an experienced member of the Panattoni project management team, and has extensive client side experience in the logistics sector, having spent 13 years working within leading FTSE 100 companies. Simon is responsible for all the technical due diligence and implementation of the development programme on his projects and brings highly valuable experience of automated warehouse developments. Simon is particularly interested in low carbon design development.

Ian Anderson

Head of Project Management

Ian is a highly regarded and experienced Head of Project Management, with responsibility for procuring Panattoni’s land acquisition, build-to-suit and speculative build programme. Ian combines his practical and commercial approach, with a keen eye for detail, ensuring that all projects are delivered to the highest standard. Ian has particular expertise in the negotiation and contract tender for large scale industrial buildings, with a background in structural engineering. In the last 18 years, Ian has gained considerable experience and market knowledge in the industry.

Tanya Thewlis

Capital Markets Business Manager

Tanya is responsible for providing operational support to the Capital Markets team in the UK. Tanya assists with the formulation of capital and financing solutions and helps to maintain investor relationships. Tanya has 20 years in operational support which offers a wide skill set that allows her to assist the capital markets team in smooth operations and client management.

Tom Watkins

UK Capital Markets

Tom is an integral part of the UK Capital Markets team and works closely with Nick Cripps, providing financial assistance and analysis. At Panattoni Tom’s role includes the preparation of financial appraisals for acquisitions, preparing investment documents for Panattoni’s capital partners and consolidating Investment Committee Reports for Panattoni’s internal approval process. Tom is a member of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (MRICS).

Oliver Winchcombe

Head of Portfolio Management and ESG

Oliver manages the property and asset management of the UK portfolio, working closely with the project management and finance teams. He is an experienced property manager, having spent many years with specialist property management consultancy firms, and working on behalf of large institutional funds. He is also a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (MRICS).

Indy Gill

Financial Controller

Indy is the Financial Controller for Panattoni in the UK. He is responsible for the accounting activities of Panattoni and its development projects in the UK, with a focus on consulting with external auditors and tax advisors. Indy is a member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) with many years of experience in the property industry.

Scott Meakin

Development Surveyor
North West & Yorkshire

Scott is a development surveyor in the North West and Yorkshire development team. Scott has over 5 years’ experience in commercial property. He started his career in real estate consultancy where he qualified as a Chartered Surveyor. More recently, Scott has been involved in the delivery of large-scale industrial & logistics developments across the UK. Scott’s focus will be to support with the acquisition of new sites and help deliver new projects.

Ethan Greene

Development Manager
Southern England & London

Ethan is a Development Manager at Panattoni and works in the Southern England & London development team, helping to expand the business in the region. Ethan’s primary focus is to support with the acquisition of new sites and help to deliver new build development projects. Prior to Panattoni, Ethan studied Business and Economics at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, where he graduated with a First Class Honours degree.

Alex Mitchell

Development Manager
South East & London

Alex’s role at Panattoni is to deliver new build development projects and assist in the leasing of existing speculative development. Alex is focused on London and the South East region, and works closely with Anthony Watkins in supporting the national team to expand the business. Prior to Panattoni, Alex worked for Lambert Smith Hampton as a Chartered Surveyor advising a number of blue-chip occupiers on their nationwide acquisition and build-to-suit programme.

David McGougan

Development Director
South East

David has over 17 years’ experience in customer-centric, high-quality industrial and logistics development. David is responsible for the growth of both speculative and build-to-suit developments in the South East. David has a vast knowledge of the market and has a track record of delivering over £270 million of build-to-suit and speculative developments.

Gregg Titley

Head of Development
East and West Midlands

Gregg heads the development growth strategy in the East and West Midlands region. Gregg has more than 25 years’ experience in delivering projects for blue-chip customers on both speculative and build-to-suit basis. Gregg has specialised in large-scale delivery of bespoke and sustainable development facilities.

Andrew Preston

Head of Development
North Midlands & Yorkshire

Andrew has over 15 years experience in the industrial real estate market. Andrew’s role at Panattoni is to accelerate the land acquisition programme for speculative development across the wider Midlands and Yorkshire region. Andrew has a broad breadth of experience in the commercial property sector, with a detailed knowledge of the leasing and development process and is currently responsible for some of the UK’s largest speculative development projects.

Daniel Burn

Head of Development
North West & Yorkshire

Dan leads Panattoni’s Northern office, based in Central Manchester. Dan is responsible for accelerating the company’s land purchase, build-to-suit and spec build programme across both the North West and Yorkshire Region. With 20 years transactional experience, Dan is well recognised within the market, having been involved in many of the UK’s pre-eminent industrial & logistics schemes. Since working in the sector, Dan has gained a reputation for his approachable, pragmatic and customer focused approach to business.

James Watson

Head of Development
Southern England & London

James has 15 years experience in the property market and is responsible for expanding the business in the South East region. James’s role at Panattoni is to originate and deliver both large scale speculative and build-to-suit projects. In the last three years, James has delivered over £350 million of new build projects, including some of the largest logistics build-to-suit projects in the market.

Tony Watkins

Head of Development
South East & London

Tony is responsible for expanding the company’s land and speculative build platform in the South East. Tony specialises in the execution and delivery of major industrial schemes. Tony is highly accomplished in a variety of surveying sectors, with over 25 years experience. Prior to joining the Team, Tony has held senior positions in the clean-tech and waste management industry, having previously been CEO for a bio-fuels and waste-to-energy and renewable energy business.

Nick Cripps

Head of UK Capital Markets
Director Capital Markets Europe

Nick is responsible for heading up the Capital Markets team in the UK, with responsibility for the capitalisation of projects across the UK and Europe. He forms part of the Global Capital Markets network and works closely with Panattoni’s European operating platform helping originate and structure capital solutions and manage global and Pan-European investor relationships.

Oliver Choppin

Finance Director

Oliver is the Finance Director for Panattoni in the UK, overseeing the company’s financial strategies and is responsible for all financial aspects of the UK business including structuring, debt finance, deploying capital allocations, he also works closely with Panattoni’s European finance platform. Oliver has a wealth of experience in real estate finance having spent over 20 years in various treasury and accounting roles and been involved in over £7 billion of financing deals in both public and private debt markets. He is a fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (FCCA).

Oliver Bertram

Head of National Development

Oliver is Head of National Development for Panattoni in the UK and is responsible for the national transactional platform in the UK. Oliver is recognised within the sector as a market specialist and is known for his personable approach to business and has earned a reputation for his commitment to customer service. Oliver has completed a number of significant industrial and logistics development projects across the UK.

Fergie Taylor

Head of Development Delivery

Fergie is responsible for managing the Panattoni UK delivery platform and has been instrumental in both establishing and guiding the Panattoni supply chain and project management team. With over 30 years of experience in the logistics sector, Fergie is recognised as one of the leading delivery directors in the market, with a keen interest in both low carbon design and sustainable development. Fergie has an unparalleled track record in the delivery of major industrial facilities and has procured an extensive range of new build logistics space for a variety of blue-chip customers.

Matthew Byrom

Managing Director UK

Matthew is Managing Director of Panattoni, representing the UK on both the European and Global Investment Committees that guide the strategies and day to day operations of the business. He also leads in the identification of new business opportunities and company investment. Since forming First Industrial in 2009, which merged with Panattoni in 2017, Matthew has continued to build on his reputation for the delivery of major development projects in the UK while continuing to grow the business.

Sara Lewis

UK Business Support

Sara works within Panattoni’s Business Support team. With over 10 years’ experience at Panattoni, Sara supports the Executive Team with the day-to-day operations of the business. Sara has developed her skill set to assist across the wider Panattoni business throughout the UK.

panattoni_wind_turbine

Delivery of Energy Park in Kettering, UK

The extension to the existing Burton Wold Wind Farm involved the installation of nine GE 1.6MW turbines, the most efficient available when commissioned, to create a new 14.4MW wind farm at the site.

The wind farm saves an average of 12,831 tonnes of CO2 each year. In its remaining 15 years of life it is expected to save another 201,000 tonnes of CO2.

As part of this project, leading members of the team also designed a prototype for local energy generation that linked renewable energy technologies, local businesses and the local community in a virtuous circle of production and consumption.

Fitting largest solar roof in the UK for M&S at EMDC​

Panattoni’s team developed the 900,000 sq ft solar array at the Marks & Spencer’s distribution centre in Derbyshire, making this the biggest in Europe at the time of installation. The array will generate over 5,000MWh of electricity per year and reduce the building’s carbon footprint by 48,000 tonnes over 20 years. The array provides almost 25% of the energy the distribution centre needs, making it nearly self-sufficient during daytime operations.

The Marks & Spencer distribution centre also has a solar wall that allows the building to passively regulate its own internal temperature, and the enabling work included 92,000 tonnes of concrete broken out and recycled on site.

These measures earned the building a carbon neutral certificate and BREEAM ‘Excellent’ accreditation.