CEE: Sentiments and Speculations for Logistics

Exclusive insights from GRI’s CEE Industrial & Logistics club meeting

September 19, 2023Real Estate
Written by Helen Richards

The spectre of increasing interest rates and inflation, combined with the geopolitical conflict, continues to cast a shadow over real estate investment in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), creating an unstable climate in the region.

The recent GRI club meeting in Warsaw, CEE Industrial & Logistics, delved into the current state of the Logistics asset class in CEE, examining the prevailing sentiments, regional challenges and opportunities, and factors influencing decision-making.

The conversation will continue at the upcoming GRI Light Industrial & Logistics Europe 2023, on November 8 - 9 in Amsterdam.

Investor Sentiment in CEE

The attitude among real estate investors in CEE is one of caution, often characterised as "wait-and-see." The geopolitical uncertainties stemming from the Russo-Ukrainian War have left investors hesitant about committing capital, especially in eastern regions.

However, sentiment is varied. Some are of the opinion that the conflict has not deterred investors as much as expected. Despite this cautious approach, there remains a thirst for real estate investment in the region, and many expect an evident return of investment by the end of 2023 or early 2024.

Other attendees at the meeting reported that the region is, in fact, currently outperforming overall. Political stability is, of course, desirable, they expressed, but it cannot be a focus.

The current unprecedented, high-interest rates have brought their own set of challenges. Banks are, unsurprisingly, cautious, and are looking for healthy balance sheets to lend. Interest rates hovering around 3.5%, coupled with lending margins, have translated into overall rates of around 5.5%. This has, naturally, impacted Loan-to-Value (LTV) ratios, which are now typically sitting around 50% to 60%.

These factors add complexity to real estate investment, but also opportunities to those with robust balance sheets and a willingness to navigate through the choppiness of the market. Furthermore, signs suggest that the situation is gradually stabilising, raising hopes for the short to mid term.

Local Capital

Historically, capital in the region has come largely from the US, Germany, and South Korea, and they therefore dominate the prime assets in CEE.

The region will continue to benefit from foreign capital and this is important for nurturing stability and opportunities, making it appealing to both foreign and local investors. Poland, in particular, is gaining recognition, attracting not only real estate investments. Microchips manufacturer, Intel, recently made a €4.6 billion commitment for a chip assembly and testing plant. This is a good indicator to foreign players that the market is attractive for investing.

Local capital, however, is also on the scene, and more is on the horizon. It won’t necessarily take the leading role in the market, remaining more within secondary and tertiary assets.

Meeting attendees concurred that local capital is essential to move the market. Amid enthusiasm for the CEE region, one fervent appeal was made: to see more liquidity in the market. Domestic capital invested in the opportunistic Logistics sector, would create activity in the market, and consequently, more liquidity.

Poland was seen as most promising in this respect. Being a well established market and more stable than others in the region, this can attract local investors from other areas of CEE, whose own regions perhaps lack opportunities.
Logistics projects are dominating the pipeline, above any other asset class. (Image: bilanol | Envato)

Logistics Sector Dominance

The aforementioned "wait-and-see" sentiment seems to permeate more in the Office, Hospitality, and Residential asset classes. Amidst the turbulence in these sectors, Logistics has emerged as the most attractive option, and even as the only current option in the eyes of some.

Logistics has enjoyed a dominant position among real estate asset classes in CEE in recent years, and this trend shows no signs of abating. Club meeting attendees confirmed the significant dominance of Logistics projects in their pipeline, far above other asset classes.

With excellent fundamentals, the development of nearshoring in central Europe, and Poland gaining recognition as a distribution hub for the CEE region, there is increasing interest from occupiers, in turn encouraging stability.

Certain subtypes stand out as preferable. A granular portfolio protects against the problem of vacancy, a more real possibility in current times. Vacancy of 10-15% in a granular portfolio is not so problematic, in comparison to big box facilities with single tenant occupancy and long leases.

The choice of location remains a significant determinant of success in the Logistics sector. While Poland and the Czech Republic show strong potential, the Hungarian market may require further development. The Russo-Ukrainian War has had implications, particularly in Eastern Poland and the Baltic regions, which were less attractive even before the conflict. Focusing on established markets like Warsaw and the western parts of Poland appears prudent.

ESG Considerations

ESG compliance has become increasingly relevant and frankly unavoidable in real estate. We are all too familiar with ESG when dealing with Offices and other asset classes. For logistics, some claim it’s not the make-or-break factor. Considering the high costs associated with green buildings, investors must evaluate carefully: What is an appropriate sum to invest in ESG versus ROI?

Perhaps not make-or-break, but Logistics is becoming increasingly exposed to ESG.  Industry has ambitious targets regarding reduction of emissions, and therefore tenants are starting to face increasing ESG pressures from their particular markets and clients. Ultimately, the majority of emissions for companies comes down to their logistics. 

Tenants are, therefore, beginning to demand a lot more in this regard. Logistics relies heavily on tenants, so their say matters. It’s not one size fits all, but should be evaluated on a case by case basis. Some tenants simply don’t want those higher costs that come with ESG, whereas others want to benefit from improved energy efficiency; they want to see solar panels on the term sheets; or they, at least, want to know it’s possible. Meeting these evolving tenant needs is essential to remain competitive.

ESG will be even more imperative in five or ten years from now. (Image: Simmi83 | Envato)

Further to this, the Social aspect of ESG is also relevant for logistics in terms of employee working conditions. Standards are increasing, and it’s essential for investors to keep up to remain competitive.

But will tenants pay? Investors report not having seen a relation between high ESG standards and willingness to pay higher rents. Should investors foot the bill, knowing that the market is going in that direction? The consensus was overtly yes, as it’s important to think ahead. ESG will be even more imperative in five or ten years from now. Non-ESG assets will be very difficult to sell, if not to very opportunistic buyers. Investors must “future-proof” their buildings and think about ease of exit at the end. 

An echoing question during the club meeting was: will banks and lenders provide better financing conditions for ESG-compliant projects? The consensus being that they will not. Rather, ESG-compliant projects attract better financing conditions due to increased competition among banks for these projects.

Different banks have varying requirements and approaches regarding ESG. Some are offering additional funds, or special green CAPEX loans, for example, to make or transform buildings into ESG-compliant buildings. Better financing conditions, however, is not a notable gain for green projects, it is more a matter of future liquidity.


The cautious "wait-and-see" sentiment prevails in Central and Eastern Europe, but optimism about a return on investment in 2023 or 2024 is on the horizon. Logistics stands out as a stable asset class, with ESG considerations and location playing pivotal roles in investment decisions. As the region adapts to changing market dynamics, local and international capital will continue to shape the future of real estate in CEE, with opportunities arising amidst the challenges.

Continue the discussion at GRI Light Industrial & Logistics Europe 2023, on November 8 - 9 in Amsterdam. Find out more and register here.