According to Cushman & Wakefield's new white paper entitled "Emerging and Frontier Markets: Assessing Risk and Opportunity", real estate risk to both assets and employees is on the rise in several emerging-market economies.
"Emerging and frontier markets present some of the most significant opportunities for occupiers and investors," said John Santora, President and Chief Executive Officer of Cushman & Wakefield Corporate Occupier & Investor Services. "The coming months will bring challenges, but the growth opportunities in most markets should outweigh the risks."
Key factors that remain at the forefront for any entity planning to lease, own, or operate property in emerging and frontier markets include transparency risks regarding the reliability and accessibility of information about property rights as well as corruption risks associated with the reputation of business partners and the threat of bribery or unethical business practices. However, the recent political developments in Ukraine, Iraq and Venezuela have increased the profile of geopolitical risks and the related health & safety risks of keeping employees safe and secure.
"Adequate security plans must address the physical asset, the employees, and the company's information," said Raymond W. Kelly, President of Cushman & Wakefield Risk Management Services. "The right plan and protocols begin with pre-occupancy planning and address on-site and off-site security, business continuity, crisis management, and recovery assistance."
Existing political systems in many countries are under pressure and states with poor governance and cultural tensions are susceptible to terrorism and other crimes such as kidnapping. Cyber security is also an increasingly critical issue as companies become more global. In addition, properties associated with more controversial industries such as oil & gas exploration are at higher risk.
While countries with increasing geopolitical risks have fallen out of favor with most occupiers temporarily, there are still significant growth opportunities across many emerging and frontier markets. Multi-nationals see strong population growth, an increasingly educated and affluent labor force and more transparent governments as driving factors for expansion. Property investors see an under supply of adequate real estate to meet corporate demand and are actively developing 21st century buildings in many central business district (CBD) locations.
The lowest risk emerging and frontier real estate markets are dominated by Africa and the Middle East, with eight of the 10 most efficient and transparent countries. South Africa scores well in terms of the ease of securing property and possesses some of the more developed property markets in the region. Across South Africa, the office market has continued its slow recovery with demand from multinational occupiers for well-located, high-quality space expected to be steady, although overall availability remains relatively high.
In Latin America, the top three locations are Peru (8th overall), Mexico (15th overall) and Uruguay (18th overall). Mexico's performance is inconsistent, ranking high in some categories such as market transparency while faring poorly in others such as registering property and political stability. The construction pipeline in Mexico City stands at an all-time high of 1.4 million square meters. Asking prices for rent continue to rise moderately, driven to a large extent by the higher standards of new buildings and sizable absorption.
Indonesia is the most transparent market in the Asia Pacific region (5th overall), followed by Thailand (11th overall), and The Philippines (14th overall). While the Indonesian office market is in a "wait-and-see" mode until after its 2014 general elections, demand for space has been positive and in-line with the country's growing economy, although rents in Jakarta are expected to show lower growth in 2014-2015 in the face of higher supply.
C & W's report evaluates four key risks and ranks 42 countries using a weighted index to determine which markets provide the best opportunity for global expansion.