Emergence of Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) in the Middle East

In early 2018, REITs in the UAE were offering healthy dividend yields (~ 6.5%) compared to the global average of 5.7%. However, the story emerging in KSA was a little different with REITs offering an average dividend yield of 2.7%. Part of the issue in KSA was that there was a sudden rush in listings with insufficient diligence done on the quality of assets. Early entrants to the market were able to obtain an initial premium on listing, however, the long term performance of a REIT is determined by the underlying quality of the real estate. Although there have been some challenges with REITs in KSA we do believe that there is a market opportunity for REITs across the Middle East. In our opinion, there will be a flight to quality wherein REITs with a good asset base, strong management teams and robust governance structures will continue to grow and attract capital whereas the non-performers will eventually be weeded out. As the REIT sector in the Middle East matures we anticipate there will be an emphasis on sector specialisation – with REITs focusing on a specific asset class within the real estate spectrum such as residential, retail, hospitality or office. Sector specialization allows the REITs to really understand their customers, form lasting relationships and work with third party developers to create properties that are in line with market demand and therefore, yield the right returns for investors.

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