NEPI Rockcastle is an investor and developer of commercial properties in CEE (Romania, Poland, Slovakia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Serbia and Lithuania) and expanding regionally. The group has an investment portfolio of EUR 5.8 billion.
CEEREM: You’ve been with NEPI Rockcastle for fourteen years now – what are some of the main ambitions you have for the company?
In 2007, NEPI consisted of three employees, myself included, and eight years later, the board proposed me for CEO given the accumulated experience. In 2017 we merged with Rockcastle and, as a result, entered the Polish market, thus consolidating our credit rating and expanding our footprint throughout the region, because we wanted a varied portfolio to help mitigate risks. We currently have a strong presence in nine countries, Romania taking up the biggest share of the pie with 20 shopping centres and 7 strip malls in the most important cities across Romania. Our main asset is not made of bricks and mortar, but the final customer – pre-pandemic there were over 300 million people transiting our malls.
From our perspective, retail real estate continues to prove itself a strong, well-positioned, well-equipped, and long-term credible business.
CEEREM: In which way are you currently strategizing portfolio diversification and how does the office segment sale fit into it?
The pandemic acted like a catalyst and simply sped up the already existing trends where the final client was prone to shifting more and more to online shopping. There were changes regarding the credit market, so we needed an adaptive strategy to help us keep the retail ecosystem as balanced as possible. We have a varied portfolio from a geographical standpoint, so our decision to exit the offices sector first agreed on at the end of 2019, is probably the largest transaction with revenue generating commercial real estate assets in Romania, was made in order to reinvest that revenue in the residential market and continue enhancing our assets.
The disposal was successfully concluded on August 27 in accordance with the terms of the new agreement, NEPI said in a press release. The total transaction value amounts to €307 million.
CEEREM: What does the future hold in store for NEPI Rockcastle in the next two-three years?
Our main objective for this year is to remain relevant to the final customer by offering convenience, safety, diversity, and entertainment, while also keeping our strong position on the retail market. We will continue to deliver on our committed developments and seek new investment opportunities. NEPI Rockcastle is in a strong financial position and remains a leader in the CEE in terms of retail and development.
We expect that 2021 will be a better year. The pandemic in CEE countries has recently started to abate and the ongoing vaccination program will accelerate over the next few months. Our Group is well-positioned to benefit from improving economic conditions and return to a steady and sustainable growth path. Still, the shopping environment is changing. Some effects of the pandemic will be short lived, but some longer-term trends were accelerated.