Auckland Real Estate Trust eyes expansion

A property trust which owns Auckland’s iconic West Plaza building will list on the New Zealand stock exchange on Wednesday in its first step towards expanding its shareholder base.

The Auckland Real Estate Trust, which is already listed on the ASX, owns five office buildings in Auckland and is in the process of buying another as part of its expansion into the sector.

It is currently 95.92 per cent owned by the Alceon Group – an Australian investment group – but has hired New Zealand brokers Craigs Investment Partners to broaden its share register next year.

Andrew Saunders, chief executive of the trust, said that could involve the major shareholder selling down some of its shareholding as well as a future capital raising.

“We are definitely looking to increase the scale of the company. We have identified there is a large opportunity in the Auckland market to buy the sort of buildings we are buying and reposition them, particularly on the back of the CRL [City Rail Link].”

Saunders who is currently based in Sydney but is in the process of moving to Auckland, and has already bought an apartment here, said it felt the time was right to list on the NZX because it now had some scale.

“We have got about 20 to 25 people across the business now in New Zealand between Alberts and the investment company ARE. For us the Auckland market office metrics are attractive. We like the market, we like Auckland, we like New Zealand.”

The trust has a history of buying and refurbishing office space and either reselling it or leasing it at a higher rate.

Saunders said it was driven by its Alberts workplace strategy which targets small-to-medium-sized businesses to lease its properties with three different offerings.

“SME tenants make up the most active part of the market but they are quite small – they are a deep pool of tenants that are not that well looked after.

“What we noticed with the likes of WeWork and Soho House and Nous House that we looked at – was that tenants are happy to pay for this thing called workplace culture.

“What we noticed was that tenants are prepared to pay a larger cost to have completed fitted suites where they don’t have to make an investment and they have greater flexibility and they have more amenity.”

It has three tenant offers – private suites which are prebuilt workspaces targeted at SMEs, bespoke workplaces which are made to measure and built for tenants and traditional offices where the tenant does their own fitout.

Private suites and bespoke attract much higher rents although 45 per cent of the trust’s office space will be traditional style offices.

Saunders said it was bringing the model of flexible office space to Auckland.

“It is a relatively new concept.What happened during Covid-19 was that it accelerated a trend that was already happening – so companies want aspirational workplaces – nice places where they can have community and social events.”

“The economics are compelling – the workplace strategy and culture is compelling to tenants and it’s actually a new way of looking at how you monetise your building as a landlord.”

The trust currently owns 1 Albert St, 87 Albert St, 12 Viaduct Harbour Ave, 10 Viaduct Harbour Ave and a US property in Chicago which it is planning to sell.

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