Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) – frequent readers of my site know that I am an advocate of this investment vehicle.
Recently, I conducted a long interview with the Chairman of MRMA (Malaysian REIT Managers Association), Mr Stewart Labrooy. Mr Stewart is also the CEO of Axis REIT, one of the pioneer of M-REITs in 2005. I am so grateful for having the opportunity to hear from the horse’s mouth, the big picture of REIT sector in Malaysia. This is part 1 of 3 of the interview below, but before that, digest excerpts of this Bernama newspiece on 31 Oct 2012.
Malaysia now ranks fourth in Asia Pacific with 16 REITs and a market capitalisation of US$8 billion (RM25 billion).
“Malaysian REITs have been regular recipients of Aprea best practices awards since their inception three years ago,” Asia Pacific Real Estate Association (Aprea) chief executive officer Peter Mitchell said in an email interview.
*Aprea is a non-profit industry association that represents and promotes the real estate asset class in the Asia-Pacific region.
On the challenges and how Malaysia can further promote the industry, Mitchell said: “One challenge for Malaysia is liquidity and the size of some of the REITs.”
“This leads to a lack of coverage which aggravates the situation. Regarding adoption of best practices, this is already happening, driven both by industry leaders in Malaysia (and the consequent beneficial impacts on performance, cost of capital and attraction to investors) and the demands of investors post-crisis for improved transparency and governance.
“The key to the success of any REIT model is its adherence to industry best practices.
“The differences in the long-term performance and stability of different REIT regimes can be linked in part to the underlying regulatory framework,” he said.
Among others, Mitchell said such best practices include the quality of disclosure, including investment risk, financial reporting and accounting standards, a cooperative working relationship between the regulatory authorities and the potential REIT sponsors that encourage the formation of REITs.
“Tax transparency as to dividend payments, thereby eliminating double taxation at the entity and shareholder levels, thereby promoting higher investment yields”
Lieu Ching Foo: How is MRMA’s role instrumental in bringing M-REIT sector to its current stage today?
Stewart LaBrooy: The MRMA was established in May 2010 to achieve the following:
- To act as a collective representation of the Malaysian real estate investment sector.
- To establish an environment conducive for investors to invest in high quality real estate in Malaysia.
- To establish a framework for the development of the Real Estate Investment Trust (“REIT”) industry, to coordinate investment activities and promote networking possibilities within the region.
- Improve transparency and provide quality research and information to local, regional and international investors.
- Develop common workable standards that meet with international best practices especially in the areas of financial reporting, disclosure and corporate governance.
- Represent members’ interests through lobbying the Malaysian Government and regulators for functional regulations, viable structures and tax harmonization in order to make Malaysian REIT’s competitive within the region and internationally.
- Encourage and promote the quoted property funds industry.
- Provide insightful market research and databases that can be practically utilized by members.
- Establish working committees that can formulate policies and coordinate the various activities.
- Introduce training and discussion forums to analyze applicable laws and legislation, trends and current issues, improve professionalism and knowledge within the real estate investment industry
A prominent speaker on Conventional and Islamic REITs in the region, Stewart LaBrooy is the CEO of the first REIT to be listed on the Mainboard of Bursa Malaysia in 2005; Axis REIT Managers Berhad.
Stewart holds a Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) degree and a Post Graduate Diploma in Business Studies from the University of Sheffield. He is a Board member of the Asia Pacific Real Estate Association (“APREA”) and the Chairman of the Malaysian REIT Managers Association (“MRMA”).
Getting all the members together as an Association has been an important development for the REIT Industry in Malaysia as it enables us to work together to promote the development of the industry, with the best practices in the industry as our benchmarks and keep abreast of the latest developments in the REIT industry. This has had the effect of encouraging other companies to explore the listing of their assets as REITs through the success of the Malaysian REITs. We have 15 members to date.
Malaysia is one of the two countries that have a REIT Managers Association.
Lieu Ching Foo: What is the core management strategy of a great REIT manager (let’s take Axis-REIT as an example) who is able to consistently deliver increasing return to unitholders even though during economic downturn?
Stewart LaBrooy: The core of our strategy is:
- Targeting Growth in our asset class both organically and through acquisitions.
- A comprehensive Capital Management program run by our financial team.
- Enhancement of our existing assets to drive value and income.
- Trading of assets to reward our Unit holders.
- Comprehensive Risk Management strategies
- Embracing the Best Practices in accounting & financial reporting, property valuation, portfolio performance reporting investor relations and corporate governance.
- Setting Standards as a World Class Asset Management Company
- Leveraging on Technology & Sustainability
- Leading the Malaysian REIT Managers Association to drive Regulatory and Tax Reforms
REITs are not just a collection of assets where rent is collected but rather it is a business that focuses on creating the highest returns for its Unitholders.
We don’t refer to our tenants as “customers” and have a comprehensive program of tenant care and building maintenance to ensure that rents are justified and we can organically grow our rental returns to the Fund.
Stay tuned part 2 of the interview