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Blackstone plans to create 6b euro European warehouse unit

[LONDON] Blackstone Group LP plans to pool 6 billion euros (S$9.2 billion) of its smaller European warehouse investments in a new company that will ultimately be publicly listed or sold, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The private-equity giant is in the process of hiring an executive to run the company, which will manage Blackstone's holdings of logistics properties close to towns and cities, the people said, asking not to be identified as the plan is private. The assets are currently overseen by M7 Real Estate in a venture with Blackstone, they said. Any sale or public offering of the company is probably several years away, the people said.

A spokesman for Blackstone declined to comment.

Blackstone has led a wave of investors into last-mile logistics investments, so called because they're located near population centres, enabling quick delivery of goods to residents. They're betting that demand from online retailers for such warehouses will continue to push up rents and values.

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Earlier this month, Blackstone agreed to buy US$18.7 billion of US urban warehouses from Singapore's GLP Pte. In both the US and Europe, retailers like Inc, which began by building up huge regional distribution centres near major transport arteries, are now shifting their focus to the last leg of the delivery chain to consumers.

The relative scarcity of urban warehouses and the challenge of developing new facilities given the fierce competition for land in many major cities has also attracted investors including Cerberus Capital Management LP, which has established a 750 million euro portfolio in Spain.

The plan for a last-mile warehouse unit in Europe echoes the strategy the private equity firm pursued with Logicor, which it sold to China's sovereign wealth fund for about 12 billion euros in 2017. Logicor was set up by Blackstone in 2012 to buy, develop and manage larger warehouses across Europe and proved to be one of the firm's most successful real estate bets of recent years, anticipating the shift in investors' allocations toward industrial property and away from retail as sales migrated to the internet.

Large holdings of smaller warehouses have historically proved challenging to assemble due to the intensive management required and the fact that many such properties across Europe are owned by small private investors. Blackstone accelerated its move into the sector with a 1.3 billion euro deal for the continental European assets of Hansteen Holdings Plc in 2017 and has worked closely with M7 to scour the continent for opportunities, the people said.

M7 and Blackstone may pursue further deals together in future, the people said.