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High Demand Keeps Liberty's Richmond, Norfolk Assets Occupied

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Liberty Property Trust (LPT - Free Report) has been experiencing demand for its Richmond and Norfolk portfolios, lately. Majority of this demand is rising from the existing tenants who prefer to stay at the company’s properties over relocating to other locations.

Particularly, in the first half of the year, 17 leases were executed that helped the company enjoy full occupancy at these portfolios. With majority of those being renewal agreements, the leases aggregated more than 750,000 square feet of space.

Also, management mentioned about receiving queries for potential vacancies ranging from 18,000 to 81,000 square feet of space. In fact, according to the senior director, Leasing and Development for Liberty in Richmond, Brian Felton, “Richmond is experiencing a renaissance as a regional distribution hub.” Therefore, demand for buildings of 150,000-200,000 square feet of spaces, both single and multi-tenant, are escalating.

This is likely to give significant scope to capitalize on, given that the company currently enjoys ownership and management of 3.6 million square feet of area across 25 industrial buildings in the metro Richmond region, and around 800,000 square feet of space in four industrial buildings in the Norfolk area.

Of late, industrial REITs are gaining traction as high consumer spending, strengthening e-commerce market, and a healthy manufacturing environment amid recovering economy and job market are spurring demand for this real estate category.

Per a study by the commercial real estate services firm — CBRE Group Inc. (CBRE - Free Report) — availability rate for the U.S. industrial real estate market in Q2 shrunk 10 basis points (bps) to 7.2%, denoting the lowest level since Q4 2000. Additionally, with demand surpassing new supply, net asking rents inched up 1.7% in Q2 to $7.11 per square feet — marking the highest level since 1989. This is significantly driving growth of industrial REITs like Liberty Property, Prologis Inc. (PLD - Free Report) and Duke Realty Corp. (DRE - Free Report) .

However, any protectionist trade policies will have an adverse impact on economic growth, as well as this asset category’s business, over the long term. Also, a whole lot of new buildings are slated to be completed and made available in the market in the near term, leading to lesser scope for rent and occupancy growth.

Liberty Property currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here. In the past six months, the company’s shares have gained 7.5%, while the industry has rallied 10.8%.



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