JD.com’s real estate division has agreed to buy a controlling stake in Hong Kong-listed China Logistics Property Holdings, giving the e-commerce giant an opportunity to beef up its portfolio of distribution centres amid consolidation and rising rents in the warehouse sector.
JD Property Group offered HK$3.99 billion ($513.45 million), or HK$4.35 per share, for a 26.38 percent stake in the mainland warehouse operator, representing a 4 percent premium to CNLP’s last closing price of HK$4.05 before trade was halted ahead of Thursday’s session. JD Property Group, a subsidiary of the mainland e-commerce giant that focuses on managing the firm’s warehouse assets, already owns more than 9 percent of CNLP.
The stake’s seller is Yupei International Investment Management, a company owned by CNLP founder and chairman Li Shifa and wife Ma Xiaocui, according to a Friday filing with the Hong Kong stock exchange.
Li and Hong Kong private equity firm RRJ Capital have sought to sell their combined 50 percent stake in CNLP since last December, aiming to value the company, which was once known as Yupei, at $2 billion. JD’s offer values the company at roughly $1.95 billion, and the stake purchase would raise the online retailer’s holding in CNLP to nearly 36 percent, a level sufficient to trigger a mandatory takeover offer under Hong Kong law.
After CNLP’s stock shot up 13 percent on Thursday of last week amid market buzz, trade was halted and the company issued a statement to the HKEX acknowledging that Li had been in talks with a potential purchaser of the stake. The prospective buyer was later identified as JD by market sources.
For JD, which is already one of CNLP’s largest tenants, the deal offers a pathway to expand its logistics network after the $3.2 billion Hong Kong IPO of its JD Logistics arm in May and the recent consolidation and expansion efforts of Asia Pacific warehouse powers ESR, GLP and Logos.
JD’s logistics division has been a prolific investor in third-party warehouse platforms, including paying $306 million for a stake in ESR in 2018 before that firm’s 2019 debut on the Hong Kong exchange.
Last December, JD was reported to be among the lead bidders for CJ Group’s China logistics business, with the South Korean conglomerate expecting to make $1 billion or more on that disposal.
Shortcut to Growth
China’s rapidly growing logistics market provides extra incentive for Beijing-based JD to augment its warehouse network and control its own real estate costs as industry consolidation in APAC’s warehouse sector threatens to accelerate an upswing in logistics rents.
In August, ESR announced that it had agreed to acquire Singapore’s ARA Asset Management for $5.2 billion, a deal that would bring Sydney-based Logos’s warehouse portfolio into the fold and boost ESR’s gross floor area of 20.1 million square metres by more than 44 percent.
For its part, Singapore-based GLP operates 60 million square metres of warehouse space in China at both self-developed and third-party facilities. The company backed by sovereign wealth fund GIC is reportedly considering a spinoff of its $4 billion mainland logistics portfolio in a Hong Kong REIT listing by the end of the year, aiming to raise between $1.6 billion and $2 billion.
A recent report by Colliers International predicted that warehouse rents in Beijing would grow by an average of 1.6 percent annually from 2020 to 2025, while JLL said that despite Shanghai seeing the largest influx of new supply since 2018, logistics rents still rose 2 percent in the second quarter of 2021 compared with the same period a year earlier.
CNLP has 65 logistics parks with a combined gross floor area exceeding 6.2 million square metres (66.7 million square feet) across 45 cities in China. JD Logistics’ portfolio, meanwhile, spans 20 million square metres of gross floor area.
By taking control of CNLP, JD could boost its warehouse portfolio by nearly a third without having to go through the increasingly competitive process of acquiring sites and doing development in China, market watchers told Mingtiandi.