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Korea hails first REIT to hit stock market this year

An exterior view of Amazon fulfillment center in Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. The logistics center is one of the portfolio assets in which D&D Platform REIT owns an equity stake. (Amazon)
An exterior view of Amazon fulfillment center in Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. The logistics center is one of the portfolio assets in which D&D Platform REIT owns an equity stake. (Amazon)
South Korea on Friday saw its first public real estate investment trust debut on the domestic stock market this year, with more debutants headed for the listing soon.

D&D Platform REIT, which holds office and industrial portfolios at home and abroad, started trading on the Korea Exchange‘s main board Kospi Friday.

A REIT refers to a vehicle designed to offer dividend returns to its investors through investments in securitized real estate assets.

The nation’s first multisector REIT, managed by SK conglomerate‘s real estate arm D&D Investment, ended the 8-month drought of REIT listing in Korea, since logistics-only ESR Kendall Square REIT‘s Kospi debut in December.

On the first day of trading, D&D Platform REIT closed at 5,290 won ($4.50) apiece, down 1.9 percent from the initial trading price. The Friday closing price was just above the offer price at 5,000 won.

D&D Platform REIT’s portfolio comprises Semicolon Mullae, an office building formerly known as Young City in western Seoul; a logistics center in Yongin used by a fulfillment company serving internet giant Naver; and a Japanese logistics center occupied by Amazon‘s Japanese unit.

Following the D&D Platform REIT listing, SK REITs -- which owns SK conglomerate’s headquarters building in Seoul and 116 gas stations across Korea -- is also poised to kick off its initial public offering Monday following a book building earlier this week. The REIT looks to start trading in September.

Also going public this year are Shinhan Seobu T&D REIT, investing in a hotel and a commercial complex; office-focused NH All One REIT; Mastern Premier REIT 1, which holds an office building on the outskirts of Paris; and overseas logistics-focused Mirae Asset Global REIT.

Before D&D Platform REIT‘s market debut, Korea was home to 13 listed REITs, which held assets worth a combined 8.7 trillion won under management. D&D Platform REIT completed its IPO on Aug. 9.

But the listed REITs, which tend to give investors an easy access to the illiquid properties, are still considered small in size, as its market cap-to-gross domestic product ratio in Korea came to 0.3 percent.

The figure was significantly lower than Singapore‘s 21.1 percent, the United States’ 6.9 percent and Japan‘s 3.1 percent, according to an estimate by the Korea Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts.

There are signs that the momentum for Korean listed REITs’ growth is slowly building.

For example, ESR Kendall Square REIT added two distribution centers in the Greater Seoul Area in June, while Shinhan Alpha REIT agreed to buy an office building near Seoul Station in central Seoul, which will become its seventh portfolio asset following an office building in Gangnam it purchased in March.

The 13 REITs’ combined market cap, excluding D&D Platform REIT, rose about 20 percent since January to about 5 trillion won until end-July, the KRX data showed.

“The existing Korean REITs’ bulk-up, coupled with a series of market debuts of new REITs, heralds a new phase of REIT industry‘s growth,” Chang Moon-joon, an analyst at KB Securities, wrote in a recent note.

Chang added that investors will still find Korean REITs attractive as the income-generating assets, as Korea’s commercial real estate market has maintained a robust growth.

By Son Ji-hyoung (