GONZALO ROBINA

Mexico 2022 | REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Gonzalo Robina, General Manager of FUNO®, about trends in retail, the REIT market, and dealing with the economic fallout of the pandemic.

What do you consider to be among FUNO® (Fibra UNO)s most important achievements in the last year?

Throughout the past year, our focus has been on supporting our tenants. We have a duty to our tenants so that they can do business, and our business can also thrive. We are currently seeing many of their businesses recovering. We have shopping centers where footfall are around pre-pandemic levels. This situation has affected many households and their incomes. However, people who have been locked down for such a long time need to go about their lives. For us, continuing to support out tenants is a highly important achievement, so that they can move on as soon as possible and reach pre-pandemic numbers once again.

What trends in retail spaces do you expect in the coming years?

Today, the trend in shopping centers is to offer far greater entertainment opportunities and a greater focus on food. Food and entertainment made up about 9% of our portfolios upon purchase. Today, that figure is approaching 30%. In Mexico, people tend to take walks in shopping centers, with all kinds of consumption habits, and this is another trend we see in the commercial area. In addition, we see “location, location, location” as one of the main assets in FUNO®'s portfolio. However, when comparing Mexico to other countries with similar characteristics, the number of square meters of retail per capita is much higher. Therefore, in the retail area, there is still room for growth.

How would you rate the competitiveness of the REIT market in Mexico now?

We were the founding members of the Mexican Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts (AMEFIBRA) in Mexico. I consider all the managers of these trusts, or FIBRAs in Spanish, as colleagues in the field. If we add up the square meters of FIBRAs, FUNO® accounts for 45%. There is still room for more FIBRAs to join, and we are likely to see some of them consolidating.

There are now a greater number of young people interested in investing in the public market. Has this benefited investment in FIBRAs in Mexico?

FIBRAs are still at an early stage in the market. I always look to educate the investor, so that they understand what FIBRAs are and their benefits, so as to access the retail market in Mexico. From FUNO®'s Mexican and foreign investors today, Mexican investors account for between 12-13%, where 10-11% come from Retirement Fund Administrators (AFORES) and insurance companies, and 2% are private banking and brokerage firms. 90% of the economically active population in the US has an account open at a brokerage firm, whereas the overall number of accounts opened in brokerage firms in Mexico is 200,000 for a population of 126 million. Of this, 80 million are economically active. This is a cultural issue that has a huge impact. As far as possible, however, I will ensure this reaches everyone, so that, every day, the public has better access.

What are this year's goals regarding the Mítikah project?

Mítikah Tower will have 62 floors and 670 apartments, of which over 600 have been sold. The tower will be built over three phases. For the first 20 floors, we will start handing over the apartments so that they can be occupied in the next 60 days. The idea is to finish the handover, namely finalize the construction and have no more operators within before the end of the year. In the next year, we aim for the tower to be fully occupied. Additionally, we also aim to complete the construction of the shopping center over the course of 2021 and open it in early 2022. The San Ángel Inn Hospital is in the same complex. There are also 10 levels that are fully occupied by consulting rooms. We then have the shopping center. In phase two, we will see the arrival of a new office tower. Therefore, the complex will boast a hotel, hospital, consulting rooms, a shopping center, fitness centers and gyms, offices, and apartments. More than a complex, it will be a city where one can live without ever needing to leave.

How well prepared was FUNO® to face an economic crisis like the one in 2020?

We have about 40 years' of experience in the real estate sector and have lived through every crisis. As a result, we took on the philosophy not to be the priciest landlord in the market—on the contrary, we prefer to be below market average. Another very important point is our careful leverage that allows us to be highly protected. We have sensibly taken many flat rates. This care, in terms of quantity, quality, timing, and the rates of our debt, offers us certainty in being shielded against such crises.

What are FUNO®'s main goals for the rest of the year?

We seek stability, both our future tenants and for ourselves. We must move forward after such a tough year. Today, we have a large industrial development in the north of Mexico City. It has 370,000sqm of warehouses, of which we have already completed and occupied around 150,000sqm. We are also accelerating construction, as a square meter finished is a square meter leased. I would especially seek to complete the development we have here sooner.

Are you preparing your portfolio to take advantage of this market opportunity?

Absolutely. All our land reserves, either for light industry or for warehousing and logistics, are being leveraged. This US growth of up to 8% can help Mexico. The result is that light industry, mainly in the border states, is picking up steam. Logistics, as Mexico's largest market, accounting for about one-quarter of the country's GDP, continues to grow and will continue to do so over the coming years. We are therefore focused on the support and the growth of Mexico, especially within the light industry, logistics, and warehousing sectors.