Real estate trends reinforce Jersey’s appeal
By Alistair Horn, Mourant LP Partner and JFA committee member, John MacFeeters, Counsel and Rachel Fowler, Senior Associate at Mourant
With reports suggesting that global investors have set aside up to £46bn to deploy in the London office market alone this year (the highest since 2012), it’s an opportune time to take a look at some of the trends we are seeing in Jersey for UK real estate investments.
For years, Jersey has been an attractive option for asset managers looking to establish real estate holding structures, and for investors wishing to invest in real estate assets and recently we have seen a noticeable increase in the use of Jersey REIT structures, whilst the traditional Jersey Property Unit Trust (JPUT) remains just as popular as ever.
In fact, there has been an uptick in establishing new JPUTs despite the continued impact of COVID-19.
We've seen a particular recent trend in the increased use of JPUTs to acquire healthcare and logistical assets, with the importance of the latter increasing due to the online activity of consumers during the past 12 months and beyond. Notably, many of the JPUT investors have come from South East Asia and North America, emphasising how far-reaching the JPUT has become.
Meanwhile, Jersey continues to grow its market share in private REITs and this trend is expected to continue. The UK REIT regime is already attractive to many sovereign wealth funds, pension funds, major global financial institutions and specialist property investors.
However, it is expected that this market will grow following the UK Budget 2021 announcement of the rise in the corporation tax rate from 19% to 25% starting in 2023. This change will make the REIT regime more attractive to a broader range of UK real estate investors.
In addition, we are seeing a trend that 'responsible' capital and sustainability are no longer 'fringe' concepts. They do (and will increasingly need to) underpin strategic decision-making and investment allocations by fund managers in the coming decades, as the global economy grapples with the impact of climate change, other potential environmental damage, rising inequality and political and economic crises.
Funds focusing on social housing, urban regeneration, supported living as well as more bespoke projects such as water related regeneration are becoming more common.
With these trends in mind, it’s worth noting that there are a number of reasons underpinning Jersey's continuing appeal in this space that should give managers and investors confidence, including the following benefits.
As an independent jurisdiction conveniently located near the UK and mainland Europe, Jersey appeals to managers who want to access global investors whilst remaining outside the AIFMD environment.
Removing the additional costs associated with AIFMD compliance, whether that is achieved by marketing into the EEA via national private placement routes or by targeting the US and Asian markets, can result in lower running costs and higher investor returns.
Managers and investors alike are familiar and comfortable with Jersey as a jurisdiction, and this appeal is enhanced by Jersey's global reputation as a market leader in promoting anti-money laundering measures and combating financial crime.
Speed to market and cost efficiencies
As detailed below, it is possible to establish and manage real estate holding structures efficiently and effectively due to the flexibility and expertise that the Jersey real estate services industry can provide.
Holding vehicles can be established on a same day basis, whilst a Jersey 'private fund' can be established and authorised in as little as 3 business days (with a slightly longer lead time where there is EEA/UK investor marketing).
The expertise available across legal, accounting and administrative functions can also lead to lower launch costs and on-going maintenance costs, which ensures that Jersey remains a cost-effective choice.
Jersey's company, partnership and unit trust laws are broadly based on the UK equivalents and will therefore be familiar to lawyers and asset managers in the UK and other common law countries.
The Jersey legislation is, broadly speaking, more flexible and more permissive which means it can easily accommodate the commercial terms of a deal.
JPUTs, for instance, are popular for single investor/single asset structures, but they are equally suited for multi-asset joint ventures or as investment fund structures. JPUTs often hold UK real estate directly, however, a JPUT does not need to, nor is a JPUT required, to hold the UK real estate directly. In addition, we are also seeing a revival in the use of JPUTs as hybrid or evergreen investment fund structures.
Jersey's regulatory environment provides significant flexibility in choosing a regulatory regime for a real estate structure, its investors and asset managers. Whilst some small structures can benefit from special dispensations afforded to joint ventures, the 'private fund' regime in Jersey is a popular option where there are a small number of sophisticated institutional investors who would benefit from a light-touch and effective regulatory approach.
For those asset managers who are seeking to attract a larger number of investors, or less sophisticated investors, then there are several public fund regimes which offer increased investor protection.
Jersey's tax regime is designed to avoid double taxation on real estate holding structures, so that these remain tax neutral where appropriate for non-resident investors and asset managers who are dealing with foreign real estate assets.
Jersey is well known for its real estate-based service provider expertise, with service providers able to confidently support managers and investors throughout the entire property life-cycle from acquisition to development, financing, leasing, planning work and joint ventures, and eventual disposal.
Against the backdrop of its longstanding appeal and given the current trends in the market, as a jurisdiction, Jersey has the right infrastructure and ecosystem to assist first time and established asset managers with setting up and administering real estate fund structures, whilst at the same time providing certainty of tax treatment - which is not necessarily fully mirrored in other jurisdictions.