The Belgium Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) market was created primarily to facilitate a transparent, professionally managed and fiscally efficient market, providing access to the European property markets. Being the 2nd oldest REIT market in Europe, it has undergone many evolutionary changes over the years that add to its considerable stature as a sophisticated investment opportunity. This includes an increased recent focus on the social infrastructure property sectors such as healthcare, care facilities and nursing homes, consistent with the evolving investment mandates requiring stronger integration of environmental, social and governance (ESG) aspects in the investment strategy formulation. The purpose of this paper is to highlight the strategic transformation of Belgium REITs and empirically assess their performance attributes over 1995–2018. Sub-period performance dynamics of Belgium REITs in the pre-global financial crises (GFC) (1995–2007) and post-GFC (2009–2018) contexts are provided.
In total, 23-year monthly total returns over 1995–2018 were used to analyse the risk-adjusted performance and portfolio diversification potential of Belgium REITs. The traditional mean-variance portfolio optimisation model using the ex-post returns, risk and correlation coefficient of Belgium REITs and other financial assets was developed to determine the added-value benefits of Belgium REITs in a diversified investment framework. The analysis was further extended to cover the sub-periods of pre-GFC (1995–2007) and post-GFC (2009–2018).
The results of the analysis provide a strong investment case for Belgium REITs, as they are able to deliver a discernible premium in the total return performance, superior risk-adjusted returns and strong diversification benefits with the stock market in a long-term investment horizon. Broadly consistent results are similarly observed in the sub-period analysis over varying market conditions. Importantly, the role of Belgium REITs in a diversified investment framework was also empirically validated, as they enhanced the mixed-asset portfolio performance comprised of the traditional asset classes of stocks and bonds across a broad portfolio risk-return spectrum. Dividend yield was also found to be a key component of the financial performance of Belgium REITs.
The Belgium REIT market has evolved to become the 5th largest market in Europe by the capitalisation volume. This is mainly due to the robust regulatory support and innovations since its debut which have resulted in a polished framework that is both supportive and attractive to financial players and investors. The broad direct consequence of this paper is to highlight the performance attributes of Belgium REITs, adding clarity to the ongoing discussion regarding the viability of European REITs as a liquid and tax transparent route for institutional investors to obtain their property exposure. The strong dividend yield and ESG/social infrastructure focus of Belgium REITs sees Belgium REITs well-placed going forward to meet the evolving investment mandates from major investors.
This paper is the first empirical investigation that elucidates the risk-adjusted performance and role of Belgium REITs as an important property investment opportunity. It equips investors and practitioners with an independent and comprehensive empirical validation of the strategic role of Belgium REITs in a portfolio. Well-informed and practical property investment decision making regarding the use of Belgium REITs for access to the property asset class is the main outcome of this paper.
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