First Industrial Makes Move Into France, Germany

First Industrial Realty Trust has increased its European footprint, opening new offices in Paris, France and Düsseldorf, Germany, the company announced today. The company plans to invest in these countries’ properties through its balance sheet and its $475 million FirstCal Industrial Europe joint venture with the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), the second largest U.S. public pension fund. First Industrial is focusing on value-add acquisitions, developments and redevelopments through its balance sheet and joint venture, and will also focus on The Netherlands and Belgium, as well. The company opened offices in those countries last year. “These are both large economies and have the largest concentration of industrial real estate across Europe,” Johannson Yap (pictured), First Industrial’s chief investment officer, told CPN. “Both France and Germany are becoming important industrial hubs as the market reconfigures with the rise of Central Europe.” Two new executive appointments followed the opening of the offices. Christophe Chauvard joined the company as country director for France; he formerly held positions with SEGRO Plc., GSE Group’s turnkey design & build division, as well as Bouygues Construction. Oliver Drecker joined the company as country director for Germany, and also formerly held a position with SEGRO Plc., as well as Jones Lang LaSalle. Paris is France’s largest industrial real estate market, with nearly one-third of the country’s total industrial space. First Industrial plans to concentrate its investment activity in the Île-de-France and Lyon markets. The first contains the majority of the Paris metropolitan region, and is home to the largest concentration of commercial properties in Europe; nearly 190 million consumers can be reached by track in four hours or less from the region, the center of the logistics corridor stretching from The Netherlands to Spain and Italy, the company noted. Lyon, France’s second-largest economic hub, is home to the largest inland container port in France, Port Edouard-Herriot, and will be home to a freight rail corridor, extending from a route between Antwerp, Belgium and Southern Italy and stretching to Rotterdam, The Netherlands, upon its 2010 completion. Germany is the European Union’s largest economy and has become the geographic center, making it important for pan-European supply chains, the company said. The country is the largest exporter in Europe, growing an estimated 8 percent in 2007 and forecast to grow another 7.5 percent this year, increasing demand for modern industrial real estate facilities. First Industrial plans to target investments in the Rhine/Ruhr area, Hamburg and Bremen, the latter two being the largest container ports in Germany. First Industrial operates in more than 30 markets across the United States, Canada, The Netherlands and Belgium, in addition to France and Germany. It is involved in the purchase, redevelopment, leasing, management and sale of all major industrial facility types, including R&D/flex, light industrial, manufacturing and regional and bulk distribution centers. On Monday, the company announced that it had leased more than 500,000 square feet of warehouse space to Palmer Logistics at the InterPort Distribution Center in the Houston suburb of Pasadena.