Ethias and the Belgian family business Weerts Group are entering into a 50/50 joint venture aiming at the joint development of a pan-European portfolio of logistics real estate. Under the terms of the transaction, Ethias will systematically acquire 50% of all logistics developments completed and rented out by Weerts Group. The multimodal hub at the Trilogiport site in Liège, which is currently being finalized, is one of some 15 industrial buildings, spread over 7 sites, that will fall within this partnership.

A synergy between locally anchored players

Ethias has reserved an investment envelope of EUR 160 million, which – given the financial leverage of approximately 50% that the joint venture aims to achieve – is good for an initial portfolio of approximately 700,000 m². Weerts Group is then responsible for the further management of the portfolio. This joint venture is a win-win operation for both parties. Ethias secures the opportunity to invest in a geographically diversified portfolio of new, state-of-the-art and sustainable buildings that are let on a long-term basis to quality tenants.

This guarantees Ethias long-term, stable, contractual and indexed financial returns. Weerts Group can use the released liquidity to further expand its logistics activities and projects, and to respond to internal and external growth opportunities. With Ethias, Weerts Group acquires a partner with an extremely strong local network. Ethias supports a specialist in the sector with a locally anchored decision-making center, which is also responsible for the creation of significant employment in the region.

Ethias has found a partner in Weerts Group who is also on the same wavelength when it comes to sustainable social development. Both partners not only display a strong social connection at the local level, but also strive to achieve the objectives of the European Green Deal.

Logistics sector as a unique opportunity

In the current difficult economic context and low interest rate environment, the logistics real estate sector is one of the few sectors that offers growth opportunities. The main factors contributing to the growing demand for logistics real estate are e-commerce, a strategic re-evaluation of logistics chains (and building strategic inventories to absorb interruptions in the ‘just-in-time’ chains) and, on term, the phenomenon of “re-shoring” (the re-industrialization of Europe to reduce dependence on transcontinental industrial activity).

Pascal Weerts, CEO of Weerts Group: “Weerts Group evaluated various institutional players in the search for the ideal partner for this joint venture. We found this in Ethias, partly because of its brand awareness, its constant pursuit of quality, its professional attitude and the complementarity between our two companies.”

Philippe Lallemand, CEO Ethias: “This joint venture not only allows Ethias to further diversify its real estate portfolio. It also gives us the opportunity to inject new optimism and dynamism into the Belgian economy; an economy that is currently heavily burdened by the health crisis. The employment opportunities that will be created through this collaboration are perfectly in line with our strategy of supporting all of our stakeholders through our products and services.”