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Jun 24, 2020

Brookfield says office demand has increased as workers return

Brian Madden discusses Brookfield Asset Management


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Brookfield Asset Management Inc., one of the world’s biggest real estate investors, is seeing higher demand for office space as workers return to socially-distanced buildings.

Rather than ditching their skyscraper offices after the pandemic, companies are keen to return to the workplace after spending as long as three months in lockdown, Bruce Flatt, chief executive officer of Brookfield, said at the Bloomberg Invest Global virtual conference on Wednesday.

“Today we’re leasing greater amounts of space to people than they had before,” Flatt said. “They want to accommodate their people and get them back quickly. They’re increasing their footprints versus taking less.”

Most companies that Brookfield leases offices to are bringing workers back, said Flatt. The only reason some weren’t was a lack of social distancing space. Brookfield has reopened nearly all of its global offices, he said, with about 70 per cent of London workers returning and around 30 per cent of New York employees.

Infrastructure Boom

Brookfield is well-positioned to weather the pandemic. Flatt last month said the company had US$46 billion in client commitments for new investments and US$15 billion in cash, other financial assets and long-dated credit facilities across its various businesses that remain largely undrawn.

The company was one of six investors that bought a US$10.1-billion stake in Abu Dhabi’s natural-gas pipelines, according to a statement Tuesday. Flatt said the deal was a taste of things to come for global investors.

The transaction shows “that corporates and governments are going to have and will continue to outsource major amounts of infrastructure spend around the world,” he said. The trend is starting now and will continue “for the next 25 years,” he said.

In the first quarter, Brookfield altered its strategy to investing in public companies that were trading at a fraction of what it cost to acquire assets directly from the firms. It pumped roughly US$2 billion into public equity markets, including repurchasing its own shares and those of its publicly traded subsidiaries.

The asset manager also recently acquired just over seven per cent of British Land Co., one of the U.K.’s largest real estate investment trusts.