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These Are The Listed Companies You Should Have Bought In 2010

A Workspace workspace

The 2010s were a tumultuous decade for the UK listed real estate sector. As they kicked off, share prices were still low after the financial crisis, but starting to recover from their 2009 trough. Shares rose consistently until 2016, beating their 2007 highs, before the Brexit vote sent many stocks tumbling, and prices have bumped along erratically since then.

The smaller names in the listed sector performed best between the start of 2010 and the end of 2019, making their investors the most money, according to data from Bloomberg and Green Street Advisors.

The top performing stock of the decade was London-focused Workspace, which produced a total return of 601%. That is partly because it started 2010 from a very low base — in 2009 the company had to undertake a rescue rights issue to avoid going out of business. But it has also benefitted from its focus on London and the shift in leasing practices to flexible office space.

Trailing just behind with a total return of 585% was self-storage REIT Safestore, which benefitted from high occupancy levels and very robust cash flows. The same was true of fellow self-storage REIT Big Yellow, the fourth best performer with a total return of 370%.

The third best performer was student accommodation specialist Unite, which produced a total return of 407%, as student accommodation moved from a niche to mainstream asset class. Indeed, these top four performers benefitted from operating in asset classes where investors had few other options if they wanted to buy into a sector-wide success story.

“The decade saw the emergence and outperformance of REITs that were previously considered non-core, investing in property types where some UK institutional capital previously feared to tread,” Green Street analyst Rob Virdee said.

Making up the top five was industrial REIT Segro, which benefitted from the huge boom in e-commerce. Indeed, in a moment that would have been unthinkable for much of the half-century preceding the 2010s, Segro in 2018 took over from Landsec as the UK’s largest listed property company by market capitalisation.

The UK’s two historic big beasts, Landsec and British Land, performed incredibly similarly, producing total returns of 114% and 113%, respectively, putting them in the third quartile of companies covered by Green Street.

And the wooden spoon? Unsurprisingly that goes to Intu, which produced a total return of -85% in the 2010s, the only company in negative territory. In late 2010 it turned down a takeover offer of 420p a share from Simon Property Group, saying the company was worth at least 600p a share. The share price today? 31p.

Fellow retail REIT Hammerson was next last, having produced a total return of 16%.

“As has been well-documented, retail has undergone massive structural change of the course of the decade (especially the latter half), with most of the changes being negative for owners of shopping centres and other retail-focussed real estate,” Virdee said.