NEW YORK CITY-Many of the presenters at Wednesday’s Argyle Executive Forum event, which focused on real estate capital markets, harped on foreign growth as key to growing their business. Both US-based companies and Canadian firms are reaching beyond the borders to find the next big opportunity.

Jeffrey Schwartz, CEO of ProLogis, outlined for attendees his firm’s significant growth abroad in the last 10n years, due mainly to the fact that the number of products being shipped across the world in that time period has tripled. In 2003, ProLogis had $400 million of assets in its control. Today the industrial-focused company has roughly $29 billion of assets, $5 billion of which is in Japan and $9 billion in Europe.

Japan became “a big opportunity for us,” Schwartz said. “There are a lot of inefficiencies in the supply chain there.” As reported, ProLogis recently unveiled plans for a SRI Logistics 154,000-sf warehouse in Hiroshima.

The need for industrial space has also given the company an opportunity to experiment with different product styles. For example it built a seven-story industrial property in Japan, which allows trucks to dock on each of the seven floors via a ramp. Schwartz said the building is roughly the size of a 16-story office tower and is valued at more than $200 million. Additionally, Schwartz said the company has been focused on sustainability, adding grass roofs to all its Japanese holdings.

China will be a major focus for ProLogis in the next four years. Schwartz said while his company has approximately 10 million sf in the market now, ProLogis has more than 60 million sf in the development pipeline. For example, in December the company acquired land at the Port of Dalian that could allow for more than three million sf of warehouse space.

In a similar vein, Andrea Stephen, EVP of investments for Canada’s Cadillac Fairview Corp. Ltd. said her company which manages a $106-billion fund hopes to double its European holdings in the next five years. Currently, 80% of the company’s portfolio is in Canada, 10% in the US and 10% in Europe. “Our focus in the last several years has shifted almost wholly to international [transactions]. We are very focused on returns and are not seeing opportunities in Canada any more,” Stephen said.

Likewise, Christopher Voutsinas, EVP of corporate development investments for Canada’s Oxford Properties Inc., said his firm began this year a push toward diversification. Most of the company’s $11 billion of holdings are located in Canada, but the company is in the midst of a plan to expand its portfolio so that 50% is outside the country. “We have aggressive growth expectations outside Canada in the next three to five years,” he said.

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