Four CEOs took part – Tomasz Buras, Savills Polska, Adam Krasoń, PwC Polska, Dariusz Kucharski, HSBC in Poland and Marek Przybylski, Aviva Investors Poland, representing the real estate, advisory, banking and investment sectors respectively. Antoni F. Reczek, chairman of the board of the BPCC, opened the event, adding his insights to those of the panellists. The discussion was moderated by the BPCC’s chief advisor, Michael Dembinski.
The key factor of course is when and how the pandemic will ease, something no one knows, but economic recovery is dependent on the pace of vaccination and the length and severity of lockdown. However, the panel was able to offer expert views on issues such as interest rates and exchange rates, supply and demand in the labour market, prospects for new inward investment, consumer spending, the post-pandemic future of the workplace, and the main drivers of growth.
Poland’s manufacturing sector, which held up well even during the peak of lockdown, was seen as another reason for cautious optimism, in view of its contribution to exports and a balance of trade surplus. Other sectors – in particular tourism and hospitality – were particularly badly hit, however – and how their recovery will procede remains uncertain.
Patterns of investment in real estate will be changing – it is still an asset class worth holding, but the pandemic has had a profound impact on what will be the most attractive sectors to invest in. With interest rates remaining extremely low for the foreseeable future, a ‘wall of money’ is building up looking for investment opportunities with higher returns than bonds or cash deposits.
This private-sector ‘wall of money’ is bolstered by funds from the EU’s new multiannual financial framework, which earmarks €80 billion for green transformation, digitalisation and Covid-19 recovery in Poland; its effect on the Polish economy, infrastructure investment and innovation was also discussed.
Investment on the Warsaw Stock Exchange was mentioned, where a broad, market-wide recovery is expected, with anticipation of high single-digit to low double-digit growth on the main index this year. Poland is well-placed to benefit from a global shift from growth stocks to value stocks, observed in the second half of 2020.
Lockdown did not change the underlying condition of the Polish labour market last year. Many employers, fearful of a quick return to a labour shortage once the pandemic eases ‘hoarded’ labour and did not lay off furloughed staff. This will affect prospects for recruitment of new staff and wage inflation into 2021.
Will Poland remain an attractive location for foreign direct investment, as global corporates look to secure their supply chains and nearshore BPO/SSC operations? And what will this mean for the Polish real estate market? The consensus, supported by the experiences of recruitment firms, is that for the foreseeable future, there will be a steady flow of inward investment in services, manufacturing and logistics, most of that from larger corporates rather than SMEs. Brexit will also continue to be a driver for UK-based firms seeking a lower-cost location within the EU from which to reach markets of Western Europe.