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Commercial Real Estate Market Characterized by Low Supply

The three main commercial real estate markets in Bulgaria, offices, retail and logistics & industrial, developed quite similarly in the first half of 2008, shows the latest research from Colliers International. All segments saw relatively little development in terms of new stock, but with a significant pipeline expected to reach the markets in 2009/2010.The first half of the year was unusually quiet in the Sofia office market, with an increase in the stock of contemporary office space of only 7%, bringing the total inventory of Class A and B office space to 759,000 m2. This, however, is set to almost double within the next 2-3 years, when the 730,000 m2 currently in the pipeline is completed. The overall vacancy for the Sofia market remained unchanged at 3.7%, with a historic low rate of 1.0% in the Broad Center.The second largest office market, Varna, is starting to shape up, and currently have a total tock of Class A and B office space of 106,000 m2. Not surprisingly, both markets see the majority of growth in the Suburban areas.The retail market in Bulgaria is still very much driven by the development of the shopping mall sub segment. The total inventory increased by 31% to 138,000 m2 with the opening of Mall Varna in June. Countrywide the pipeline increased by 141,400 m2 and now stands at 545,000 m2 contemporary shopping mall space under construction.The most significant development in the shopping mall segment was the ground-breaking of no less than four malls in the Danube town of Rousse; the city now has 123,000 m2 (GLA) of shopping mall space under construction, and is forecasted to have the highest density of mall space/capita in Bulgaria.For the first time the amount of high street space has actually been quantified; Colliers research shows that the supply of high street retail space exceeds 38,000 m2 in Sofia, with approximately 16,000 m2 in Varna.Developments in the logistics & industrial market were relatively slow in the first half of 2008. This was mainly caused by bureaucratic delays and the global financial situation. During the first half of 2008 the trend from the previous half year period with developments of mostly owner-occupied and build-to-suit projects seems to be broken. The stock of speculative logistics space in Sofia increased by 23,000 m2 (14%) and reached 207,000 m2 by the end of the period.The industrial market in Plovdiv saw an increase of 27% and has a total inventory of 760,000 m2. 30% of the inventory is situated in the South Industrial Zone (Trakia) and another 45% in Maritza & North Industrial Zones.Since the beginning of 2008, the Bourgas area has experienced a significant increase in the pipeline with almost 32,000 m2 of logistics & industrial facilities under construction.The first genuine logistic park in Bulgaria, Logistic Park Varna, started operation at the end of H1 2008, adding some 6,400 m2 to the contemporary inventory - all of which is already fully occupied. The total inventory of contemporary industrial projects in the area exceeds 340,000 m2 with the West Industrial Zone being the most developed area."In general the commercial real estate market in Bulgaria remains resilient, says Atanas S. Garov, Managing Director of Colliers International in Bulgaria, and we expect strong growth in the short and mid-term".