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Business deals

Blackstone grabs $1bn in Japan warehouses, including Amazon site

US asset manager bets on e-commerce growth in lagging market

An Amazon Japan fulfillment center. (Photo courtesy of the company)

TOKYO -- U.S. investment firm Blackstone Group will spend over 100 billion yen ($926 million) to buy distribution centers in Japan, seeing room for growth in the country's relatively small e-commerce market, Nikkei has learned.

Blackstone is expected to buy five or six sites from Singaporean state-owned property investor Mapletree. One location in Odawara, a city southwest of Tokyo, serves as a key fulfillment center for Amazon Japan covering the greater Tokyo area.

While e-commerce accounted for about 10% of all sales of goods in the U.S. last year, Japan's ratio lags at roughly 6%. Blackstone anticipates that Japanese distribution centers will have high operational rates for years to come and generate stable earnings for the group.

The acquisition will mark the latest deal by foreign buyers in Japan's logistics sector. Singapore-based GLP, Asia's largest warehouse operator, raised 625 billion yen last year from investors including Canada Pension Plan Investment Board for a logistics site development fund. 

Hong Kong logistics group ESR established a 200 billion yen fund in May targeting state-of-the-art warehouses.

Blackstone has not disclosed projected returns, but distribution centers typically yield around 4% -- an attractive level at a time of negative interest rates in Japan and Europe.

Blackstone, one of the world's top investment houses overseeing $512 billion in assets, will buy the distribution centers through a fund dedicated to real estate. This fund draws money globally from institutional investors.

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