Poste Immo, the property management unit of France's giant public sector La Poste postal service, is tasked with foreseeing the future for its 11,000 buildings and 6.5m sqm of space, says Managing Director Rémi Feredj. This includes a network of logistics properties faced with shifting requirements from e-commerce. But it also covers senior housing and proptech solutions.
"One must begin by asking what tasks the La Poste group is taking on for itself," Feredj told Business Immo in a wide-ranging interview. "La Poste is an industrial and personal services company that has been implanted across French territories for 600 years, and thus brings with it considerable historical depth. Every day it touches 38m people, and its core business, mail, is in decline, so it has to transform itself in order to continue to perform its public service mission."
Poste Immo's primary mission therefore is to anticipate and propose the future for its huge stock of real estate. "This implies in particular the realisation of a whole network of logistic platforms adapted to group production needs," Feredj told BI's Estelle Santous. "For parcel delivery, especially in metropolitan areas we need to support the deployment of the urban logistics offer and the last mile - essential in the face of the explosion of e-commerce. We are, of course, committed to transitioning our use of energy for our stock. But we are also very invested in imagining the tertiary requirements of tomorrow, third-uses and co-working spaces for example." To this end Poste Immo recently took a majority stake in Paris start-up coworking firm Start-Way.
One challenge is that French regions face a multitude of different issues associated with postal service and use of buildings, depending on a host of factors. In Paris, Poste Immo is interested in private rental housing. In the regions outside the capital, however, it is active - via the Arkadea unit held in partnership with REIT/SIIC Icade - in developing residential property. "In medium-sized cities we are working on senior residences as a vector for the valuation of our downtown locations and to complete the group offering dedicated to the silver economy," he said.
In rural territories Poste Immo is active with a number of solutions. "La Poste is present throughout the country with more than 17,000 points of contact. However, the question can sometimes arise of how to best use a post office of 150 or 200 sqm situated in a village. Here, we will launch experiments around social housing and also focus on territorial animation or the adaptation of our post offices for public service homes (MSAP, Maisons de Service au Public)."
He added: "We are mainly confronted with three types of obstacles. First, the question of sale of the property with regard to its book value - versus the cost of modernisation or construction. The second challenge is to find this exit is needed - because we do not necessarily have takers for these assets everywhere, especially in the rural communities where we have small units. This problem can also affect medium-sized towns where we sometimes have 2,000-3,000 sqm for which it is difficult to find an exit. Finally there is a third more specific topic: the social impact of transforming a La Poste building... This is why we make sure we have a close relationship with elected officials. Our work with them is one of the great competences of the group."
In the last 20 years the mission of Poste Immo has roughly doubled in scope, he told BI. "There is a much more marked concern about architecture now, to which have been added the subjects of a mix of purposes, both social and functional, and then the density required to counterbalance the urban sprawl which all the world has now come to realise is catastrophic in nature."
BIE COMMENT: Particularly through moves such as bringing in new, young leadership of French state sector financial institution Caisse des Depôts, and linking CdC's massive social housing firm SNI to Germany's listed group Vonovia, President Emmanuel Macron is steering toward more market for France's traditional public sector structures. Poste Immo looks like a strong candidate for such treatment. As in public postal services in other European nations, its logistics and distribution structure is second to none in size and scope, making it potentially highly valuable real estate. The task of course is to balance privatisation moves that could attract real estate buyers with the public sector needs of the broad population - and to avoid a political backlash.