Capital fellows

Small talk
Tomasz Lubowiecki, the CEO, of 7R, on why the recent buyout of the Polish warehouse developer by Nrep is just the start of the next stage in the company's development

The big news this last season – and maybe of the entire year – has been the finalisation of Nrep’s acquisition of a majority stake in 7R. Aren’t you a little worried about losing control of your baby, the company that you founded?

Tomasz Lubowiecki, CEO, 7R: No, I’m not. Because I don’t regard the takeover as a loss, but rather as an opportunity. If a small company wants to develop, then there’s no other way but through an IPO or by partnering with a big player. This is the only way to get secure access to capital – and when it comes to capital, the current market is not the easiest.

But why did you choose Nrep? You were negotiating with many potential partners.

This was no random choice. We simply share a lot of common values with Nrep.

Such as?

For example, developing zero-emission warehouses – this is part of our strategy and is our standard. Nrep already has such projects in its portfolio. Our clients don’t have to specifically order a green warehouse from us, since they are simply not going to get anything else. Moreover, we publish ESG reports and we undergo external auditing to prove that this is the company policy and not just for show. Also, at the beginning of the year we established a Green Team within the company.

An ESG unit? But doesn’t everyone have one?

We’ve gone one step further. It’s not just a unit, but a team that required the involvement of every department and the organisational transformation of the company to create. Every department and each one of our activities became subordinate to this goal and our employees were appropriately schooled and put to work. The days have gone when the CEO comes into a meeting and says, “Listen up everybody, now we are going to be doing ESG” – and we all have to pretend to get busy doing this. It is important that the boss of our Green Team is Piotr Miodek, who is responsible for the project management in the company, so it is someone who is experienced and prepared to implement projects.

Are you concerned about the cooling of demand on the market?

Not much. Of course, this presents us with new challenges, but we have never been a leader in terms of quantity, so we concentrate on quality and such an approach pays off in difficult times. Despite this, we have ambitious plans. We intend to complete 0.5 mln sqm of modern zero-emission warehousing annually. This year, it looks like we won’t achieve that level, but we will get very close.

Since you now have a strong partner, does this mean that you are not going to be working with others?

Absolutely not. We haven’t closed the door on any partnership – and that includes JVs. We have a lot of potential, such as our landbank of over 2 mln sqm. Around half of this is already covered by building permits, while the development of five projects has already begun and another three will start by the end of the year. Of course, we are feeling the slight fall in demand – mainly from the e-commerce and logistics sectors – but we are also seeing increased interest from nearshoring. The cooldown doesn’t change the fact that Poland remains in the centre of Europe and, moreover, it stands out for its easy access to projects and its labour force.

You’re not worried about the geopolitical situation?

Of course. But I try to view the war in Ukraine – since I assume that is what you are asking about – as an opportunity, both now and when peace returns, which I hope will be soon. Because of its position in Europe, it’s hard to imagine that warehousing in Poland is not going to benefit from this. It is, after all, a natural stop-off point between the East and West of the continent – and this also adds to the stability in the region and the prospects for the eventual reconstruction of Ukraine. There is still no sign of any large investment in this area, but there are signals that it could start soon. The first small projects have already started to emerge.

At this point, could you tell us something about your holidays this year?

I can tell you this much, that they are yet to happen! [laughs] During the spring and summer, we were waiting for the finalisation of the takeover, so there was no time to relax – and now that it has been completed, we have our hands full with work. Maybe in the autumn I’ll be able to take my bicycle somewhere, or go skiing in the Alps in the winter.

Interview: Tomasz Cudowski