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2 ‘secret’ winners from the e-commerce boom to watch in 2018

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The latest figures for UK consumer spending show that even as consumer confidence weakens and overall spending declines, e-commerce sales continue to grow at a solid clip. Investors looking to cash in on this trend can, of course, invest directly in the likes of Asos or Ocado.

But if this method is a bit too narrow for your tastes, an easier way to profit may be to invest in the property companies that own the warehouses that support package storage, sorting and shipping.

A history of success not to be ignored

This is one area where Hansteen Holdings (LSE: HSTN) shines with its portfolio of around 300 estates in the UK and a smattering in Belgium and France that support a respectable 3.9% dividend yield. The group focusses solely on industrial properties and has a wide variety of tenants that provide a very nice level of diversification, so not too much exposure to any one particular sector.

The group’s management team also has a very long track record of success and knowing when to enter and exit certain markets. The latest call made was to sell off the entirety of the group’s German and Dutch holdings for €1.28bn at a time when occupancy and rental rates were high and the weak pound made the transaction even more attractive in sterling terms.

The proceeds of this sale were used to retire a significant amount of debt, fund a relatively small acquisition and return a lot of cash to shareholders. That return was facilitated though a shareholder-friendly tender offer that repurchased and retired a whopping 50% of the group’s outstanding shares for a total of £580m.

The group is now concentrating on the UK market, where it still sees a solid medium-term outlook for the industrial property market as GDP growth continues despite recent wobbles in the housing market. And on top of GDP growth, fact that the group’s portfolio properties are concentrated on large estates close to major highways means it should continue to benefit hugely from the shift towards e-commerce.

An aptly named option

Another company operating in the same vein is newly public Warehouse REIT (LSE: WHR). The group raised £150m in its September IPO and has already invested a bit more than this in building a portfolio that stretches from the south coast of England to Glasgow.

Like Hansteen, Warehouse REIT’s portfolio is concentrated on industrial properties that are either situated in close proximity to vital infrastructure links or in urban areas themselves. The latter are part of the group’s plan to be a key part of the ‘last mile’ delivery networks for e-commerce firms.

And with relatively high demand and limited supply for suitable properties, Warehouse REIT is expecting to achieve very high occupancy rates and steadily rising rental rates going forward. It’s still a bit early to tell if this is working out as planned, but the group’s acquisitions so far have taken place on estates with low vacancy rates and very nice annual yields.

Warehouse REIT isn’t a screaming bargain as it trades at a 7% premium to its net asset value, but if domestic economic growth continues apace and shoppers begin buying ever greater amounts of goods online, the company looks well positioned to benefit hugely.

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Ian Pierce has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK owns shares of and has recommended ASOS. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Hansteen Holdings. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.