She oversees a multibillion kronor real estate empire
Although Vasakronan’s total real estate holdings amount to approximately SEK 200 billion, Johanna Skogestig isn’t concerned that the industry is heading towards hard times.
“I’m not that concerned. Vasakronan is a long-term investor with a strong balance sheet and stable ownership. The conditions in the market may become more challenging, but opportunities often emerge when you have the right market positioning in times of uncertainty,” she says.
The sprawling Vasakronan concern owns commercial property in four of Sweden’s largest cities. This includes Sergelhusen, Garnisonen, four of the five Hötorget skyscrapers and Kista Tower.
“Other prestigious buildings include the ‘Lipstick’ tower in Gothenburg, the Triangle in Malmö and Uppsala Science Park,” adds Johanna Skogestig in a polished Värmland accent.
She moved from Sunne in Värmland to Stockholm in 1994 to study surveying, civil engineering and real estate finance at KTH. Now, 28 years later, she’s in charge of one of Sweden’s largest real estate companies.
In her eyes, sustainability issues will become a dominant theme in the cityscape of the future.
“Our values when it comes to environmental protection affect how and where we build, which construction materials we choose and how efficiently the buildings can be utilised.”
As a landlord, how will Vasakronan cope with the issue of soaring electricity prices?
“Since 2018, Vasakronan has been working to reduce our overall electricity consumption by 50 percent, and we’re now halfway to this goal. This benefits us in a high energy price environment.”
“To cut back on our energy usage, we require electric vehicles at our properties to be charged during the times of day with the lowest electricity consumption. And thanks to digitalisation, we’re able to interconnect the systems at our properties to simplify heating and air conditioning control.”
“We also utilise geothermal heat and reclaimed heat from air conditioners as well as install solar cells on rooftops. Around half our roofs are supplied with solar cells, and we own an entire solar cell park in Uppsala.”
Despite the imminent threat of recession and an increasingly remote workforce, Johanna Skogestig predicts that tenants and corporate clients will continue to look for centrally located offices in large cities, especially since workers tend to flock to urban locales.
“The vast majority of companies realise that the office is crucial for teamwork and solidarity and is an effective tool when it comes to retaining and recruiting talent. This increases the demand for a workplace in the right location with good communications, close to public rail transport. Many companies are willing to sacrifice some square footage in order to be able to work close to the city centres and central railway stations.”
Since Vasakronan is owned by the AP Funds, any returns are credited to Swedish pensioners. Given this austere responsibility, what are the most important measures in your mind to help you guide the company through times of high inflation and rent increases?
“In our day-to-day business, we focus on what we’re able to affect – our projects, our value proposition to customers and our property operations. So far, we don’t see any impact on either the rental market or our customers. It remains to be seen how our tenants would be affected by a potential recession. As a real estate company, you always want to avoid vacancies as they have the greatest impact on your cash flow,” acknowledges Johanna Skogestig.
“You need to respect what’s going on in the market now, and we’re well prepared for turbulent market conditions compared to many others. I also see advantages since interesting opportunities emerge whenever properties that used to look expensive from our perspective fall in price.”
Text: Katarina Ahlfort
Photo: Gustav Kaiser