The financialization of logistics real estate in the Italian hinterland. Unpacking the new logistics regime behind assetized warehouses



financialization, hinterland logistics, logistics regime




The ‘financialization’ of land expands in all countries where real estate is negotiated as financial assets, products, and commodities. The academic debate, against the backdrop of the financial geography framework (Aalbers 2020), mainly focuses on the role of financialization in large-scale urban development projects (Guironnet, Attuyer and Halbert, 2016) and global cities as property assets with many influential works over the last thirty years.  

However, another less evident sector of real estate is experiencing its absorption into the financial sphere. Logistics facilities, key to the functioning of global supply chains, are exponentially growing in Europe’s service-oriented economies, and have caught the attention of global capital. With a 7% year-on-year increase in investments in 2023, Italy is a major target of investments in logistics and Europe’s leader. This sector of real estate is increasingly financialized, with most new developments being developed as assets for international investment funds. As these warehouses are often developed with a build-to-rent strategy, financial actors have a strong stake in the management of properties.  . 

In Italy, this thirst for logistics development poses a challenge to planning. Early evidence shows that regional planning seems ineffective, and the power to plan logistics development ultimately lies with metropolitan authorities and municipalities (Savini 2013). The large greenfield plots needed for ever-expanding warehouses are found in suburban outskirts, which often welcome logistics to earn revenue and provide jobs in economically struggling areas while failing to address the larger territorial organization of this sector. As they become sought-after locations, municipalities adapt to market forces, for example by raising their planning fees or outright banning new logistics developments, in a bid to halt land consumption. 

We investigate this trend through the study of some hotspots of logistics development in the ‘logistics hinterlands’ scattered across Italy. We use both quantitative methods, such as spatial and socio-economic data, and qualitative methods, such as semi-structured interviews. Our research exposes, much like in other European cases (Nefs and Daamen 2023), the growing influence of finance in the governance of logistics and the power geometries among financial actors, logistics operators and the government at different scales. 

Our aim is to read these dynamics as a 'logistics regime' (Stone 1993), tracking the agency of fund managers, developers and real estate agencies who connect global capital with local investment opportunities. 

Ultimately, we ask whether their pervasive power over the construction and management of logistics facilities, as well as their capital, leads to a partial privatization of logistics governance