Commercial Property Blog
The first decade of the century saw a space race between retailers to expand their retail space at breakneck speed. Supermarkets in particular were keen on big store formats. This has left them holding substantial property portfolios.
Property Week’s article, “The big property checkout”, noted the trend by supermarkets to do sale and leaseback deals, boosting the proportion of their property inventory which is leasehold – with Morrisons reportedly due to sell down around 10% of its freeholds. But sale and leaseback deals, joint ventures and bond issues are not the only ways the supermarket chains are making innovative use of property to make profits and fund future investment.
Just as the columnist who claimed in 1995 that printed newspapers would never be replaced by online news has been proved wrong, the internet has sparked a revolution in retailing. 2013 saw even Morrisons finally make the leap to online shopping by signing a deal with Ocado.
The move online has led supermarkets to revolutionise the way they use property. It’s clearly acknowledged by the major retailers that now is the time to put into practice the next stage of their portfolio strategy: diversification.
As well as home delivery, supermarkets are increasingly installing “click and collect” facilities at their stores – giving customers the flexibility to pre-order from the comfort of their sofas rather than amble around the aisles.
And just as Amazon’s Locker facility allows customers to pick up their orders from a wide range of in-town collection points, supermarkets are making moves to give customers more flexibility – with recent reports suggesting that Tesco, Asda and Waitrose have signed deals to bring click and collect to a handful of London Underground stations.
Likewise, we can expect increasing use of “dark stores” – essentially “supermarkets in sheds” where staff select and dispatch customers’ online orders. Dark stores can be located near good transport links, at sites which don’t have prime real estate price tags attached, and which provide the necessary local infrastructure to produce commercial success.
However supermarkets are also taking steps to protect and enhance their customer-facing stores. A great example is the new “destination store” Tesco opened in Watford last August. It features a Giraffe restaurant, Harris + Hoole coffee outlet, Euphorium bakery, nail bar, pharmacy, optician, and a health shop. It also has community space for activities such as yoga, baby gym and cookery classes.
But retailers need to be aware of the hurdles they will need to overcome when introducing a diversified offering to their stores, particularly where the ownership is only leasehold.
Landlord’s consent may be needed to sub-lets, concession and franchise arrangements, alterations and signage. Potential rent review implications should be considered. Service or common cost charges may need to be catered for under the occupancy arrangements with third parties. There may be title conditions, and planning and licensing requirements, to be complied with. Practical considerations such as access and security also need looked at.
But the Watford store is evidence that the large supermarket model is alive and kicking – even if it’s starting to look and feel like a different beast.
Roland Smyth, Senior Associate, Dundas & Wilson
Early on in 2014 you could sense things were changing in the market. There was a noticeable change in tone amongst investors.
Then MIPIM in sunny Cannes came along. Following an always interesting speech by London Mayor Boris Johnson and rather up beat speeches by a bunch of CEOs, I had to stop for a moment and give that change in mood and spirit amongst attendees some thought.
I for one hadn’t witnessed anything like it since before the crash.
Now the consensus seems to be that the sector is operating against a firm backdrop of largely positive industry results for 2013 and signs that post-2008 distressed territories are coming back into favour with investors.
So, I can’t help but wonder: Is the biggest risk we now face that of irrational exuberance?
If we take a step back, nothing has fundamentally changed in world capital markets in the last twelve months to justify that dramatic shift in mood. The feel good factor, however, just like the good weather, is back.
If last year you could hear shy whispers about “cautious optimism”, well this year an outsider to the marker could be easily led to believe that the credit crunch and the total collapse of market liquidity never really happened at all!
So have we learned anything from the past five years? Is this 2005 or 2006 all over again? Or is it simply an outpouring of relief that the worse is behind us combined with exaggerated rhetoric that moves ahead of actual market metrics?
Most investors are now questioning the traditional seven year cycle and go further to suggest that future cycles will be shorter. Maybe as short as three years! What this may result in is a nervous or jumpy recovery, where investors’ determination to read the cycle, invest and divest quickly makes a volatile, fragile recovery a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I don’t like being the bearer of bad news and I do hope I am wrong. At the same time, I do believe that a smooth and less dramatic recovery, albeit dull, would be much healthier and sustainable.
My fear remains that while the sun is shining investors will make hay now and further embed the short term demands of stakeholders, rather than the long term care that market stability depends upon.
The unwavering positive sentiment continues to pervade this year’s MIPIM. Deals are being done, deals are being talked about and it seems we are all having a fantastic MIPIM.
This contrasts sharply with this time last year when we were wading through torrential rain having endured wind, snow and plummeting temperatures all week.
Clearly the contrast in sentiment isn’t just down to the sunshine, but it helps. It hasn’t exactly been hot though, as evidenced by a noticeably strong sartorial trend here. Most of the male delegates have been sporting brightly coloured scarves knotted nonchalantly over their suits. How did that happen? Was there an edict that at this year’s MIPIM scarves would be worn as I don’t remember seeing them at all last year.
Another packed schedule started with the British Property Federation and newly branded JLL breakfast seminar on Alternative Asset Classes.
A few espressos were needed to get into the mood but it was thankfully a slightly later start at 9.30. There were some useful stats. For instance in relation to student housing, did you know that there are 550,000 students in London alone?
L&G’s Bill Hughes talked about opportunities for the private sector as the public sector is underfunded and recommended increased allocations to alternative assets.
Property PR, Andy Teacher came up with his customary killer question. This time it was about the likely effect of the withdrawal of quantitive easing. BPF President David Marks talked about Darwinism and we all filed out blinking into the bright sunshine to race up the Croisette for our next assignations.
There was just time for a quick visit to the London Stand before a lunch roundtable discussion hosted by the BPF and Howard Morgan’s Real Service on the topic of customer service.
On the stand I encountered legendary agent Harvey Soning and equally legendary fellow Property Week columnist Steve Norris.
Steve insisted Harvey tell me of his recent faux pas. Apparently Harvey had been meeting with a French agent to discuss a potential deal. All was going swimmingly until Harvey used the well known expression ‘you have to kiss a lot of frogs…’ A stunned silence followed but apparently Harvey recovered quickly and the entente cordiale remains intact.
Steve told me that he had to file this week’s Property Week column before he left for Cannes so was relieved that Boris was true to form, in making his London Stand speech on Tuesday, and as predicted by Steve, made his joke about London being the 4th largest French city.
The lunch roundtable was a spirited affair with an interesting cross section including developers, corporate occupiers, bankers, lawyers other property professionals and press.
Google head of property, Joe Borrett and Argent director Nick Searl were there to discuss the Kings Cross experience.
Some interesting suggestions were made including a Trip Advisor for the property sector to rate landlords transparently. We also discussed the need to build bridges between the Business Schools and the property sector to gives access to cutting edge business thinking and ensure business leaders understand what well designed real estate contributes to cultural change within a business and increased productivity.
We all agreed on the importance of connectivity in every sense of the word and location. The group also declared that open plan is dead and it is now all about ‘focus.’ We all wished a very happy 15th birthday to Real Service which does such a sterling job of promoting the customer service agenda.
It was then back to the London Stand for a panel session on the Farrell Review of design and architecture, due out in April. My co-collaborator on the Mishcon de Reya and Central, Big Think on The Future of London has been appointed Chair of the inaugural London Festival of Architecture in June. As she pointed out Architecture is the only creative industry that doesn’t plant a flag on Planet London.
Pat is determined that the Festival, will put this right so please support her!
Next stop was the MIPIM UK British tea party complete with scones and Marks & Spencer tea. Regeneration maestro Jackie Sadek took the stage to announce the exciting news of her appointment as regeneration policy adviser to government Minister Greg Clark MP. Celebratory drinks followed courtesy of Farebrother’s Alistair Subba Row as Liz Peace, Pat Brown, Gill Marshall wished Jackie well in her new role.
There was only time for a quick change into ‘glamorous casual’ for the Harvey Soning/Coutts reception, the traditional gathering of the UK property entrepreneurs fuelled by much smoked salmon and champagne.
The room was busier than I have ever seen it which is par for the course at this year’s MIPIM.
Then there was time to relax over a delicious dinner on the beach with Richard Upton and the Cathedral team.
A great evening finished back at the Carlton Bar where this year’s innovation is a disco, although strangely the DJs seemed reluctant to play anything you could dance to for fear of keeping residents awake.
MIPIM may be over for another year but it’s now time to gear up for our inaugural MIPIM UK which takes place at Olympia London in October. See you there!
It happens every year at MIPIM. The sun comes out and I pick up a tan, that starts at the neck and goes upwards.
Even last year, when it snowed at the end of the annual festival, I managed to get home with a healthy glow. As a result the long-suffering Mrs Barber always asks how my holiday on the Riviera has been?
I may look rude with health on the outside, but after several days of walking up and down the Croisette, attending meetings morning, noon and night, inside I’m a broken man. And that’s before you consider the damage done by the constant round of parties.
True to form, this MIPIM has been going the way of others and the party lifestyle is taking its toll.
Tuesday night was the official MIPIM Cocktail Party. In my eyes it was better than in years gone by. The queues at the bars and for the canapés were far less stressful that previously – but it seemed just as busy as in previous years.
And then there were the fireworks - another fabulous display that lit up the beachfront hotels, shops, restaurants and apartments and got MIPIM going with several loud bangs. Plans to ‘take it easy’ were binned all too easily.
The Wednesday of MIPIM sees one of the highlights of the week for me – ‘Shedmasters’, the annual party for those involved in the industrial and logistics markets, sponsored by various big names in the sector, including our client Verdion.
The event is expertly arranged by LAH Property Marketing and involves a large number of taxis shuttling the great and the good of the shed market into the hills high above Cannes. The venue is a spectacular and has stunning views from the sun terraces. This is the ideal place to top up a holiday tan on a lovely sunny day.
Shedmasters is regarded by many as one of the most important parties to attend at MIPIM and there are always lots of old friends and contacts to say hello to and new acquaintances to make. The only trouble is that there is not much shade, and despite sheltering by the bar while chatting and laughing with Segro’s Andy Gulliford about our past lives as industrial agents, I soon had to venture out into the sunshine again where I started to turn pink.
Mrs Barber just won’t be impressed.
Following Shedmasters it was back down into Cannes for more walking. I wonder how many miles I have clocked up this week? Or should that be kilometres?
The evening brought more chances to party. The first was a cocktail event hosted by Swedish software company Datscha at their fabulous fifth-floor penthouse and roof terrace on the Croisette. The views were superb and matched by the hospitality. It was great to catch up with old clients and colleagues and several self-confessed geeks. I felt quite at home!
Later into the night I joined friends old and new at a noisy Hogan Lovells party by the marina.
“This is surreal!” said my ex-colleague Simon Stretch. And I had to agree with him. I saw the BPF’s Liz Peace tapping her feet to a cover version of Green Day’s “American Idiot” and then several balding, middle-aged men, in grey suits, dad-dancing to One Direction’s “Best Song Ever”. Which, by the way, it isn’t.
Later still I was persuaded, against my better judgment, to go to a “Discotheque somewhere beyond the Martinez.” Why did I agree to this?
The only benefit of the resulting very late night is that, the morning after, but now look like someone who should know better and, thankfully, the tan has faded a little
Andrew Barber of Flashbulb
Over the first two days at this year’s MIPIM l have noticed a growing interest from investors in non-core opportunities in the German office market.
My anecdotal evidence is backed up by some research by KPMG, revealed in Cannes, that suggests that, as market confidence returns, 42% of investors are now looking at “opportunistic strategies” an increase of 10% in the last 12 months.
Conversations with a number of forward-looking investors certainly indicates that an increasing number have noticed that, on the basis of objective risk comparison, the difference in yields between non-core and core investments is significantly greater than you would expect and many of the investors now want to take advantage of these opportunities.
The consensus here at MIPIM seems to be that little value growth can be anticipated for property in Germany’s Top Seven office locations. Nor is there any expectation of significant further yield compression or higher
rentals once existing leases have expired. In any event, speculation in this direction cannot be called professional asset management - but gambling at best!
Many of the conversations I have been having in Cannes have revolved around investors taking a closer look at value-add property in the secondary locations of Germany’s prime cities. It is the case that selected locations on the fringes of the major conurbations present unusually positive conditions for investors where properties with good potential are often overlooked.
The potential has increased as there has been a noticeable decline in the range of modern, affordable rental space on offer within reach of the key metropolitan areas. With banks are reluctant to finance them, the lack of speculative development projects has further increased the opportunities to add value.
Of course value add opportunities in the prime cities and locations are of high interest as well, but competition and pricing goes up as you compete with core buyers who will price the risk differently.
For investors daring enough to “break away from the flock” the reward will be increased returns. I believe that with careful asset management investors who buy now will add an attractive risk-return profile to their portfolios. Of course an investment strategy like this takes a bit of courage as well as careful analysis of the opportunities, but it pays off in the end.
Christoph Wittkop is managing director of PAMERA Asset Management GmbH
MIPIM continues to fly, buoyed by a wave of positive sentiment and enthusiasm.
The day started with a British Property Federation international investors breakfast. It was packed.
Alongside the many UK property investors I also met investors from Tokyo, Dubai and other parts of the world. Rousing speeches were made by REED MIDEM’s Peter Rhodes, BPF President, David Marks and sponsor Rob Bould of GVA.
There was just time for a quick visit to the London Stand to see Capco’s Gary Yardley giving an update on their Earls Court Scheme and then on to the London Chamber roundtable lunch hosted by London Chamber President, Tony Pidgley.
The illustrious gathering included developers, Gary Yardley, Quintain CEO Max James, Battersea Power Station CEO, Rob Tincknell, Helical’s Tim Murphy and amongst others, senior representatives from Barclays, Macquarie Capital and the Regeneration Investment Office.
Rob Tincknell mentioned before lunch their exciting plans for a new high street at Battersea to be jointly created by star architects Frank Gehry and Norman Foster due to be launched next month. The upshot of a fascinating and thought provoking (but Chatham Rules regulated) discussion was that London is very much open for business and should continue to pull out the stops to encourage overseas investment.
Paul Marsh of UK Trade & Investment represented Sir Mike Bear’s interesting new Regeneration Investment Organisation at the lunch which has been tasked with encouraging regeneration by matching investment to UK projects to accelerate growth and jobs. At this point I want to particularly pay credit to Sir Mike who is uncomplainingly, and with great determination, undertaking an arduous MIPIM schedule while recovering from a serious back operation.
I then managed to catch up with James Saunders now at Quintain. James and I were on the London Business School Sloan Masters programme together so have some common ground. The Sloan is an MBA course crammed into one academic year rather than two, so the volume of information thrown at you makes it a bit like sipping water from a fire hydrant!
We were deep in ‘change management’ conversation whilst being smoked out by the chain smoking French matrons on the next table. Thankfully they eventually got up to leave but in doing so managed to accidentally dislodge a large glass bottle of balsamic vinegar which shattered covering us in glass and pungent rivulets of dark brown viscous vinegar.
Strangely, there was hardly a ‘pardon’ as they sailed off and we were left to clear up the damage. A lesson in crisis management?
Then it was on to a convivial Capco drinks reception and some time to catch up with the Mishcon team and other London contacts including a few minutes sitting down with the legendary MIPIM maestro, Sue Brown of FTI.
The evening finished with the mind boggling Tristan Capital beach party. This year did not disappoint. The theme was pirates and the room was decked out with skulls and crossbones, treasure and all sorts if trinkets. Guests were offered appropriate pirate outfits and accoutrements. Ice sculptures, magicians, a live band and dancers made the evening one to remember.
I’m not sure what happened to my dance partner Gary ‘twinkle toes’ Murphy of Allsops as I had to leave before I was made to walk the plank.
A big topic of debate at MIPIM has been the big, ugly US vulture funds that are currently raising billions of dollars of equity to invest in European distressed assets.
Starwood Capital is raising a fund that will have about $2bn of equity for Europe, PIMCO has just raised one that’s about the same, and Blackstone, Lone Star, KKR, Oaktree et al are all in the same boat.
They want to buy bog portfolios that they can then break up – wholesale to retail, a tactic as old as business itself.
The question generating debate here is will they actually make any money out of it? We’ll never really now – the way these firms operate, these assets go into a huge black box, from which light cannot emerge. We hear about larger assets being sold, but not the long tail of little assets that generally get churned through the auction room.
But with competition so fierce, and so much money to put out, will they really be able to find the right deals? Maybe there is enough distress out there among European banks and borrowers to ensure there’s something foreveryone. But in places like Spain and Ireland, the recovery has been incredibly rapid, and prices being talked about don’t seem to imply brilliant returns for these big beasts.
The first official day of MIPIM has been turbo charged.
It started with breakfast with REED MIDEM UK supremo Peter Rhodes sharing plans for the MIPIM UK traditional English tea party on Thursday.
No effort has been spared in bringing us genuine English scones and proper English tea. It’s just a shame that London Mayor Boris Johnson visit was short so he won’t be here to appreciate it.
It was only due to a last minute change of plan that he decided to make a whirlwind visit to MIPIM at all.
Boris fever resulted in standing room only as the crowds waited in keen anticipation for the legendary ‘yellow haired mayor’ to formally open the London Stand with a rousing exhortation to build homes for Londoners and to market them first in the UK.
He asked a rhetorical question as to why over 350,000 French people now live in London whilst only 19,000 Brits live in Paris! He also asked what the letters MIPIM stand for. ‘Meet me at the pool in a minute’ was his flippant suggestion.
He is not alone in wondering what the letters stand for. The French and Mr Rhodes probably know the answer to that one!
The ‘Boris factor’ resulted in hugely heightened activity and excitement on the London Stand as he and deputy Mayor Sir Edward Lister were shown round models of some of the major London projects represented. Capco’s Ian Hawksworth and Gary Yardley were on hand to show off the stunning model of their 77 acre Earls Court scheme.
Lunch was spent dodging the pigeons at Vegaluna beach restaurant where a chance meeting between two clients could lead to an interesting corporate deal.
So fingers crossed for some immediate MIPIM ROI! Back to the London Stand for a packed reception hosted by Quintain with speeches from CEO Max James, deputy Mayor Rick Blakeway, Sir Mike Bear and Tony Pidgley who all had difficulty making themselves heard above the roar of the excited gin & tonic swigging crowd.
Then we were into the early evening round of receptions. It was good to catch up with Giles Barrie and Jackie Sadek at FTI.
Then a quick change into ‘glamorous casual’ for the Grant Thornton/Barclays/ Cowell Group/ Speechleys party back at Vegaluna, (without the pigeons who had turned in for the night!) This only left me a few minutes for the MIPIM Pioneers Reception which probably means I have forfeited my Oscar! The opening party fireworks were magnificent.
Then off to our annual Mishcon de Reya Tuesday night dinner at the wonderful La Petite Maison which did us proud this year.
Our guests really entered into the spirit of the evening. We were serenaded by a band who launched into a Spanish number which had Regus Group founder Mark Dixon and I performing what can only be described as an improvised flamenco routine which thankfully was not captured in camera.
We had a stellar group round the table including Topland’s Sol and Eddie Zakay, Urban Splash’s Tom Bloxham, Native Land’s Clive Riding, Rowan’s Nick Jacobs, Mansford’s Charles Knight, Eli Shahmoon, Harvey Soning, Essential Living’s Darryl Flay and a friend.
Somehow Property Week editor Mike Phillips and Estate Gazette columnist Peter Bill ended the evening sitting together. David Pearl mysteriously arrived late and departed early after modelling his new Michael Kors jacket.
Sol Zakay insisted I make a speech which thankfully was immediately interrupted by Nick Candy and Paul Mumford’s adjacent table singing happy birthday which prompted another visit from the band.
A great evening wrapped up with a legendary tiramisu and another late night.
“London’s confidence has never been higher” said Boris Johnson in his keynote speech at MIPIM on Tuesday and, judging from the mood in the London Pavilion, it is very hard to disagree with him.
Earlier, with hundreds of people packed in around the famous model of Central London, he had made a short speech that included an update to his joke about London being one of the largest French cities in terms of the numbers of French citizens!
He correctly asserted that the growth of London illustrated the global appeal of the city and its ability to attract the best and brightest talent from around the world.
Certainly there is a real buzz about the London Pavilion that appears to be absent from both the Paris and Moscow pavilions and other city stands such as Berlin’s. While Boris will, by his very nature, attract a crowd when he is speaking - long after he left the building, and for the majority of the day, it was still busy with an excitement and enthusiasm.
The other stands and pavilions were by contrast, when I visited, far less atmospheric.
The truth is, as Boris said; “London is in global demand”. It has the stability that attracts the international investor while at the same time it has the culture and style that attracts talented employees - making it the place to be for businesses.
This ability of London to attract the brightest and best staff is important, although I would not go so far as to say that “staff, staff, staff” should replace the “location, location, location” mantra, as has been suggested by some.
London’s global demand and its ability to attract talent is because it is a great location for both business and living. While it is true that within the city there are clusters of industries and areas known for niche sectors, this has been true for hundreds of years and is not just a recent trend specific to “Tech City”.
The capital’s confidence is also infectious an is spreading out across the country, slowly but surely. London leads the UK economy and the buzz in the London Pavilion can also be felt on the regional stands like that of Bristol, where Skanska also has a presence.
As the UK’s property market is moving up through the gears, what is important is that the property and construction industries build upon this confidence and strive to create the world’s best environments for working and living.
I have to say the Easyjet Luton to Nice flight was a very engaging affair.
There may have been no upgrade or champagne but the time went like a flash as most of the passengers were MIPIM bound and keen to start networking.
Richard Leslie was holding court in row 1, which got a little crowded at times. I was entertained in row 3 by Scott Spiro of Allied Property Investments, who updated me on many of our mutual acquaintances, including marriages, divorces and deaths.
Scott has struck lucky this MIPIM as he is staying in a friend’s Kelly Hoppen-designed villa, with a choice of five cars, including a convertible Porsche and a Ferrari. I also learnt from Derby lawyer Michael Copestake about the way the city of Derby is being promoted on the back of its strong engineering and manufacturing industries.
Before we knew it we were landing in Nice and en route to Cannes. It’s good to return to the Carlton Hotel and reassuring for those of us who were battered by last year’s storms, to see the terrace open for business without any protection from the elements.
Other good news for me is that there is now wi-fi in the guest rooms, so at least I won’t have to creep down to the bar in the middle of the night to file my blogs. There is an air of anticipation in Cannes with last minute construction work and bands warming up for the real event starting tomorrow.
One small black cloud on the horizon for MIPIM-goers is the closure of the wonderful Cafe des Festivals on the Croisette next to the Marriott Hotel. Where are we going to sit now to conduct meetings in the sun while watching the real estate world parade past? Why has it closed and what will take its place? Whatever the answer, it is going to be closed for MIPIM.
It was a fantastic first night at La Petite Maison courtesy of Harvey Soning of James Andrew and Barry Williamson of Coutts & Co.
Together with the British Property Federation’s Liz Peace and Frogmore’s Paul White, we set the property world to rights while enjoying some great food and wine. We were fascinated by a senior all-male Russian delegation at the next table watched over by their security detail as they drank some impressive wines amid much toasting.
There’s was a perceptible buzz in the restaurant and MIPIM hasn’t even started!
Back at the Carlton a new tropical fish tank has materialised in the bar and has pride of place, although lights get switched off relatively early. I don’t think the fish will get much rest once MIPIM is properly under way.
A thoroughly entertaining evening ended on a high with agent extraordinaire Tony Lorenz telling his story about Sebastian the indiscreet parrot - complete with photos of the offending bird - who apparently is likely to have a lifespan of 120 years, so many more years of mischief-making.
I’ve just been notified that guests at the MIPIM Pioneers cocktail party on Tuesday will receive a souvenir Jubilee trophy.
It’s going to be just like the Oscars!