At Mipim, you can usually gauge when the market’s about to hit the skids by the extravagance of the events and number of scantily clad women tottering around.
This year, what events there were - UK firms undoubtedly hosted fewer - were far less decadent than usual and there was not a skimpily attired girl on roller blades in sight (caveat: as Property Week went to press).
I was expecting the mood to be subdued, but instead people seemed pretty sanguine, relaxed even.
You got the feeling that people had thought long and hard about whether they could justify attending and once they had decided they could, they were laser-focused on the prize, be that making the right contacts, doing the right deal, entertaining the right clients or simply meeting up with international colleagues.
It was like a nice dinner party with friends on a larger scale - not quite the image some parts of the media would paint, but then, as one senior figure noted sagely, there has never been more of a disconnect between what people think of their market and what those outside it think.
Neither, thanks to the ‘B’ word, has there ever been more of a disconnect between the UK and the rest of Europe. Hell hath no fury like 27 countries scorned, it seems.
Yet while the mood in the European camp was more upbeat, the Cannes sunshine did break through the persistent fog of Brexit hanging over the UK market. GVA’s Gerry Hughes went so far as to describe this year’s event as one of the best, citing the “relative positivity despite the Brexit debate”.
Investing in the UK
There is certainly comfort to be taken from the fact that even if we are now expats in Europe, the UK still retains its pre-eminent position on the global stage - or London does, anyway.
The UK capital is the most popular European city to invest in for the sixth year in a row, reveals the latest CBRE EMEA Investor Intentions Survey, and while Germany remains ahead of the UK as the most attractive country to invest in, investors are showing an increasing tendency to invest in the UK.
These are hardly the hallmarks of a busted flush, and crucially, while further challenges lie ahead, so do further opportunities. For one, the City is uniquely placed to become the number-one global tech hub, according to the Tech X The City report, commissioned by the City of London Corporation and the City Property Association (CPA).
The way the City does business will be transformed over the next few years, it predicts, with the finance sector attracting a growing number of tech companies into the centre of the Square Mile, creating a new tech cluster. “We are in the midst of a fourth industrial revolution,” proclaims the CPA’s David Ainsworth.
But, cautions the report, the Square Mile will need to be proactive in attracting such companies if it is to attain that status. There is plenty of competition from the likes of Berlin.
Luckily, on the evidence of this year’s Mipim, there is a real desire on the part of the industry - or you could say Cannes-do attitude - to propel London and the UK forward whatever the challenges in this brave new Brexit world.