A word cloud of our interview with GVA’s Rob Bould this week would show one word repeated more than any other - global.
As with King Sturge before it, GVA thought there was no way it could compete in an increasingly globalised market, so a sale to an international firm was pursued.
The fact that this firm was European is perhaps a surprise, in that global capital now flows mostly from the US and Asia. But clearly there are plans underway for further global expansion, possibly in short order, with the US the next stop.
Bould said the decision about which name to retain for the enlarged business depended on how things played out in the US. Without being specific, he pointed to an €800m cash pile on Bilfinger’s balance sheet and its appetite for further acquisitions.
One name worth watching is Cassidy Turley - GVA’s US partner through its GVA Worldwide network, which appointed investment bank JP Morgan in December to explore the possibility of a sale.
Bould is also understood to be friends with Andrew Farkas, chief executive of real estate services firm C-III Capital Partners. Farkas essentially brought about the deal between Insignia Financial Group and CB Richard Ellis, which created the modern CBRE. He is understood to have explored the possibility of a move into a European agency, so a tie-up between the parties might suit.
But perhaps that is putting the cart before the horse. In the immediate term, GVA now has a financially powerful partner that gives it access to a greater number of global clients. A good result.
Agents’ code to kill conflict
For some months, Property Week has been the arena for the growing debate over agents’ conflicts of interest. David Erwin kicked things off in his column at the start of the year, and Nick Leslau used a speech at the launch of our Britain’s Best Agents list to highlight investor unease over the same firm acting on both sides of a deal.
This prompted James Watson, head of retail at Briant Champion Long, now Colliers International, to join the call for change on our letters page.
Finally, last week, columnist Rupert Clarke and this column highlighted the need for self-regulation.
Thankfully, this growing clamour has revealed the fact that a collective of the UK’s top agents, the Mothers’ Bunch Club, well aware of the problems in the market, has for the past few months been working on proposals that are likely to result in a code of practice for the investment markets.
This level of self awareness is to be lauded. And the Investment Property Forum is the right body to manage the pan-industry debate on what this code of practice should look like - its work on the debt market, revealed this week, shows it is able to tackle difficult subjects.
The inevitable coda to this? The code of practice must be rigorous and transparent, all UK agencies must sign up to it, and there must be a measure of enforcement, even if it is simply naming and shaming those who ignore it. A code without teeth is worse than useless.