So what’s it going to be? A year of limbo as we await further clarity on Brexit, with everyone sitting on their hands, fingers crossed that come 2019 the deadline doesn’t pass without a trade deal, sending investors and occupiers running for the (foreign) hills?
Or a year in which the British bulldog spirit triumphs in the face of adversity and opportunities are grasped where only challenges appear to be? Judging by the predictions made by leading industry figures in our whopping forecast feature, the answer is a bit of both.
It makes for fascinating reading. It also provided a very useful steer – thanks folks – for the Property Week team’s predictions, which follow in no particular order:
- M&A activity: On the evidence of the mega deals of the past few weeks between Unibail-Rodamco and Westfield, Hammerson and Intu and Brookfield/Onex and IWG, expect to see more M&A activity, particularly in the retail and serviced office space, much of it defensive.
- Retail woes: Next’s positive Christmas trading statement shows it is too simplistic to try and read the retail runes by pitting bricks ‘n’ mortar versus online. That said, there are likely to be more retailer failures. Investment values will fall as owners of poor shopping centres cut their losses and sell. There will also be concerns about out-of-town retail parks given many feature the likes of Poundland, Harveys and Bensons for Beds, all owned by scandal-hit Steinhoff.
- Offices and serviced offices: The office occupier outlook remains unclear although fears of a Brexit-related exodus have faded. Overseas investors will continue to view London as a safe haven, so trophy assets will continue to trade hands, even if there are fewer blockbuster deals. However, serviced office firms may well struggle as confidence falls ahead of Brexit and competition with the likes of WeWork intensifies.
- Industrial strength: Although industrial will remain the best-performing of the three main asset classes, capital value growth will slow as investors start to worry about the market overheating. Urban logistics will perform well, though, thanks to the continued rise of online. On the occupier side, one name to look out for is Alibaba as it ramps up its efforts to crack the UK/European market and take on Amazon.
- Alternatives: Investors will continue to plough more money into alternatives such as retirement living, healthcare and student accommodation, although the latter will face challenges as it continues to mature as an asset class – and if the London Plan does make it harder to develop, as feared.
- Wellbeing and diversity: Both are set to be hot topics this year, wellbeing because the industry is finally waking up to the benefits, and diversity because it is 100 years since women gained the right to vote – and the year in which Harry and Meghan get hitched.
The best not biggest
Last year, we had a huge number of entries to the Property Awards from everyone except agents. I gather people were worried that their figures weren’t as stellar as usual. Don’t be. We understand it’s a tough market and some of you can only disclose so much.
We’re not looking for the biggest, we’re looking for the best. If you want to be in with a chance of taking home a gong on the most prestigious night of the commercial property calendar (17 April at Grosvenor House), the deadline for entries is next Friday, but just for you, we have extended it to 19 January. Don’t be shy.