Efforts to get back into the swing of things were brutally thwarted last week by the horrifying and deeply unsettling events in France.
As someone noted last Thursday at a Property Week forecast roundtable hosted by King & Wood Mallesons, they could prove a defining moment in world history. Let’s hope not. But for all the defiant attempts by the French to resume business as usual, you didn’t need to see a Charlie Hebdo cartoonist break down at a press conference to realise this is far more easily said than done and not just in France.
At the risk of sounding crass, the renewed terror threat could have a dramatic impact not just on our own sense of wellbeing and security but also on that most fragile of commodities, confidence.
I know ‘business as usual’ became to an extent forever rede ned by 9/11 and 7/7 - and of course the activities of the IRA, which lest we forget destroyed Property Week’s offces in South Quay, Docklands, in 1996. But at a time when the property industry is arguably performing strongly despite the political climate rather than because of it, the prospect of an attack on home soil will certainly do nothing to boost confidence.
Yet, the stark reality is that - for the moment at least - the UK still looks like a relatively safe bet, which along with the unfolding horror in France is probably why, contrary to expectations, uncertainties caused by the general election did not dominate our forecast debate.
One participant reflected the consensus view thus after the event: “While the general election creates uncertainties, the low oil price and low bond yields are very positive for real estate and inward money flows and with so many economic and political uncertainties around the world, London may still look a safe haven for capital.”
In short, the election might cause ripples but not a wave. In this global context, even a terror attack would not necessarily have a devastating impact given the terrible events happening (with depressing regularity) elsewhere.
Fellow debate participant Cushman & Wakefield’s Digby Flower was equally sanguine. “The more unstable the rest of the world becomes, the more London and the UK are regarded as a secure home for capital - and the weight of capital will continue to bear down on London and the UK almost regardless,” he agreed.
However, the general election would create waves rather than ripples if, as irony would have it, the outcome normally favoured by the property industry came to pass. “The worst outcome would be a Conservative majority, which would lead to a referendum on Europe in 2017,” he warned. “That could be far more destabilising both politically and economically.”
Interesting times ahead methinks. It is perhaps fitting amid all this talk of the impact of economic and political factors that this week we launch Finance Daily, a weekday morning newsletter to provide you with up-to-the-minute nance news, data and commentary.
Located as it is in Europe’s financial capital, the London Stock Exchange hosts many of the world’s biggest property players and we are going to ensure we cover them for you like no one else. With the latest news from the Square Mile, comprehensive data and analysis and commentary from our team as well as some of the industry’s leading property players, Finance Daily will deliver unrivalled coverage of news from the quoted property sector. Alongside this essential tool for any property professional, Property Week is also enhancing its website finance channel. So don’t miss out: if you are a subscriber sign up for free on our website. And watch this space for further innovations in the coming weeks and months.