‘All those who believed property was a fast track to riches are now learning harsh lessons’, Heron International boss Gerald Ronson said today.
Ten years of heaven
‘In the early ‘90s I stood before you at the time of the last downturn, and said it was about staying alive to ‘95 and going to heaven in ’97,’ he told an audience of 370 business leaders at Heron’s annual lunch in London. ‘So we have had our 10 years of heaven.
‘To misquote the singer, Dinah Washington, what a difference a year makes! I don’t need to stand here and let you know the world has changed. Last year I said that the market had gone too far and that the writing was on the wall. But clearly, for the new kids on the block, the words were written in invisible ink.’
Profit in a downturn
Ronson said he expected Heron, which has a £500m investment portfolio and a £1.5bn development programme, to profit from the downturn: ‘The best property investments Heron has made have been during a downturn. It is during these times that we believe we are most likely to identify opportunities which can make real returns for our shareholders.
‘We are currently sailing in a force 9 storm in the middle of the Atlantic but we all know that, ultimately, storms subside and it is those of us with sound foundations and long term vision who will survive the storm and come out stronger and wiser the other side.’
Heron is heavily involved in the London development scene, carrying out the Heron Tower and Milton Court, which will incorporate the new Guildhall School of Music & Drama and 300 residential units, in the City and The Peak office and retail development opposite Victoria Station.
‘For Heron it is all about the very best property, in the very best location,’ said Ronson. ‘London is unique. As the financial capital of the world, London is the place to be.
‘I am confident not only about commercial property but also central London residential property.
‘But we need to protect our position as the financial capital of the world. We need to ensure people continue to want to be based in London. We have to offer them the most desirable assets in the best locations not frighten them away with confused signals from the Treasury.’