The sunny disposition of the 23,000 attendees of the MIPIM real estate conference in Cannes two weeks ago initially matched the beautiful spring weather in the south of France. But the mood turned distinctly grey when word quickly spread about a crisis in the global financial system that reminded many of MIPIM 2008 just prior to the global financial crisis.
In March 2008, the US government and bankers raced to finalise a rescue of Bear Stearns, finally agreeing a fire sale to JPMorgan Chase. The 85-year-old investment bank was the first domino to fall in the financial crisis that ravaged global markets. This year, almost exactly 15 years later, in a similar sequence of events, regulators and bankers in Switzerland rushed to agree a takeover of Credit Suisse to its rival, UBS.
Everyone we spoke to was uncertain about the impact on global real estate markets, but we were all pretty sure it would lead to a reduction in the availability of debt and even more onerous terms, spelling yet more trouble for refinancings and valuations in the short to medium term. We were welcomed back to the UK with a rise in the all-in cost of real estate debt to 8% and concerns about Deutsche Bank and regional US lenders, such as First Republic Bank.
Aside from the banking crisis, the MIPIM theme was sustainability with a ‘Road to Zero’ ESG zone. There has, of course, been much talk about ESG but too little action. We are crying out for something visible and meaningful. Cromwell Property Group’s wooden building strategy is one of the most exciting when so few companies seem to be serious about decarbonising the construction process.
The Caffé Roma continued to be the favourite meeting place and the two standout parties were the Eurologix (the group of Prologis, Oxenwood Real Estate, Tritax and DTRE) afternoon bash by the beach for the logistics sector and Panattoni’s late-night barnstormer at the Majestic hotel. They showed yet again that, whatever challenges the industry faces, the real estate specialist’s glass is always half full.
– James Whitmore, Director