UK: MIPIM Day 3 - From One Superlative To Another

Last Updated: 17 March 2014
Article by Jon Lovell

Most Read Contributor in UK, August 2017

In the several years I've been coming here, there's no question that yesterday was my best ever at MIPIM. Every client conversation delivered a tangible outcome, and some very positive agreements and opportunities. So, a lot of momentum for the rest of the week, and a really decent list of actions to follow-up on. Excellent.

The superlative of yesterday has been pretty much matched so far today, but for totally different reasons. I don't think I've ever had such a wide-ranging and seemingly random series of discussions! If MIPIM should come with a list of health warnings, the prospect of this happening should certainly be one of them. I've been engaged in conversation on topics from the panacea of thorium to our energy supply challenges, the commercial opportunities and pitfalls for those prepared to develop mobile Apps, the dynamics of the European M&A market, and the prospects and limitations of crowd funding real estate investment. Try making sense of that lot!

One theme of conversation which merits some decent reflection though, was that hosted by the wonderful Jane Hollinshead (@JHollinsheadAG) at Addleshaw Goddard, in association with the British Property Federation (@BritProp). It focused on international capital investment trends into the UK property market, and featured representatives from a significant Chinese firm that has invested into a large real estate project outside of London. This can be taken as pretty serious validation of overseas investment interest in the UK market as a whole, where regional opportunities are considered increasingly to provide decent prospects for sustainable returns. Importantly, this particular investor has every intention of broadcasting its experience of doing business in the UK with other Chinese firms. It is critical, in my view, that organisations such as the Regeneration Investment Organisation, set up to attract overseas capital to UK real estate and infrastructure investment opportunities, harness the ambassadorial qualities of the international investors already doing business in the UK, especially those from the emerging markets.

Now here's something that gives me great pleasure to report: whilst obvious assets like the British education system are central to competing to attract investor interest from places like China, so too, it seems, is the professionalism of the advisors and firms who operate in the domestic real estate market. This remark was a big thumbs up for the professional services community in the UK, so those of us on 'that side of the fence' were able to enjoy a rare opportunity to bask in collective glory! High fives all round.

I had the opportunity to put a question to the panel on the whether the push for fiscal devolution of UK cities, a theme we've seen playing strongly at MIPIM week, is seen by overseas investors as a threat or positive prospect for future investment in the UK outside of London. The answer was resounding. Whilst in principle this is taken as a good opportunity to be more agile and locally responsive with the deployment of capital (the argument being that cities are better placed to determine the right time, place and format of capital investment to generate growth) there were two strong cautionary notes:

  1. The variation in capability across UK cities to deliver capital investment in well-placed projects is considerable. Whilst there is the potential for greater autonomy to deliver great results where the leadership and talent mix is right, there is also a risk that poor execution will undermine positive impact and suppress future capital market appetite.
  2. Big lot sizes tend to be highest on the agenda for international investors, and these are fewer and less liquid in regional locations compared to London.  Furthermore, if greater local autonomy means that more direct negotiation is needed with a greater number of stakeholders to deliver large infrastructure projects which span administrative boundaries (think HS2) then capital market players will, without question, be put off.

Right, it's time for me to get back out there and into the mix. Next on the agenda today is an update on Airport City at the Manchester stand (@mcrMIPIM), followed by a drinks reception with one of London's premier housing developers. Tonight, we're holding one of our signature events of the week – a private dinner for a select group of investment clients. We've got a first-rate list of clients attending, so it should be an absolutely top evening.

I wonder if I'll have the strength for another run up the coast tomorrow morning?!

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