Foreign capital challenges domestic dominance in French real estate

It is the price of success: domestic investors, who have so far dominated the French real estate market, will find themselves competing for assets with foreign players, experts agreed at the PropertyEU Europe and France Outlook 2018 briefing.

French investors so far have played the lead role, accounting for over 70% of transactions. 'I regard this as a distinct advantage, because it makes the market less volatile and more sustainable,' said Tania Bontemps, présidente, Union Investment Real Estate. 

'The French market has always been attractive and stable, without oversupply or crazy rents. What has changed now is others’ perception,' Bontemps told the event held at the Paris offices of law firm Dentons on 29 November.

Watch highlights of the event here

Foreign competition
The signs are indeed that French investors may now face more intense competition from foreign players. Macron’s positive image abroad, and the country’s economic renewal, are attracting investors from near and far. Americans and Asians, South Koreans in particular, as well as Middle Eastern investors and European neighbours are all looking for opportunities.

'France is going through a very exciting time now,' said Renaud Jezequel, general manager Paris branch, Helaba. 'As a bank we are very positive on the outlook for the country and we are growing our presence here. France is becoming more strategic for the Germans.'

A year ago it was not easy to persuade the Union Investment board to invest in France, but now ‘all the lights are green’, said Bontemps. 'I hope this phase of euphoria continues. If Macron stays business-oriented and delivers the reforms, the next two or three years could be incredible for France in terms of investment.' 

France also gives investors the huge advantage of choice in terms of sectors, types of assets and locations, experts agreed.

Something for everyone
'There are plenty of opportunities for every type of investor and in different asset classes, from office to logistics to retail to alternative,' said Alexandre Poupard, Partner, Dentons. The reforms already being implemented by the Macron government, such as cutting the corporate tax rate and making the labour market more flexible, are sending a good message to investors, he added.

'You can choose to invest in core, value-add or spec, depending on your investment strategy and the returns you want,' said Jezequel. 'You also have a choice of locations. Do not underestimate the potential of cities like Lyon, Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Lille or Marseille.'

French cities feature in the list of the top 25 cities worldwide for their 'live, work and play' qualities, said Guy-Young Lame´, Director, European Research, Invesco Real Estate: ‘They not only have a good quality of life but also a good business ecosystem, so they are interesting not just for offices but for residential and hotels as well.’ Paris, Lyon, Lille, Nantes and Bordeaux all feature in the top 25 global rankings alongside Berlin, Barcelona, Montreal and Auckland.

The success of Paris need not be at the expense of France’s other thriving cities, said Bontemps: 'The regions will really come up in the next few years.'


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