The real estate industry said ‘yes we Cannes’ at the first opportunity to network again on the French Riviera in almost two years. But was it worth the trip?
‘I spoke to a several people who weren’t sure whether to come to Mipim or not,’ remarked Karim Habra, head of Europe and Asia-Pacific at Ivanhoé Cambridge, in conversation at this year’s property show in Cannes. ‘They didn’t know if it was worth it. I thought: it’s this or Zoom calls – and this has to be better. Turns out, there are actually a lot of industry leaders from France here – I’ve probably had some of the best top-level meetings ever at this event.’
Mipim returned to Cannes in an unusual September slot, and while big numbers weren’t expected, there was always going to be a fair share of La Croisette die-hards and curious real estate professionals networking in the Palais des Festivals in Cannes. In the end, fair organisers reported over 4,000 delegates in attendance from 46 countries around the world, in a show lasting just two and a half days, taking place in a remodelled Palais layout.
Anticipation and reality
As guests trickled into the Palais for the opening night cocktail you could see it on their faces: a mix of anticipation and trepidation, as delegates wondered if they would encounter the carefree spirit of the old Mipim or something quite new.
Just the fact that the event’s launch party had been transplanted into the Palais was a note for potential concern. No room at the Carlton, undergoing an important refurbishment; why not move it to another grand hotel along the beach? But delegates’ fears were soon set aside. The Palais confirmed itself once again a master of the artful transformation, with the outdoor space between the Riviera and Lerins Halls converted into a large and handsome roof terrace, dressed with white pavilions, bars and buffet banquets, all of which had been lavishly sponsored by the City of Rome.
This was the Mipim lounge, an outdoor area where masks could be removed and which would become the centrepiece of the event over the next two days. The backdrop, as ever, was the old port and a pastel sunset staining the sky, as black shirted waiters poured streams of free champagne and the sounds of laughter, chatter and the squeals of renewed acquaintances filled the air.
Yet despite the familiar faces and evident bonhomie, this was something different, even if you had to look carefully to see it. Framed notices beside the buffet declared the offered aperitif and dinner to be a sustainable affair, with the vegetables grown locally by a farmer in Cannes La Bocca. And entering the Palais was a distinctly Covid-era process. This time, delegates were expected to carry two badges: their MIPIM ticket, and the pass sanitaire, attesting to a complete vaccination cycle or a Covid test within the last 48 hours. On presentation of one’s health status, delegates were given a plastic snap wristband, whose colour changed each day.
The informal festivities of the first night cocktail aside, Tuesday morning was back to business. Delegates encountered limited queues to enter the Palais, on which they found the next big Mipim surprise: no ‘bunker’. The lower level of the Palais was out of use, with the stairs blocked by the magazine racks, and no companies offered stands in the building’s underground lair. This Mipim, instead, was focused around levels 3 and 4 of the Palais and centred on the outdoor Mipim lounge, a place for panels and interviews, but also informal chats and voting for the Mipim Awards.
Side alleys provided dedicated stands for hospitality and proptech companies, while the regions populated level 4, with Rome, Catalonia and Berlin standing out.
Helmut Mau, an asset manager from Germany who has never missed a Mipim since 1989, said that he was very happy to be back. ‘It’s always worth coming to Mipim for the networking,’ he said. Meanwhile Mirko Pesic of Mipes, a prefabricated building firm from Croatia, said that this was his first time at Mipim. ‘My company was launched in 2013 and in 2019 we decided we would attend Mipim for the first time. Then the pandemic happened. So we’ve waited a couple of years for this and I’m excited. I will probably come back in March.’
Sunita Van Heers, an entrepreneur whose company, Sureal, advises real estate businesses on ESG reporting, said that she encountered a climate of renewed interest in her services. ‘The mood has changed,’ she said. ‘Companies are getting serious about reporting on these matters and it’s not just a box ticking exercise – it’s about transforming businesses from the ground up.’
The underlying theme of the event was ‘opportunity from crisis’, a topic which emerged in myriad small and large ways. While delegates on the expanded Barcelona stand sported branded red masks that matched the tote bags the company was distributing, the real red thread through the show was unlocking pandemic-era deals.
Noted Christophe Garbe, founder and CEO of Garbe Industrial Real Estate: ‘For us, Mipim is a good opportunity to meet as a team and exchange ideas after a long time. I have no expectations, but I am having useful meetings, and really value spontaneously bumping into people and pitching ideas, or holding off-the-record discussions.
‘Besides the successful industrial platform, we have also set up an investment manager for everything beyond logistics, including offices, residential, retail and life sciences, and appointed Thomas Kallenbrunnen as managing director from 1 September. We are about to launch a pan-European residential fund, called EuroSurf, which will have a sustainable mandate.’
Ivanhoé Cambridge’s Habra paused to chat with PropertyEU alongside colleague Stéphane Villemain, vice president for corporate social responsibility. Affirmed Habra: ‘Market conditions have changed since the pandemic, in terms of pricing, opportunities, debt financing, investor appetite and leasing demand. But I’d like to underline that our strategy hasn’t changed significantly. At the end of 2019, we determined our present course. So, we are focusing on residential and logistics and will continue in offices, but look at adapting the assets we own to the space-as-a-service trend. Real estate is increasingly an operational business; we also believe strongly in improving standing assets as part of our sustainable goals.’
Villemain’s mandate is leading on ESG matters, comprising a number of challenges. ‘The industry has largely focused on the E to date, but you can’t do anything without strong corporate governance. There are a lot of challenges ahead as we approach 2040 and the net zero carbon goal. Technology is part of the solution but it’s not the only solution. One interesting innovation area is sustainable finance. Here, partner banks agree that the cost of capital will be lower if you meet sustainability targets – a win-win.’
For Habra, the last 12 months were more successful than first feared when the pandemic hit. ‘We don’t use third party financing, which was a plus for us,’ he noted. ‘We also have a lot of people on the ground – in Europe, North America, Asia, Singapore and Mumbai. That model helped us continue to originate deals, and we ended up investing €1.5 bn in Europe, and €1 bn in Asia. We are focusing on value creation strategies, with a strong interest in logistics and residential. In the past three years, we were one of the top three logistics investors globally after Blackstone and Prologis and look to grow in a range of ways – like we did with the deal for PLP in the UK. Beyond that, we are exploring alternatives such as life sciences in order to be correctly positioned when these markets seriously expand in the future.’
The proptech community was out in force for the finals of the Propel by Mipim Startup Competition. Tower 360, Equisafe, Urbanetic, spaceOS were celebrated as the four category winners in the competition, delivered in partnership with MetaProp and Union Investment. Julian Vogel, co-founder of Tower360 told PropertyEU: ‘Winning this award is a recognition of Tower360’s ability to solve some of the most common data, workflow and analytics challenges that the global real estate industry is facing. Our software has already been implemented at some of the largest real estate organisations in Europe. Our ambition is to build a global category leader in this space.’
A full-length Mipim is slated to return 15-18 March 2022, as reported by Ronan Vaspart, director of Mipim: ‘It has taken us longer than we first anticipated to get back here, but we have proven that large-scale business events are possible again. We can now look confidently to the return of Mipim in its normal slot in Cannes in March 2022.’
TEAM BUILDING & TREND WATCHING IN CANNES
Interview with Arvi Luoma, co-founder and CEO of Blackbrook Capital
PropertyEU: Why did you bring a team to Mipim this year?
AL: Meeting people in person has been extremely challenging and rare over the last year. As we’re now starting to move forward and with society opening up, it was important to seize the opportunity to come down and meet industry peers face to face. While it’s a smaller Mipim this year, you never talk to all 25,000 delegates in any event. Our team has the chance to spend time together in addition to having a lot of meaningful meetings in the diary.
PropertyEU: How has the business climate been over the last year?
AL: It’s certainly been an unusual year with the pandemic development, constantly changing travel restrictions and economic uncertainty. Nevertheless, we’ve been able to locate opportunities and rapidly build our portfolio around mission-critical assets. This past summer was a bit slower as is typical, but we have a healthy pipeline. We remain focused on a pan-European strategy including the core markets of Germany, the Netherlands and the UK. But we are happy to explore further afield particularly as every country will witness significant e-commerce and logistics growth in the near term.
PropertyEU: Has Covid-19 changed how you will work in the future?
AL: I hope not. We’ve always been operationally flexible. Our team has the latest technology which is necessary as they’re typically on the road most of the time – working remotely was nothing new. Travel restrictions made it challenging for business but those will ease up. Will the agencies change how they market deals? A lot of processes have moved to online strategies, but at the end of the day, if you are spending €50-100 mln on an asset, you really want to see it in person and meet the people involved. Will we go back to travelling as much as before? I would have thought so.
PropertyEU: Has it made you especially vigilant about future events?
AL: We have always been hypervigilant around every investment we make. We underwrite all aspects, from tenants to cities, the economic and political environment. We’re a long-term investor with a 15-20 years horizon, so we spend a lot of time thinking about what the world will look like over the next two decades.
In some ways the pandemic did and didn’t take us by surprise. We all know that there’s a market correction every ten or so years, and there was a late cycle feeling in 2019. However, the source of the correction is mostly difficult to predict – the fact that it would originate from a global pandemic was unexpected.
That’s one reason why we concentrate on assets with a certain level of mission criticality, so that even if businesses are challenged in a downturn, they will still need to operate out of that particular location. Looking forward, I hope the world will be much better prepared if another pandemic happens. I expect we will respond more quickly, and the medical science community has shown it can be ready to protect us.