Oxford eyes range of strategies to navigate current scenario

Oxford Properties’ long-term horizons for real estate ownership are helping the firm stay positive in the current climate, according to Jay Drexler, vice president offices, retail and life sciences Europe.

‘If you look at the markets with a six-month lens it’s a bit more challenging,’ Drexler told PropertyEU at Expo Real. ‘Fortunately, we’re in this for the long run.’

Regarding the mood at Expo, he said he had been pleasantly surprised. ‘I was expecting the climate to be more pessimistic, but I don’t think the world is falling apart. There is still capital out there.

‘Most people are trying to figure out their path in it all but it’s generally optimistic. The nature of our pension fund means that the capital pool is increasing. We’ve got growth aspirations - we want to double our European portfolio in size. The team and the people around us are already looking out and beyond the other side of current challenges.’

As an asset management specialist, Drexler said there had never been a better time to drill down into the details and make sure that their holdings were meticulously run. ‘When things get tough, that’s when you see the difference in quality on the asset management side. Our business plans are holding up and we’re focusing on staying close to the customer.’

In terms of sectors, Drexler said it was also worth combing the different property types on an asset-by-asset basis. Retail, for example, was still yielding gems. ‘We’re invested in the Sony Center in Berlin where we recently brought Norges on board as a JV partner,’ he noted. Indeed, in May Norges Bank snapped up 50% of the retail and office campus in a deal valuing the asset at a healthy €1.35 bn. The property’s future is backed by an ambitious refurbishment plan.

Other Oxford assets, like the Valentino-leased luxury flagship on Rue Saint Honoré is another example of outperforming retail. Meanwhile, Drexler added that the firm’s commitment to retail parks in conjunction with M7 last year was another way it proved it could swim against the tide.

One ‘on-trend’ area that Drexler is involved in, on the other hand, is Oxford’s burgeoning portfolio of life science assets in UK and on the Continent. He confessed that the secret to the firm’s success in Europe in this area was in part ‘replicating the success of Oxford’s Boston-based life science team, which has had great results in the US’.

In certain areas of real estate, Europe follows where the US leads, and it seems that many life sciences trends fall into that box. ‘The UK is bit further along on the life sciences journey, but the idea is that we eventually build a pan-European portfolio of assets as well,’ he confirmed.



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