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Prospective of the European Real Estate Market

The European commercial real estate market got off to a slow start in 2017. Transaction volumes during the first quarter are thinner than a year earlier. However, there are enough interesting themes emerging this year.

In the UK, uncertainty following the Brexit vote has dampened investor enthusiasm. London offices are particularly tricky as there are still a number of schemes underway and nobody knows how many financial institutions will end up moving operations to the Continent to keep the EU passport.

However, Brexit also offers opportunities, witness CC Land’s purchase of the Leadenhall building, also known as the Cheesegrater, in London for GBP 1.15bn. From CC Land's owner Cheung Chung-Kiu’s point of view, now is probably the best time to buy the London skyscraper. After all, Brexit caused the pound to fall by around 15% against the yuan, effectively delivering an instant 15% discount on UK assets to Chinese investors, who traditionally play a long game, or at least longer than the two-year negotiation timetable for Brexit.

The other side of the coin is the possibility for other European capitals to step in as the new London. Wishful thinking aside, though, with an environment of political and macro-economic risks, real estate investors have been cautious in early 2017. This is at odds with sheer size of available capital. In the low interest rate environment, real estate provides relatively decent returns. However, owners of real estate who would want to sell face the problem of reinvesting. Following elections in Germany, France and the Netherlands, things should be a bit clearer at the real estate forum during Debtwire Week in October.

For real estate coming out of distressed debt, the beginning of the year has been a time of re-thinking for Spanish with banks busy with mergers and considering new acquisitions, while Italy has emerged as the new playground for opportunistic investors.

Last year was a record year for Italy, with Debtwire recording non-performing loan sales with a gross book value of EUR 29bn, including the game changer UniCredit’s jumbo EUR 17.7bn sale to Fortress and Pimco. With the approval of an Italian government’s plan for EUR 20bn fund to support the country's troubled banks, the gap between bid and ask has finally started to narrow.

The real estate sector, meanwhile, is changing. Retailers are losing more and more business to online shops. This is a negative development for retail property. The main beneficiary, is the logistics sector. Expect more M&A activity among owners of logistics real estate as the Blackstone Group is prepping its Logicor business for a sale or listing and Gramercy Europe and Geneba are up for sale.

As you can see, there should be enough topics to discuss. I look forward to seeing you in October.

Bert Erik ten Cate Managing Editor, Commercial Real Estate Debtwire

Bert Erik ten Cate has been writing about the European property sector for more than ten years. He is currently managing editor at Debtwire ABS Europe, focusing on property finance and distressed debt in Germany and the Netherlands. Prior to that, he was editor of EuroProperty, the fortnightly property newsletter. He has moderated property panels and appeared as a guest expert on CNBC.

Bert Erik ten Cate Managing Editor, Commercial Real Estate Debtwire

Bert Erik ten Cate has been writing about the European property sector for more than ten years. He is currently managing editor at Debtwire ABS Europe, focusing on property finance and distressed debt in Germany and the Netherlands. Prior to that, he was editor of EuroProperty, the fortnightly property newsletter. He has moderated property panels and appeared as a guest expert on CNBC.

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