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PARIS-With international real estate investors from all sides currently trying to invest in London property, Paris will be the next market in focus, with Germany not long behind, says Giles Wilcox, the director of cross-border investment for the international realtor Savills.

Wilcox told PFE recently, “The UK has been very active in recent months, and we have been inundated with internationals wanting to come into the market from every country you can think of…However Paris will be in focus over the next 12 months, though pricing is nonetheless still an issue there.” Among the enquiries for UK property have been some from potential investors based, for instance, in Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea and mainland China, some of whom have also expressed interest in other European markets.”

He said the state of individual economies and occupier markets are fundamental to all investment decisions but capital is now beginning to flow in many directions. Savills has, for example, seen investment capital from Spain, in particular from high net worth individuals, seeking a home in other European markets. “On the buy side it is the Germans who have been dominantly active so far and therefore the key question is who is there if you take the Germans out of the equation,” he says.

“There is a war of attrition on pricing across many European jurisdictions right now. As an agent the best we can do is know who the buyers are in the market, identify assets that we want to buy, that we think are logically going to be available, and patiently wait…Spain would clearly fall into that category. There’s lots of equity out there but that equity cannot in reality be deployed unless there is debt to go with it. That debt can in theory be sought if it’s on a low LTV. Then the challenge goes back to pricing and the gap between buyers and sellers.”

One aspect of the current situation encompasses creative solutions to transactions under pressure, in particular from the sharp reduction of bank lending for commercial property deals. “Plenty of investors, whether opportunity funds or private equity, or property companies say to us they would like to come up with innovative financial structures where there is an owner under pressure or in distress, where there is a bank that would like to solve a problem or get something better asset-managed – and the way it is presented is a win-win situation…If the LTV is breached, and an opportunity fund wants to pump in some extra equity, preferred equity etc, then that is available. What we haven’t seen is the property coming back to the banks… We keep reading about it but we genuinely haven’t seen that yet.”

PFE COMMENT: This view, largely in line with analysis by some other market specialists and is one aspect we will be tracking closely through the next few issues of PIE/PFE. The long hiatus or freeze-up of the market that has lasted since last year seems at last to be thawing for various different reasons. One is the inability of some institutions to hold on past the coming year-end as cash flows remain under pressure, but other more positive aspects include better economic data that expected, especially second quarter GDP growth and rising corporate sentiment.

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