Mipim Day Four
6 March 2012
Nabarro partner Martin McKervey heads for home pondering the fact that, while we might be up the economic creek, Mipim has proved that there are still plenty of paddles.
The real nitty-gritty of Mipim this year involved lots of talk about recovery and which city is best for business, for investment or just for survival.
Yesterday was the day the dizziness subsided and deals were done. So while we had a Cannes-sized scrum of cities and regions out-glamming each other, I chose a more home-grown brew of straight-talking, down-to-earth analysis.
Call me biased, but the launch of initiatives such as Sheffield City Region’s (SCR) Enterprise Zone (EZ) is what Mipim is all about: jobs, investment, targeted sectors and proper facts and figures. James Newman, chairman of SCR LEP approached his subject with candour and panache: only one of four EZs with an enhanced capital allowance, totalling £300m (which immediately lit up the eyes of even the most hardened investor); a steady focus on advanced manufacturing at the established AMP, business services and logistics; and a huge population of 2.1 million and 40,000 businesses. From any other city this may have come across as ’me too’, but Mr Newman knows his stuff and knows his audience, and the messages were well received.
Elsewhere, the sober talk acknowledged the stark times ahead, but there are many upbeat experts here shining a more positive light on the future.
London, of course, is here en masse (yes, I am picking up the lingo very well thank you), but the real and pleasant surprise is the creative approach of other, smaller cities. Not just Lille or Ljubljana, or Antwerp or Ankara, but also Downtown Doha and Reliable Riga.
So while mayors have been think-tanking and billionaires have been partnering, the true spirit of Mipim is in the heart of the representatives from unheralded, far flung regions who turn up and get things done.
We are flying home soon leaving an increasingly positive Mipim behind: optimistic, but still realistic.
One of the messages we take from Mipim 2012 is that we might still be up the creek, but we know where the paddles are stored.
DLA Piper London restructuring head Michael Fiddy checks out the early morning joggers while contemplating the macro-economic view.
Cannes is always clean. The beach rakers were out early, as usual, sifting away any flotsam and flattening any sandcastles built without the requisite planning regs.
There is something very special to wake up early and see the town and the conference stir into life. There is a surprisingly large number of joggers pounding the promenade with a strange air of purpose for folk who are going to eventually turn round and run back to where they started. You can easily tell these early rising conference attendees apart from the locals who prefer a casual stroll kitted out in flannels and euroblazer with an undersized woofer attached to a Gucci lead. It was not my intention to wake early.
As a restructuring lawyer I always feel like a gatecrasher at Mipim, notwithstanding the fantastic hospitality of all the sponsors and attendees. Historically my interest in Mipim was specific and peripheral, but now distressed real estate is more mainstream. It is great to hear the varying views on the state of the market and in particular how the impact of the lack of liquidity is going to play out.
Although it is difficult to generalise I will have a go. The chat from the Americans I spoke to was that they were encouraged by how things are going back home. There seemed a general sense that there will be further structural and regulatory issues that will force more crisis/pinch points but that the distressed real estate players and debt traders had a sufficiently functioning market to offer choices. Money to be made at home: do they really want to speculate in Europe?
As ever a lot of European chat centred on how/when/if the banks will release assets or debt into the market. From all the opinions that are out there it is clear that not everyone is going to get it right.
What is phenomenal is the development of the average punter’s macro-economic literacy. It is clear that whatever phase of the financial crisis we are in now it is the new ’normal’ and, although bolder economic theories were expended in direct proportion to lateness of the hour, after Mipim most expect that as they leave the clean streets they will be back into a challenging environment without a market-improving change happening in the near future.
That said, in these incredible times anything could happen is still the overriding conclusion.
As Brecher managing partner Nicky Richmond heads for home she reflects on lawyers behaving badly at Mipim.
It’s a sign of the times that the bankers are scandalised by the Wednesday night beach party - the one which featured the girls dancing in cages. There was fairly genuine disapproval and a feeling that this was all very 2006.
As it turned out this wasn’t actually austerity central although it certainly wasn’t bling Mipim; at least not for the bankers. All the elements were there: serried rows of suits at Gaston Gastonette; crowds outside Caffe Roma paying €6 a bottle for warm beer; throngs of people on mobile devices bumping into you on the Croisette. But it just didn’t feel quite like Mipims of old. And I’d argue that’s entirely as it should be.
One of my clients called it a “stag-do with business cards”, which is not entirely inaccurate. And there’s the rub, so to speak.
Impossibly glamorous women with cheekbones so sharp you could cut yourself, parading up and down the Croisette in fishnets. Some of them even had Mipim passes. They give a whole new meaning to the term “property professionals”.
A client showed me the business cards of a firm of London lawyers. He said he hadn’t been quite sure what services they were selling from the way they were (hardly) dressed and it certainly didn’t look like it was entirely legal. While easy on the eye, he felt they gave new meaning to the term ” soliciting for business”. I’m sure they’ll be very memorable, though not, perhaps, as lawyers.
And for lawyers, it’s really important to get your message right. While there will be some contacts for whom you drinking them under the tables might earn a barrel-load of respect, there will be others who think it slightly inappropriate that their lawyer is on stage, in a dodgy nightclub, taking off his clothes at 3am. Even if they enjoy the spectacle (you know who you are). Even at Mipim, you’re meant to be a professional, however much you might drink. In the world of lawyers and clients what goes on tour doesn’t actually stay on tour.
As Mipim 2012 comes to a close Eversheds London real estate head Bruce Dear falls off the Lenten wagon and mulls the prospect of a ’bearish, crab market’.
Last night of Mipim. I stroll along the beach after our very enjoyable client dinner. Everything went well, except my ’no cheese, no desserts, no butter’ Lenten diet. A main course of sea bass with saffron and ginger, and a superb starter of pearl white mozzarella, struck the first blows against abstinence, so I wanted to avoid dessert but….
Mea culpa, panna cotta passed my lips. Of course, it’s no excuse that it was delicious. I can feel your disappointment. My story? Look, Mipim and Lent aren’t easy bed fellows. Promise I’ll get back on the diet tomorrow. Olay, I sense your scepticism. Even through the internet.
The sand at Cannes is beautiful - fine grained and white. It’s spoilt a bit for me now though. I’ve discovered that underneath Cannes actually has a coarse pebble beach, like Nice. Every year they simply bury the grey rocks under tonnes of postcard sand. I always wondered what those diggers were doing on the beach. Actually, they were building the beach.
The brilliant Edwardian white edifice of Hotel Carlton, illuminated with spotlights, dominates the seafront. Designed by Henri Ruhl, it has a tiered exterior of decorative balconies and stucco pediments, like a wedding cake. Marriage was not on our Henri’s mind when he designed it. Its twin black cupolas are supposedly modelled on the bust of his mistress, Belle Otero. If that’s true (and, frankly, I doubt it), she must have been a very unusual lady. Because the cupolas look like two First World German helmets, topped with 20-foot lightning conductors.
It’s been a really enjoyable Mipim, with lots of business done, contacts renewed and some excellent events. On the Eurostar now watching medieval French towns flash by, the French toddler opposite me snoring like a little cochon. And the message from Mipim about next year’s legal market?
You don’t need the latest crystal ball to expect more consolidation and increased competition. There are a small number of very big opportunity areas in real estate and too many lawyers chasing them.
It’s a stock- and sector-picker’s market. There’s a greater need than ever to be commercially informed about the economy, politics and the market that we’re in. Ignorance misses opportunities.
It will remain (to mix animal metaphors) broadly a bearish, crab market, with some specific sectors rising and some unexpectedly falling. I’m bullish on specific sectors and Eversheds’ skill and energy unlocking them, but bearish on the overall economy.
As my father used to say: “Get yourself out there Bruce, see what you can find.”
The trick is to find the bulls and follow them out of the herd of bears.
Nabarro partner Martin McKervey is distracted by the Russian contingent before turning his attentions to Sheffield.
Après le deluge, as we say at Mipim. Today the scarves have been replaced by sunglasses and we are back to normal weather-wise.
Yesterday’s main distraction was the frankly overwhelming presence of every Russian Federation country you would care to mention vying for prominence with voluminous new build schemes.
Avoiding the beauties dragging everyone through the Russian marquee, those in the know hot-footed it to UK Regeneration’s launch of its pilot ’village’ in Nottingham, a £30m, 200 home scheme dovetailing with Nottingham City Council’s drive to attract high-end workers to new jobs.
It is backed by Barclays and genuinely changes the regeneration game, as UKR CEO and general whirlwind Jackie Sadek explained.
Her remit and her passion is to drag proper housing regeneration into the private sector, without public sector subsidy, and to deliver a brand - yes, a consumer brand in housing - that people will want to live in for a long time.
Jackie and her team have more than 20 other sites to consider now that Nottingham is on the way. Judging from her team’s commitment and vision (and from the warm reception at the launch) my money is on UKR to re-write the attitude to long-term renting in the UK.
Today for me is all about Sheffield and talking to the influential guests at the city’s traditional Mipim lunch.
Pinsent Masons partner Richard Ford heads for home via one last late-night session and a hectic final day.
Thursday at Mipim and the designer sunglasses are doing their best to mask the fatigue as the Duracell Bunnies start to run out of steam. At least for those who were out till 5am.
Capco hosted a fantastic dinner last night for developers, investors and architects from around the world. The number of projects (and air miles spent putting them together) was truly breathtaking, and the complimentary i-Pod shuffles for each guest was a generous touch.
Everyone has been very candid today as to how they felt it was going. A busier Mipim than last year for everyone - truly hectic.
I did my best to keep up the domestic and international round robin this morning. I caught up with the Birmingham contingent promoting Argent’s Paradise Circus - a long overdue scheme that will transform the city centre. I met the promoters of the fabulous Phare Tower in Paris in 2017 - an iconic structure in the offing. And I finished off by arranging some introductions to architects in our Shanghai office and catching up with some Olympic friends.
One of our partners announced her engagement just before lunch which was great news, and I had a pleasant lunch in the company of fellow lawyers - Mipim does present a good chance to help smooth the path on some large projects that we are trying to get over the line.
The afternoon was a long goodbye to those brave enough to be staying for a fourth day in a row. An overwhelmingly positive Mipim for everyone I met and I can’t wait to move forward with the opportunities and contacts I have met this week. Thank you to all.
Just the duty free shopping to go and then flying back tonight. A great Mipim and a great Pinsent Masons team this year.
Eversheds partner Bruce Dear assesses the Mipim trading stands and tells a salutary tale.
The Bunker. Sounds grim. Looks it. Early 1980s slab. Imagine Moon Base One, built by tasteless astronauts, and then dumped in an elegant French fishing port because everyone said it was too ugly for the moon.
It doesn’t matter that it’s real name is the euphemistic ’Palais des Festivals’ - its bunkerishness just slaps you in the aesthetic eye.
This is Mipim’s (and the Cannes Film Festival’s) main venue. Inside a kind of battle of the cities goes on, with each city or region competing for the real estate market’s favours. Sometimes that competition just goes too far. Let me take you inside:
The Rostov region have built a mock cinema behind a (very unconvincing) model River Don. ’Donway is our Broadway’ proclaims a 1940s retro film poster, illuminated by orange and yellow lights. The poster has a gamine young lady with flowers in her hair, pulling up her skirt and wringing it out after an impromptu swim in the industrial Don.
Behind the skirt and the flowers, the poster sports fireworks and twin cityscapes (one of Rostov on Don and one of Broadway). It’s supposed to be difficult to tell the difference; but, hmm, anyway… maybe they should have left the pictures out.
Next to the poster is a mock box office, staffed by a willowy lady in black, standing behind a very large (but totally gratuitous) drum kit. The sign on the box office says ’Tickets to Donway are your business cards’. Is Sacha Baron Cohen designing Mipim stands?
However, hats off to Henderson for a strap line of genius. Big poster of a disgruntled Jose Mourinho - you know his look, half hurt child, half pouting film star - saying: ’Which manager is special? Is this a trick question?’ Then Henderson’s tag line: ’Henderson. The other Special Manager. Same League. Different Field.’ How Rostov needs that copy writer.
I am walking on the quayside now among the boats (£20,000 - £40,000 to hire) and their fluttering pennants, chattering rigging and white hulls reflecting the sunshine.
On to an (anonymous) boat and a story to break even the most left wing of hearts.
Put yourself in the role. You’ve been running a debt fuelled entity. It’s early 2007 (feeling uneasy yet?). It’s a Thursday. You have negotiated (and are just about to close) a deal to sell your company for £500m. You have told your children. You have told your wife. Now it’s Friday morning - due to sign - your life’s work fulfilled.
Your buyer comes back wanting to change some minor terms. You get cross. How dare they. “I’ll think about it over the weekend,” you say. You do.
On Sunday, sub-prime breaks in all the major banks. You come in on Monday (perhaps a little nervous) and say: “Okay, I accept the terms.” But they’ve watched Sunday’s news like you. They pull. A few months later your company is worthless.
Think of that story, the next time something goes wrong at work.
More from Mipim tonight including five (okay 5,000) go to Bar Roma.
The co-chair of DLA Piper’s global real estate practice Jay Epstien gets into the Mipim spirit by cracking open the champagne at 9.30am.
Wednesday was a very good day for the DLA Piper real estate team. The energy and excitement generated by the 15,000-plus attendees in Cannes was shared by all as I participated with our partners from around the globe in numerous meetings both on and off our Mipim headquarters - the Lei Maonia, moored in a prominent location on the Quay.
The day started with a breakfast hosted by the partners from our German offices. Attended by more than 20 guests, the event provided valuable networking opportunities for folks interested in doing business in Germany. It soon became apparent that these guys had well and truly entered the Mipim spirit, with the requests for champagne beginning from 9.30am.
Led by Olaf Schmidt and Simon Cookson, partners from Germany, Russia, Spain, Ukraine, Australia, France, Netherlands, the UK and Norway met with current clients and prospects throughout the day. In addition, I joined with our awesome AsiaPac leadership team of Susheela Rivers and Tom Cantwell to attend functions on the beachfront with Cushman & Wakefield and Jones Lang LaSalle, connecting with brokers and clients from around the world.
But, the highlight of the day was the DLA Piper cocktail reception on the Lei Maonia. More than 200 clients and friends of the firm jammed the boat and the adjacent area on the dock. In fact, the reception was so crowded that the captain had to regulate the number of people permitted to join the fun on the boat and operated a strict ’one in, one out’ policy.
Scheduled to last only two hours, the party continued for over four and was for sure THE place to be seen at. Earlier in the day, we were told that the DLA Piper boat had the most activity of all the law firm boats and that the global coverage of the firm was evident by the large number of international lawyers and clients on the boat throughout Mipim.
Lawrence Graham partner Iain Thomas gets down to business by flexing his mid-tier muscles, but still finds time for a hearty lunch. Business lunch, of course.
Dawn broke on a perfect day on the Cote d’Azur and LG’s small but perfectly formed team blearily hauled their backsides out of bed and immediately swung into action, all thoughts of the predicted terminal decline of the mid-tier being immediately dispelled by the early morning coffee-and-croissant-fest that is Wednesday morning of Mipim.
Wednesday is the day on which business is done. Facial expressions are serious. Ties are pushed up to the collar. Suits are buttoned up. Shoes are buffed and breast pockets bulge with business cards.
Yesterday was all about debt and who is lending. Today was all about investors and whence the cash is coming into the bricks and mortar that is London town. South East Asia, via Dubai, seems to be a strong suggestion according to our lunch guest at the fabulous Gaston Gastounette on the town quay. Singapore for example? Yes, says our guest. Thank heavens for that, we thought and after a short phone call to the Singapore office of Weil Gotshal’s interior designer we relaxed into our lunch safe in the knowledge that our latest office opening was financially and aesthetically on message.
We were delighted to spend the evening in the company of our brand new colleagues John Fox and Simon Elphick, who joined us this week (along with Matthew East) from Stephenson Harwood. There are few better places to integrate with new colleagues than Cannes, especially on Mipim Wednesday, and over the course of the late afternoon and evening the message was spread that LG through strategic hires at associate and partner levels has doubled its real estate finance offering in the past 12 months. Markets like shows of confidence. Mid-tier law firms like it when a plan comes together.
The highlight of the day for me, however, was the monstrous turbot that my partner Nick Turner and I shared over lunch. This was the Jean Claude van Damme of the flat fish world. A creature blessed with the sort of oversized lateral blocks of which ’the Muscles from Brussels’ would have been proud. A creature that was worthy of a wrestle with the late Steve Irwin. Served simply with some boiled potatoes and a little hollandaise sauce on the side it was a magnificent example of the species.
Thursday brings more meetings and the arrival of the rest of the LG team ahead of our annual dinner in Mougins this evening (which we are co-hosting with colleagues from our Monaco and Moscow offices) which is then traditionally followed by a visit to one of Nick Turner’s favourite nightspots.
Mange tout, mange tout, as we say in SE1…
Brecher managing partner Nicky Richmond rejoices as the sun comes out over Mipim and tries to identify passers-by by their lanyards.
The sun came out and Mipim took off. A fundamental part of Mipim proceedings is always the languid lunchtime beach session and for a short while, it was looking as if this wasn’t going to happen. You could feel the collective sigh of relief of agents everywhere.
The change in tempo from Tuesday to Wednesday at Mipim is a marked one. Quite a few people come out on the Tuesday morning, to do a quick and dirty Mipim – one night only and just go for it. There’s only so much damage you can do in two days. Allegedly.
Everyone’s checking out the Mipim passes hanging round people’s necks as they walk past on the Croisette, trying to work out who they are and whether it’s worth speaking to them. There are a lot of Germans. It’s fairly invaluable for those “God, I’ve met that man three times but I can’t remember his bloody name” moments and from a bloke’s point of view, it’s a legitimate reason to be looking at a woman’s chest, for a change.
And pacing myself for our dinner, I had a fairly gentle Mipim day. A business blind date, with a chap who invests in Poland but is now looking at the UK, lunch with an old mate from Colliers (not happy); meeting with a client at Festival to discuss strategy on an ongoing transaction; juggling three transactions on email while all three clients are here and wanting regular updates; meeting client and agent, to go through complex structuring on a new deal. Optimistic. The bar of the Majestic is, I find, not particularly conducive to clear thought and I did my best before the inevitable email to my tax colleague back in London. Then dinner. Judging by the decibel level, a success. Main topic of pre-dinner conversation? Whether Nick Candy was going to ask Holly Valance to join us later. Obviously.
I didn’t manage to even cross the road to the Bunker today – I haven’t even had a moment to speak to my fellow partners to see what they’ve been doing, which is great. I’m always amused to see groups of lawyers together here with the time-honoured excuse that they never get to talk properly in the office. #Mipimfail in the language of Twitter. Time together here is time wasted in my view and I hope very much not to see my partners again today, as the Brecher marketing octopus spreads its tentacles across Mipim.
Pinsent Masons partner Richard Ford has been to Manchester, Coventry and Derby all while sipping vodka with his new Russian friends at Mipim.
A glorious day in Cannes today and, as usual, Wednesday at Mipim is a hot-bed of debate and networking.
Fresh from an Olympic-themed dinner at the Martinez last night, with London’s great and the good (including some pleasing feedback on our various roles), there has been a full day of meetings today.
My planning partner Iain Gilbey spoke eloquently in a packed roundtable breakfast debate this morning that was surprisingly lively for 9am at Mipim. This was chaired by Building Magazine’s Emily Wright and sponsored by Willmott Dixon and Broadway Malyan. The panel included Sir Howard Bernstein, Duncan Trench of Dev Sec, Simon Parnham of Lendlease and Mark Collins, CBRE.
My investment partner James Crookes has focused successfully on German funds today, and been discussing our launch in Munich.
I focused on an eclectic mix of UK regions this morning, discussing the plans for Manchester, Coventry and Derby - Derby’s Olympic sized swimming pool and multi-use sports arena particularly catching my eye.
This afternoon, as well as sipping vodka with my new Russian friends from last night (who stereotypically were all Chelsea FC fans), I saw strong debates in a number of pavillions. This included Asian investment in Europe (something close to my heart), opportunities in India, where we are increasingly involved in major infrastructure work, and closer to home I helped kick off the discussion about Earls Court in London where we have been advising Capco.
Topical UK issues debated over an interesting mix of wine and croissants on La Croisette have included:
- the state of the funding market (patchy - just how many sites do NAMA now control …?!);
- the real meaning of ’localism’ (more evolution than revolution); and
- most importantly the need for the UK property and regeneration industry to redouble its efforts in Asia Pacific, the Middle East and South America. The reputed £2m spent on the model in the Qatar pavillion sobered a few developers up.
I am attending a Capco-hosted dinner tonight and am looking forward to toasting the recent first phase success on Earls Court. Onwards and upwards till the early hours.
DLA Piper London real estate head Simon Cookson ponders how to clone himself after double booking his time at a now-sunny Mipim.
My first Mipim with DLA Piper and on the way to Heathrow I am brimming with energy and enthusiasm. Our focus for Mipim 2012 is sharing opportunities across borders and we have almost 50 meetings scheduled so my calendar is pretty packed. I share with Olaf his expectation that Mipim will be our best yet. There is a real buzz on our boat with partners from across the world passing through.
I bumped into a City investment agent friend on the plane over. A great guy and a leader in the field. As we rode into town together we were discussing opportunities, market dislocation, certain things happening in the City agency world, and many other things as we crawl into Cannes. He is now bringing his team for a breakfast in London in a few weeks time - a great start to my Mipim.
My first meeting is running 15 minutes late, so walk down the Croisette trying to judge the mood. Fighting with the registration scanner, I get a call from one of my London corporate partners with an issue which we resolve. He now also wants me to meet some other clients and we jam it into my schedule. He informs the clients and then leaves it to me. DLA Piper is happily like that: empowering.
Onto the boat and the meetings are going well. At DLA Piper we have done a lot of thinking about the shape of the real estate market and we have a lot of ideas. We tried some of them out and these seem to hit the spot in a number of meetings. There is some evidence that we are ahead of the game in some of our thinking.
Head off for a quick tour around the bunker and try to catch the end of the presentation on the London Stand but miss it. The mood there I judge to be very business like. Bump into a number of friends and acquaintances, mainly with their tails up, chiming nicely with the way I feel, hitting the ground running off the aeroplane.
The sun is now shinning, I’m double and triple booked, and one of my US partners has asked how I’ve managed to clone myself… busy Mipim as ever!
Brecher managing partner Nicky Richmond gets stood up for a meeting, is waylaid on her way home and checks out some law firm stands.
“What am I doing up now #mipimlawyer” is the first thing I see when I turn on my BlackBerry this morning. I hadn’t quite managed to press the Tweet button and now it’s too late. It was too late then, actually, at 3am, but it was one of those evenings where you were on your way back to your hotel at a sensible 1am, but you bump into clients at Bar Roma and they persuade you to go to another client’s boat “for a nightcap” and you end up listening to music out of somebody’s iPad that makes you feel a thousand years old and suddenly it’s stupid o’clock. Welcome to Mipim.
My first meeting, with a mezz fund, was a no-show. The excuse was that it had “accidentally disappeared from his diary”. Unfortunately for him, I was out later with the people he’d been drinking with the night before, so I know the ugly truth.
That gave me an opportunity to check out a lunchtime seminar, sponsored by something from Manchester – Jim O’Neill, from Goldman Sachs, talking about the future of funding. I was interested in this, given the world economy and all that, but there were no seats and we hadn’t had lunch yet. At least I tried.
To justify the extortionate cost of the Mipim pass, we forced ourselves to go into the Bunker. Having done stand duty myself, I know what a thankless task it is. Really, if you’re going to have a stand, you have to actually have people on it, at all times, otherwise it just looks sad and neglected. Yes, Hogan Lovells, with your very impressive and well–placed fluorescent green stand, I’m talking about you.
I think stands for lawyers are a double-edged sword. There are a few in the London Pavilion. No lawyers to be seen around them either. I suspect no instruction has ever been won by having a board with your firm’s name on it near a model of London. I’ve done it myself, in a former life.
You see the truth is, your law firms’ best sellers are not going to be standing around in a dry exhibition hall; they’re going to be out with real live clients, networking their butts off. If your feet don’t hurt and your head doesn’t ache, you’re not doing it properly.
And the lawyer boats – again, unless they are full and buzzing at cocktail hour, they just look like something that makes a bill even more unpalatable. No one likes to see lawyers enjoying themselves. Especially not other lawyers.
Best menu strangulation/translation of the day: Back wolf, <smal sins> barigoule to artichokes, spring onions. I ordered it. Naturally.
Lawrence Graham partner Iain Thomas has some serious conversations about non-bank lenders before donning his LG onesie for a peaceful first night at Mipim.
Mipim celebrates its 23rd birthday this year. I attended my first one in 1994 as a fresh faced (yes, my face was once fresh) three-year PQE lawyer at Rowe & Maw under the redoubtable Dudley Couper.
The town remains largely unchanged, but the property market that Mipim represents has changed significantly and frequently during that time.
This year I have no idea what to expect from my visit to Cannes. As a representative of the ’embattled’ mid market, Lawrence Graham’s real estate finance team has quietly, efficiently and quite successfully been going about its business for the past 12 months.
A lot of our clients are here and a fair few of our competitors, though a sign of the times is that following the merry-go-round of the last couple of years the names are now attached to different firms and a lot of talk is about who is representing which firms this year. A&O remains the firm of choice for the big-ticket deals (particularly of the club variety) partly because quality never goes out of fashion, but partly because lenders are no longer sure where the competition lies. There are big opportunities for us and our mid market brethren to engage in some timely profile raising this year, therefore. Many lenders are looking to review or rationalise their panels this year.
A very short visit to Caffe Roma this evening gave a brief steer as to what the theme will be this year on the real estate finance side. Non-bank lenders. In the course of a 90-minute Easyjet flight (delayed as a certain unnamed Taylor Wessing partner tried and failed to buck the ’one item of hand luggage’ rule) and two 30-minute conversations outside Cannes’ favourite watering hole, the names of Met Life, L&G, Axa, M&G, Lasalle, Teachers, AIG, PRICOA and a few others were mentioned in the context of new (or returning) entrants to the UK real estate senior debt market. This is good news for everyone. Savills’ list of 21 influential lenders (published, as ever, on the first day of Mipim) has less of an aspirational feel to it this year. There is a real feeling that sources of senior debt are starting to gain a certain critical mass and this has to be good news for all of us involved in that sector.
I spent a very enjoyable early evening in the company of our French best friends Lefevre Pelletier & Associes tasting French wine, eating French charcuterie and discussing enforcement options over French real estate in response to a mandate that we received earlier in the evening from (as we realised during the conversation) a mutual lender client who is looking to lend out of London into certain European jurisdictions. Again, a very positive sign and a good opportunity to cross sell with our international friends. All against the backdrop of some lovely Southern French reds.
So as night falls and we don the LG branded-onesie and plug in the medium-sized Hugh Maule nightlight, team LG is in a positive frame of mind and ready to take on all comers when battle commences in earnest in the morning.
Bonnet de douche, as we say in SE1.
PS – for those who know of my partiality to a certain premium flat fish, the Turbot count = 0, but it is still early days…..
Pinsent Masons partner Richard Ford rubs shoulders with soon-to-be-colleagues at McGrigors while brushing up on his Mandarin.
Luckily my Mandarin is coming on.
This is just as well, as I was introduced to half a dozen Chinese investors and developers looking for UK and European investment opportunities on the London stand this afternoon.
They were impressed Pinsent Masons has been advising on most of the top 10 London projects exhibiting at Mipim this year, across all of East, West and South London.
As we are advising some of China’s largest developers on bidding for major projects in London’s Docklands, I was pleased to be able to introduce them to great contacts at the Greater London Authority and London Boroughs today. Combined with our ability to manage relationships across Asia Pacific, China is looking positive.
Mipim this year has got off to a flying start. There are over 20 Pinsent Masons attendees this year, plus we are joining forces with our soon to be brothers and sisters at McGrigors following our merger announcement.
The increased reach our merger brings us has been well received, with particular interest in the Doha office and the merger creating the largest property law firm in the UK. Our plans to open up in France and Germany this year have also been well received.
We have a host of dinners for developer, investor and construction clients over the next few days at some top class restaurants.
Mipim is pleasingly busier and more international than ever. The Qatar pavillion is particularly impressive, with fantastic quality models and design, and I was pleased to see no democracy protests in the Russian pavillion next door, though not likely judging by the size of the Russian security presence!
There was an excellent ’Olympic Year’ set of presentations on the London stand late afternoon with Deputy Mayor Lister, Baroness Ford and Sir Robin Wells selling East London hard.
Not to be outdone, Capco’s flagship Earls Court scheme leads the front-runners for West London.
I was also tempted to carefully dismantle large chunks of the Battersea Power station model from the Nine Elms exhibit to do my bit to help realise a viable vision for the area, but thought I better wait until the auction process is complete later this year. A year is a long time in the model making industry.
Tonight, I am joining clients and contacts at the Hotel Martinez for cocktails and dinner, and then a busy day of meetings tomorrow. This includes meetings about many regional UK opportunities, plus touching base with our friends at leading consultancy practices across Europe.
Nabarro partner Martin McKervey looks forward to some manic networking as he touches down in Cannes. But where are the Greeks?
Landing in Cannes it’s like I’ve never been away - the last year has flown by despite the heavy weight of a tough economy. I was up early this morning for the first flight out of East Midlands, fortified by an excellent pre-flight Mipim breakfast at the airport - thank you Nottingham!
The plane was bouncing with the kind of turbulence that only a diverse bunch of enthusiastic lawyers, lenders, investors and real estate gurus can create. No change there then. As a reputable businessman said to me, when you’ve had a challenging year in the UK you might as well take a week off and go on a ’business’ holiday.
The reality of Mipim is more like a manic networking event, than any kind of holiday I’d like to go on. As I feel the sun in Cannes on my face (sorry, the sun is not shining) time perhaps for a reality check. What is going to happen this year? What is the agenda for the week?
Well, the same old issues abound - money is cheap, funds are subscribed, there is no glut of investment stock and balance sheet management remains the order of the day. It’s the usual international mix too, but I’ve just heard one guy behind me say to his friend “I’ve not seen any Greeks yet”.
Anyway, the first event I’ve got my eye on is UK Regeneration’s launch of its first ’village’ development, with more to follow. Led of course by that great regeneration do-er Jackie Sadek. If Jackie’s energy levels are anything to go by, then it promises to be a great Mipim.
Despite sleeping in, Eversheds London real estate head Bruce Dear’s luck was in on the way to Mipim, where he plans to punctuate his cocktail drinking with a spot of thought leadership.
4:10am at Dear HQ, Forestdale: “It’s 10 past four - alarm’s not gone off!”
My wife replies with a grumpy mumble. I have been awake for one minute and am already in very dangerous territory. I’m also due on the 5:40am Eurostar (don’t ask).
[Note: As Katharine will read this, I’d like to make clear that she is highly lovable and helpful - any suggestion of her being growly in the morning is purely to help the blog zip along.]
I grab my Thomas the Tank Engine towel (look, the boys are older now, someone’s got to use it) and sprint down stairs to the shower. The upstairs shower’s not an option as it might wake the boys, 11-year-old James and eight-year-old Andrew. Imagine opening Pandora’s Box and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’s stable at the same time. I know. Let’s go downstairs.
I surprise my wife, the taxi driver and, frankly, myself by making the train. Lucky is (very occasionally) my middle name. This morning the first Eurostar made it; but the later ones were delayed, cancelled and queuing for hours, like giant metal whales all trying to get through a narrow drain pipe.
But France is a shock. The name ’France’ always sounds warmer than ’England’ (n’est pas?), but we emerge from Le Tunnel to fog, snow and those giant French pylons, like men with hands on their hips, standing stark against a stormy sky.
I hope it’s warmer in the south. Straightaway, I receive various discouraging email bulletins: our head of international William Naunton asks me if I’ve packed my thermals, as “its cold in Cannes”; Lynde Marshall, my very feisty real estate investment partner and a fearsome project manager, asks me if I’m “here yet” (perhaps I should have got the plane?); and a senior surveyor at an institution tells me that some French trains to the south will be delayed for “up to 12 hours” (I think this last one might be a wind up, but I’m not sure).
For one lunatic second, I wonder if I should have cycled to Mipim like my brave colleagues Lara Cole and Michael Buchanan (cue Shameless Plug).
But then I remember that I was tired after running downstairs this morning and - in between heavy documents and work, of course - curl up with my Jeeves and Wooster stories on the Eurostar (I thoroughly recommend them. Very funny. Like carrying round a portable bit of amusing Old England).
Of course, Mipim’s not all cocktails and promenades along the Croisette you know (no - really!). We have a big thought leadership event tomorrow afternoon on the Future of the Market, which I am chairing, with some key figures from Hammerson, Legal and General and the Swedish National Pension Fund, and colleagues and I have meetings with clients on new fund structures to be launched in the autumn. We also have a substantial international lunch tomorrow to introduce clients to our global network and a big set piece dinner on Thursday.
Should be fun and hard work (“Call that work”, as my Dad would have said) and the train rumbles on under a sky that’s (disappointingly) more Cleethorpes than Cannes.
Still I can see vineyards and lavender fields out of the window and can’t help feeling a wave of optimism.
DLA Piper international real estate head Olaf Schmidt prepares for the Mipim foodfest of two breakfasts, four lunches and five dinners a day - and a spot of networking, of course.
I am excited to again be back in Cannes, for my 10th Mipim. Last year was one of the best Mipims I’ve had in years and I’m convinced that this year will be even better.
We have a team of over 40 attending from around the globe, and for the first time this includes partners from DLA Piper Australia and our associate office YKK Turkey. With months of preparation and weekly team meetings and calls, this is a much anticipated event for all and energy levels are certainly high - which is a good job considering our packed schedules.
As well as meeting with lots of our clients and contacts (and attending the obligatory two breakfasts, four lunches and five dinners a day) we are hosting several events on our yacht, including the canapes and cocktail reception on Wednesday night.
I may be a little biased, but I believe that our cocktail reception last year was one of the best events of the week, with nearly 200 people spilling out onto the jetty and the DJ playing until the small hours. This year we are planning on topping it with over 300 guests confirming their attendance. I just hope that:
a) the boat doesn’t sink (I can confirm it isn’t Italian made) and;
b) the weather picks up (Rain at Mipim? This must be a first).
Additionally, we are also hosting German, UK and Scandinavian focused events during the week and hope to have some enlightening discussions around these markets.
So far Mipim is going well for me. Within 30 minutes of entering the bunker I bumped into five of my contacts and have introduced them to my new Turkey location head. If things continue this way I will be very happy.
I’m now off to my first meeting on our yacht and a glass of champagne… more from DLA Piper tomorrow.
Brecher managing partner Nicky Richmond fights the urge for a drink at rain-soaked, austerity-era Mipim.
I’m not sure that I want to go visit Skolkovo. I’d have to work out where it was first. I can, however, go and see Manchester, Stockholm or Qatar. At least that’s what it says on the front of the Exhibition Hall, commonly known as ’The Bunker’. It’s very international here, at Mipim 2012.
It was raining last night when we got to the hotel. Nobody likes the rain at Mipim. It means you can’t wander up and down the Croisette, checking out who’s sitting outside at Le Voilier, or Festival. There are people who camp out at these cafes, holding court for the duration. I’m meeting a few of them later for an extortionately-priced coffee.
I have planned not to have any alcohol till lunchtime. The definition of lunchtime may be flexible.
Having said that, this looks to be a fairly serious Mipim and my diary, fuller than it has ever been in 16 years of Mipim, is chock-full of meetings with people who might have some money and who might even want to lend it to some of my clients. Hell, they might even want to become clients themselves. It’s Strictly Come Business.
This full diary thing makes me both happy and sad. Happy, because the meetings are quite promising and having a full diary makes me feel able to justify the eye-watering cost of the whole Mipim exercise. Sad, because I can’t just drift about as much as I’d like to, from party to party, boat to boat, event to event, enjoying myself and meeting the odd interesting person in a random way.
Truth is, all my best Mipim contacts have come from the drifting about, rather than the formal meeting/entertaining thing, but you really have to do both.
In the pre-crash world, we used to have 200 or so people for dinner – people we knew, people who were clients, people who we wanted to be clients. The more the merrier. No more. This year we have a dinner for 25 hand-picked clients/contacts, who are there to do business and who want to know who else is there, in advance,so they can work out who they need to talk to. Not as much fun, but in these unusual times, it’s not about enjoying yourself.
Of course, to some people, (those generally not allowed to come here) this will always be a jolly and indeed there is a jolly element to it but these days, notwithstanding the jolly exterior, we’re all business.
Welcome to the new austerity Mipim.