The real estate blog: Eversheds London real estate head Dear talks MIPIM Asia

This week Eversheds’ head of London real estate Bruce Dear shares his adventures at MIPIM Asia. The summit focuses on regional development opportunities and retail real estate trends across the Asia Pacific.

“Flight closing” the board says in buzzing red letters. How did that happen? More importantly, how will we explain to our partners that we MISSED THE PLANE to MIPIM Asia? Pausing only for a short burst of swearing and hyperventilation we career along the moving walkway, hand luggage rattling behind us like a bouncing war chariot. As we go, we have a collegiate discussion about whose fault it is. It was obviously my partner Lee Jackson’s fault.

After a thousand years of slow motion running, we spot the gate. And, of course, hundreds of people are calmly queuing up for the flight which is, in fact, just boarding and not closing at all. I hate it when airlines do that to you.

Anyway, MIPIM Asia – what is it? It’s a big property shindig at the Hong Kong Hyatt Grand for investors, lenders, occupiers and service providers. It’s MIPIM Cannes but smaller, more intimate and a lot further away.

So here’s my highlights from conference, or the MIPIM Match of the Day:

1. The Flight

I’m the most nervous flyer since Dennis Bergkamp. So I decide to do immersive Mad Men, which I have never watched. Wow. How did I live without it? I watch seven episodes on the spin. Now I love the flight. Even more so when I see the beautiful diamond line of sunrise blazing over the horizon.

2. Breakfasts at the Hyatt Grand

All week I have jet lag like I’m chewing animal tranquillisers. The divine breakfasts here help: shrimp and pork dumplings, white pillowy barbecue pork buns, dim sum, Greek salad, spring rolls, honeydew melon (ok, you’ve got the picture – best hotel breakfasts ever in 51 breakfast-filled years).

3. Panel Slot

I sit on the UK inward investment panel with distinguished figures from ABP, Savills, Gatehouse and Cindat. Damian Wild expertly chairs us and we give it a bit of humpty (as Ian Botham used to say) debating the merits of London, the regions and how toppy is toppy. I am very impressed by the work ABP, Cindat and Gatehouse are doing in the UK.

I argue as forcefully as I can that there’s still value in the UK market if you rise above the cyclical noise, concentrate on individual asset and income plays and align yourself with the biggest political and economic structural issues. These are housing and infrastructure, the Northern Powerhouse and regional regeneration.

4. Paris in Hong Kong

This largely involved bantering with the Paris delegation at their presentation to Asia investors. Here’s how it went: “London is a beautiful city but it’s full of British people” (obviously that’s not me). As for “ze Northern Powerhouse,” says the chairman, “I’d rather invest in Paris than Newcastle”.

I point out that the Northern Powerhouse is a region of 13 million people and five cities, four more than Paris, in an arc from Liverpool to Newcastle. This only amuses my French hosts. “Paris,” they say with all the hauteur they can muster, “is an iconic super brand.” Actually, it was a fascinating session and we can learn much from them. Particularly the French government’s can-do attitude in spending €50bn to create 80km of new Parisian track with eight new stations.

5. The MIPIM Gala Dinner

I talked to somebody, who was on the same French exchange scheme, about Xi Jinping’s daughter living (some years ago) under an assumed name for a year with a family in France. She was accompanied by a young female friend who was in fact a highly trained secret service body guard. I hear more about Xi as the most charismatic and strongest leader since Deng Xiaoping and the cult of stability to China. I love this fascinating country but not the humidity or the smog.

The food at the dinner is always Michelin star standard: smoky creamy bouillabaisse soup with saffron and a virtuoso dessert involving pouring hot white chocolate over cold milk chocolate and watching it shatter and pop like a bonsai glacier.

6. Advent Service

I arrive on the Sunday before MIPIM and go to St. John’s Cathedral for a candle lit advent service. My friend Will is a canon there. The service is exquisite, the candles creating hundreds of hovering lights amongst the wavering shadows. Afterwards there are drinks in the cathedral grounds. The 1840s neo-gothic church sits under the towering 1200 foot Bank of China (with its constantly dancing white triangle lights representing auspicious white bamboo). The whole history of Hong Kong captured in this one juxtaposition.

7. Dinner with Happy Clients

We are entertained by our delightful clients to celebrate a number of successful West End retail deals. They take us to the Michelin starred Cantonese restaurant at the Conrad Hotel called Golden Leaf. They regale us with honeyed walnuts, pineapple beef, crab in cream and perfectly cooked garoupa in an exquisitely elegant teak and rosewood room.

Best of all the Conrad had put up its Christmas decorations, which always makes me feel happy and about 10 years old inside. The Hong Kongese don’t do restrained decoration. In the Conrad, thousands of giant gold and red baubles cover tables tops, line banisters and bury every tree. The Christmas tree has so many baubles on it that it looks like a glimmering profiterole cake.

Thank you for watching MIPIM Asia Match of the Day.

The next big highlight for me is getting home to my family after a long week away.

Bruce Dear, London real estate head, Eversheds
 

Deals

Deal one: Taylor Wessing has advised Harel Insurance and Clal Insurance during the sale of Apollo House and Lunar House to Singapore-listed Kempster Investments.

The property is made up of two office buildings totalling 441,797sq ft of accommodation. It is entirely leased to the UK Government and currently houses the Passport Office.

Real estate partner Keith Barnett led the Taylor Wessing team, which completed the deal within two weeks. Kemspter was advised by Nabarro.

Deal two: Burges Salmon advised Groundwork Wakefield during the lease of Wakefield Kirkgate Station from Network Rail.

Real estate partner Philip Beer led the Burges Salmon team and was assisted by senior associate Michael Bray.

Securing the lease is a vital part of the ongoing redevelopment of Wakefield Kirkgate Station, which was named the worst station in Britain by former transport secretary Lord Adonis. In 2013 Groundwork Wakefield raised £4.6m to improve the station and its Grade II listed building.

Deal three: Doughnut giant Krispy Kreme has employed Shoosmiths to advise it on the opening of its largest UK store.

The new drive-through store is based in the former Clydebuilt Scottish Maritime Museum at Braehead.

Real estate partner Robin Mitchell advised Krispy Kreme during the deal. He was assisted by associate John Dunlop.