Dodging danger

Having braved arctic conditions to get there, Iain Thomas gets into the MIPIM spirit

Iain Thomas
Iain Thomas

There seems to be a theme developing here.

In 2009 I outran a hurricane and snow (in early April) to get myself home from a partnership conference in Miami. Last October, I chose to travel to New York on holiday just as Hurricane Sandy made landfall there. This year’s Lambert Smith Hampton Ski challenge had the added challenge of the cancellation of all flights back to London from Geneva (a rather pricey taxi to Lyon and good old Easyjet back to Gatwick was the winning formula, just pipping my partner Rob Adam’s Hertz/Eurostar combo). So arctic conditions in Tunbridge Wells was mere child’s play when it came to setting off for this year’s MIPIM in search of business opportunities and the perfect turbot.

I attended my first MIPIM in 1994 as a fresh-faced young assistant at Rowe & Maw (many of my colleagues will find it hard to believe that my face could ever have been “fresh”) and though much has changed in the intervening 19 years, the fundamentals of the event remain the same. A properly organised attendee will be able to network with more people over the course of three days than he or she would be able to meet in 6 months by staying at home. Themes and trends are easy to pick up at MIPIM and can be plugged into strategy and marketing plans upon one’s return to base. Business relationships are formed, and over time these can turn into personal friendships. Grey hair suddenly has strategic value. Whether you are driven by opportunism, protectionism or a sense of business based FOMO, MIPIM has something to offer everyone who is prepared to put in the effort.

And so to this year. It is hard to call what this year’s message is going to be. The predicted rise of the non-Bank lender has materialised and progressed apace since last year – air time with representatives of those organisations will be in great demand, I am sure. Much has been made of the expected wave of CMBS maturity defaults which is due to hit the shore this year. This is likely to give rise to opportunities in the special servicing, asset management and refinancing spheres and players in all of those sectors are expected to be prominent. Notes will be compared on approaches to pan-European enforcement strategies with our many continental cousins who attend the event. Last year we predicted a rush of South East Asian equity to fuel UK  market activity – outside of Central London this is not much in evidence, so it will be interesting to see what the current thoughts of the market are as to where that wealth is heading. Into indirect real estate investment vehicles, perhaps.

Tuesday is acclimatisation day (happily, the weather is warm and sunny, in case you were worried) and the real business starts over breakfast on Wednesday. Acquaintances will be renewed, intelligence will be shared, cards will be exchanged, and, as the day goes on, overpriced, warm “Seize Cent Soixante Quatre” will be glugged and the well-oiled wheels of industry will be cranked ever onwards. The Mediterranean SWAT team of Lawrence Graham (happily back to the long form name rather than the abbreviation which gave rise to so many lame and predictable gags about South Korean fridge manufacturers) will be getting through the shoe leather and hammering Mediterranean fish stocks in pursuit of the perfect business lead.

So as the sun dips over the horizon and I head off in search of pizza with some like minded souls, I bid you “bonne nuit” and “a demain”.

Iain Thomas is a partner at Lawrence Graham