Sun shines at Mipim as senior leaders get down to business

What a difference a bit of nice weather makes. The mood at Mipim this year was far more upbeat than last year when ‘Washout Wednesday’ - and the then chancellor George Osborne’s announcement of a 1% increase in stamp duty on commercial property - put a real dampener on things.

It was not the usual rambunctious affair, though. Although attendance was reportedly slightly up on last year at 24,000, some pavilions seemed quieter than normal - possibly because there was no need to shelter from the rain. Some larger UK companies had also slimmed down their presence slightly.

With less focus on entertainment, there was more focus on doing deals, networking and debating the big issues - it was a more businesslike affair than usual. Agents spent more time on their stands, and one told Property Week that he had met more clients at this Mipim than during the previous 12 combined.

Because the best business is done with a view…#MIPIM

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BNP Paribas Real Estate chief executive John Slade said: “I’ve been coming for 20 years. It got to be a real jamboree in the middle period, but now people come here and they want to do business and really make it worthwhile.”

It certainly was for most attendees. Below, Property Week sums up the main talking points:

Government presence

The UK government had a pavilion at Mipim for the first time, under the Department for International Trade banner. Housing minister Gavin Barwell and London’s deputy mayor for housing James Murray both did stints at the conference, underscoring the growing importance of the residential sector at the event.

Local government was also out in force, and a special mention should go to members of Luton council who - to keep within their tight budget - flew out to Cannes and back within 12 hours to host a lunch showcasing investment opportunities.

Brexit pragmatism

Inevitably, Brexit was still on the agenda, but it did not dominate debate in the same way as it did in 2016. There was an acknowledgement that challenging terrain lay ahead for the British property industry, however. “If you’re European, the mood is very positive,” said Ian Worboys, chief executive of P3 Logistics Parks. “From the British point of view, you get the feeling it’s just a little bit of the unknown with Brexit hanging over them.”

Colin Wilson, head of UK and Ireland, Cushman & Wakefield, agreed: “Last year, we didn’t think we would have to talk about Brexit this year, but it’s being talked about everywhere and it will be the backdrop for our market for the next five to 10 years.”

The impact on the occupational market had yet to play out, however, and there had been a number of encouraging commitments to the UK.

London’s still calling

People were relatively bullish about London’s prospects. “Are you going to see a lot of people committing speculatively to half a million square feet in the City? Unlikely. Most are cautious,” said Wilson. “That said, plenty of investors are looking forward to the next cycle and looking to raise funds to be ready.”

Chris Brett, CBRE’s head of international capital markets, added: “Personally, I think London is going to have a better year this year than last year. It’s completely on fire.

“It’s like the 2012 Olympics. In the run-up, people thought it was going to fail, but it created an atmosphere that’s never been lost. London retail has also continued to get stronger in the aftermath of the referendum and remains attractive from an investor perspective.”

Northern powerhouse

There was a new and improved Manchester pavilion this year, which tellingly sat right next to London on the beach and was the favoured haunt of Manchester United legends Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville.

Delegates said they were impressed by the fact that the 10 Greater Manchester councils had a unified presence rather than separate stands, and a London council leader told Property Week the capital would be looking to emulate this approach with a more joined-up presence at the event in 2018.

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