More on MIPIM 2012: Alex De Witte, Pylos

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Alex De Witte is CEO and Partner of Pylos BeneluxINDUSTRY INTERVIEW: MIPIM is an international real estate event that takes place each year in Cannes. It brings together key players of the real estate world from investors and developers to architects and end-users. This year the event was held from 12 -15 March and hosted over 19,400 participants and 4100 real estate investors.

Alex De Witte, CEO of Pylos Benelux, was one of the event’s participants and he explained to Margaret Ferns why it was important for his company to be present.

What is the general purpose of MIPIM?
MIPIM is a meeting place for representatives in commercial real estate from all over the world. In fact, I would go as far as to say it is the most important meeting place for property professionals anywhere. It has been known to attract up to 40,000 people, although the numbers have been in decline over the past few years as a direct result of the economic crisis. This year MIPIM hosted in the region of 19,400 real estate professionals. The most visible absences were the eastern European and Dutch markets, both of which have been badly hit by current economic conditions. The Dutch market for example, which has traditionally depended heavily on leveraging, has been particularly impacted by the banking crisis.

What were your reasons for attending?
As I mentioned before, MIPIM is the most important meeting place for real estate professionals in the world and this remains the case regardless of the economic crisis. As such, my reasons for attending were to meet with potential investors looking to buy real estate in Luxembourg and Belgium, as well as keep in touch with existing investors. It was an opportunity for me to test the waters, to gauge the appetite of investors. I was particularly interested in talking to German funds and to banks outside Luxembourg, to assess their interest for properties in the Benelux region. It was also a chance to meet with key figures of the Luxembourg administration, the Mayor of Luxembourg-City for example. Obviously, we have regular contact with such people; however, there is no substitute for establishing a personal connection. In face-to-face conversation we can often learn a lot more about forthcoming plans and projects than we can via reports and emails. This is very important to us and MIPIM represents a valuable opportunity in this respect.

Are you satisfied that your expectations of MIPIM were met and did you learn anything of particular interest?
Indeed yes, MIPIM is always useful. I learned that German funds are still interested in Luxembourg, especially the Central Business District. This represents good news for Pylos as we focus on this area. I also met new banks which expressed an interest in the Benelux region, although some consider it too small a market. With regards to Brussels, investors remain interested but are mainly looking for prime locations and long-term leases. In this respect, I am more hopeful for Luxembourg as Brussels has fewer such opportunities at present.

What were your general conclusions at the end of the event?
MIPIM is widely regarded as a strong indicator of global market trends and, as such, I left the event with the feeling that the worst is behind us. I think that 2012 will still be a difficult year—investors remain cautious and financing difficult, however I am convinced that property professionals, those who fully understand the realities of their markets, will see a demand for their services and conduct business.

Alex De Witte is CEO and Partner of Pylos Benelux. He has more than 15 years’ experience in professional real estate, working in the Luxembourg and Brussels markets and focusing on the development of office spaces in the Central Business Districts. Prior to joining Pylos Alex spent 10 years with ALLFIN and 3 years at Bouwfonds Property Development where he was involved in several major developments in Brussels and Luxembourg.

Margaret Ferns is a freelance journalist based in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. She has more than 15 years experience of reporting on business issues in Luxembourg and the Greater Region with particular emphasis on property, finance and human resources.

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