EXPO REAL 2009 BLOG 2: Old friends

In his second update, PERE's European editor Robin Marriott recounts a chance meeting with two of the UK's best known real estate investors.

Hmm. Surprising take on the UK market by AEW Europe’s chief executive, Christian Delaire – but more on that tomorrow.

I’ve just bumped into two people I used to speak to fairly often in a former job. Ian and Richard Livingstone, the brothers who co-founded UK property company, London & Regional, are often described in the mainstream media as ‘highly secretive’, but here they are walking through the A1 exhibition hall without disguises.

They share my slight preference for Europe’s other main property jamboree, which is MIPIM in Cannes in March rather than Expo. It’s not difficult to understand that viewpoint. The sunshine, the yachts, the promenade, not to mention the parties and champagne. MIPIM does have a feel good factor compared to Munich in October.

When economic output begins to improve the 4 star plus range of hotels responds quickly

Robin Marriott

However, the positive news is that they have just invested in one of the few opportunistic funds to have closed in Europe in recent times, Richard mentions as we pick our way through various aisles.

PERE.news readers will recall on 23 September that a London-based firm merchant bank called Avington has raised €300 million for a distressed hotels fund.

The vehicle, which is ultimately targeting €500 million, has been raised by two well respected operators, David Mongeau and Piers Talalla. The Livingstones are both investors and joint manages of the vehicle.

It is slightly counterintuitive that some of the smartest hotel operators and real estate investors would  set up such a vehicle at this moment in the cycle. After all, when GDP suffers, it stands to reason that the hospitality sector suffers heavily.

That said, when economic output begins to improve the 4 star plus range of hotels responds quickly, so the argument goes. Anyway, the brothers go their separate ways and I go in search of my next meeting.

Another problem with EXPO is the time it takes to reach neighboring halls because they are so large. Good job there are less people.