ASIA NEWS: Response by innovation

How do you compete with a conference offering headline speakers that included The Blackstone Group’s Jonathan Gray, Global Logistic Properties co-founder Jeffrey Schwartz and Hong Kong property magnate Vincent Lo? That was the challenge facing the PERE conference team ahead of this year’s PERE Summit: Asia, which was held in Hong Kong at the end of February.

The team responded by offering attendees something different. That was clear from the opening “Yea or Ney” panel, on which participants Mark Fogle of Baring Private Equity Asia, Nick Loup of Grosvenor and CBRE’s Nick Crockett were asked for nods or headshakes on 10 predictions about Asia’s private real estate market in 2014. The participants were blind to what the topics would be, making for informative and entertaining viewing for PERE’s 400-strong audience.

The panel was split in opinion over predictions, including whether Chinese investment in the US would double; China would allow a medium or large developer to fail; Japanese property will ride an artificial cushion of positive economic sentiment; it will take at least five years before there is a fundraising in the region larger than that of Blackstone; and the pendulum of power in the region would swing back in favor of GPs.

In a further departure from the conventional, PERE’s Jonathan Brasse interviewed Philip Mintz, founder of Venator Real Estate Capital Partners, the management business spun out from hedge fund manager Winnington Capital. Addressing the trials and tribulations of the troubled Trophy Property Development fund, Mintz gave a candid perspective of why the $1 billion fund failed, how it was restructured and what return its 145 investors could expect as things stood.

Later in the day, Zhang Zue, chairman of Broad Group, the developer behind the 838-meter Sky City in China’s Changsha, wowed the audience with the firm’s vision for the ‘vertical city’. In his native Chinese – and with the aid of a compelling video – he told delegates how the tower would house 30,000 inhabitants while costing just one-third of an equivalently-sized tower, thanks to its prefabricated building techniques.

Burton finished the conference himself, moderating a panel focused entirely on the effects of the US government’s tapering of its post-global financial crisis stimulus measures on the private real estate market in Asia. The upshot of the panel? That emerging markets and Hong Kong would be most impacted by the reduction of quantitative easing as it would create interest rate volatility, such as that which has been seen already in Turkey.