EURONEWS: Man of the moment: Lars Huber

After assuming sole charge of Hines Europe last month, Lars Huber believes his firm is well-placed to dodge some of the potential body-blows that 2017 will no doubt throw.

Last month, Michael Topham stepped down as co-chief executive of Hines Europe after 26 years. Huber described Topham as the “architect” of the firm’s European platform, building its European business “from scratch with a suitcase and a passport.” Planning for Topham’s departure, he added, began more than six years ago.

The average tenure for a senior executive at Hines is 22 years, and Huber has been there for 20. Chairman Gerald Hines, who founded the business in 1957, continues to work at the firm.

Huber, whose father and grandfather both worked in the real estate industry, began in the Berlin office in 1996 and later headed the firm’s Munich office until 2004. He relocated to London the following year as fund manager for the Hines European Value-Added Fund.

In 2007, he took over responsibility for equity capital raising in Europe and Asia as a member of the Hines Capital Markets Group. By 2010, Huber had become chief financial officer of Hines Europe, and in 2015 assumed the role of co-CEO, with joint responsibility for all development activity, acquisitions and operations in the region.

In his two decades at Hines, Huber has delivered more than $18 billion of investments in Europe, according to the firm. During the fourth quarter alone, the business carried out €2 billion worth of property transactions in the region.

Although Hines has traditionally focused on offices on both sides of the Atlantic, Huber said the firm’s European business has taken a stronger interest in other sectors recently, including Dutch residential and student housing in Ireland and the UK. The firm, said Huber, also has its eye on expanding in Greece and Spain, and is “very bullish” about Italy.

Huber believes caution and stability will be watchwords for the year ahead. “Our mission for 2017 is not to grow for the sake of growing. Our main goal will be to make ourselves as solid as possible for the coming months,” he said.

To achieve that, Hines will be assessing potential investments very carefully. “Vacancy is a threat, though it used to be an attractive proposition,” Huber said. “So occupancy levels will need to be high. Moderate debt levels will be important as well. There is a risk of a correction and so it will be wise to be prepared.”