Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Aging process of Korean women...it's true!!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Societe de la Tour Eiffel, the first French Real Estate Investment Trust

The Societe de la Tour Eiffel is a French Real Estate Investment Trust (Société d’investissements immobiliers cotée - SIIC) based in Paris. It is the first REIT in France, beginning with 2004, and specializes in office buildings and business parks in France, and also owns warehouses, light industrial areas, and nursing home in the South of France.
European REITs first appeared in the Netherlands (1969), and then subsequently in Belgium (1995), France (2003), and the United Kingdom (2007), Germany (2007) and Italy (2007).
They each have their own unique characteristics but also share common traits due largely to the fact that they are often competing for the same investors. European REITs are generally publicly-listed vehicles with corporation structures that make long-term investments in real estate and are exempt from corporation taxation provided certain dividend requirements are met.
When, in 2003, France allowed REITs this probably was the final shoot to start the REITs-race in Europe. The listed real estate market in France has increased multi-fold since then and further growth is expected.
In a sense therefore , the Societe de la Tour Eiffel, the first French Real Estate Investment Trust (SIIC) based in Paris, can be credited with pioneering this movement.
As noted by Mr. Mark Inch, Chairman, Société de la Tour Eiffel, the company started out as the managers of the Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel), but became just a shell company after losing that concession to the Paris town authorities in 1979.
It was put up for sale by its owner, HSBC, in 2003 and bought by two investors, Mr. Inch and Mr. Robert Waterland with the backing of Soros Real Estate Investors. This is the first time that a listed company was setup and run by people from property world as against financial companies. Both Mr. Inch and Mr. Waterland are two long standing property professionals with backing of private equity and prompted by their knowledge of the US Reit industry.
Mr. Inch graduated from University of Oxford and Insitut Superieur d'Etudes Politique de Paris. He started his career in 1973 in the real estate sector working for Jean-Claude Aaron. In 1979, he joined the Banque Arabe et Internationale d’Investissement (BAII) and from 1985 to 1990 he was Executive Director of the Bank and Chairman of its real estate subsidiary. In 1990, he founded Franconor, a real estate consulting business. He then co-founded Awon Groupe in 1995. Mr. Inch is also Director of Fondation de la Societe de la Tour Eiffel and Federation des Societes Immobilieres et Foncieres and Manager of Bluebird Holding SARL, Bluebird Investissements SARL and SNC Albion, Managing Director and Chairman of Osiris Gestion de Entidades S.L.U. and Manager of Cergy La Bastide SNC and Manufacture Colbert SNC..
“We are primarily pursuing a bottom up property approach as opposed to institutional top down financial/fiscal approach of most other French property companies. The Company has a portfolio of properties located throughout France, mainly in Paris and Ile-de-France region, as well as in Lyon, Marseille, Nantes, Strasbourg, Caen and others,” he said.
The company was transformed at the outset of 2004 into a Société d’Investissement Immobilier Cotée, the first new entity under the relevant legislation promulgated in 2003. The company made an initial series of acquisitions concentrating on properties with long leases to quality tenants at modest rents.
Quoted on the Euronext Paris Exchange, the company pursues a strategy focused on the ownership and the development of quality office and business space capable of attracting a wide range of tenants in both established and emerging locations. It focuses on the acquisition and retention of high-yielding property assets, secured on long-term leases to quality tenants and has a high dividend payout policy secured from these income streams and enhanced by a selective disposal policy, he said.
Following a first capital increase of € 11 millions in December 2003, the company made a new cash call in July 2004 of € 123 millions with a € 210 million banking credit line being negotiated shortly afterwards. At the end of the year, the property portfolio stood at € 266 millions.
The first half of 2005 saw an additional € 105 millions of commitment however a quantum leap was made at the end of the year with the acquisition of Locafimo, a property company comprising 35 assets totaling 300,000 m² of floor space valued at € 285 millions.
This major transaction was partly financed by a capital increase of € 157 millions. In 2006, the company undertook a comprehensive review of its portfolio including a first disposal of non strategic assets (€45 millions of sales) whilst a move into the development area echoed increasing tenant demand for new buildings capable of providing efficient space at reasonable cost.
The company’s growth enabled a progression to continuous trading on the B compartment of Euronext in March 2006. The following June, the company was included in the European Public Real Estate Association index. In May of the same year, Tour Eiffel Asset Management , Mark Inch and Robert Waterland’s management company, was integrated as a fully owned subsidiary dedicated to the mother company’s portfolio management. End 2006, the portfolio was valued at nearly € 1 billion and extended to 622,907 m².
At the outset of 2007, the company initiated another significant transaction with the purchase of Parcoval for € 110 millions. This acquisition completed and consolidated the company’s position in the business park market notably as Parcoval was a significant co-owner in various parks alongside Locafimo which had been acquired one year earlier.
As a result of its selective disposal strategy and successful marketing of new developments, the portfolio at the end of 2007 amounted to 710 000 m², valued at € 1.2 billion of commitments.
Following 4 years of exceptional growth, the company adopted a more prudent outlook focused on maintaining cash flow through tenant retention and the concerted marketing of development projects.
This said, four modest acquisitions totaling € 40 millions were made and a 18 000 m² built-to-suite office development for Alstom was launched at Massy. Construction was also started on the 14 000 m² speculative office development in Vélizy due for delivery in 2010.
In all, some 50 000 m² of new developments were delivered, of which half was in the Parcs Eiffel, further rejuvenating the profile of the company’s portfolio. At the same time, disposals totaling € 90 millions were made and a major credit facility extended to 2013 was renegotiated with the company’s bankers. At year end, the portfolio comprised 713 323 m² for an unchanged valuation of € 1.104 billion despite the overall drop in market values.
In the wake of the worsening financial crisis in 2009, the company further concentrated
on the consolidation of its cash flow. The core portfolio demonstrated considerable resilience in the face of unfavourable market conditions whereas the new properties completed the previous year leased up satisfactorily, notably the Porte des Lilas, and the new business park deliveries at le Bourget, Marseilles and Bordeaux.
The 18 000 m² Massy Ampère office development was delivered to Altsom and some € 43 millions of asset disposals were achieved. At the end of the year, the portfolio extended to 670 103 m² valued at € 1 058 M reflecting the fact that the added value of new developments offset the effect of reduced values and asset disposals.
Following two years of recession, consolidation remains the order of the day against a background of gradual market recovery, notably in terms of capital values. The company continues to consolidate its cash flow whilst adjusting its financing to changed market perceptions.
Mr. Inch noted that while the French market is very attractive to foreign investors today, this was not the case ten years ago. While traditionally international investors have always invested in the United Kingdom, France was always a closed club.
“This started changing ten years ago and international investors started making a beeline. Three main policy changes can be credited with this. The first is the change in international lease durations, stamp duties and taxation policies,” he said
Earlier, the lease terms available to investors were 3, 6 and 9 years which proved to be restrictive. It has now been changed to 6, 9 and 12 years. In addition, the cost of doing business was very high, as the conveyancing stamp duty was 19.6 percent of each value as against one percent in UK. Today it is 5 percent in France and 4 percent in UK.
Finally, France used to tax both income and capital gains, which was a major disadvantage. , However, over the past ten years, policies have changed and France is the investors choice for the euro zone wand has even exceeded the UK market.
The commercial property market is much larger than UK at 52 million sq meters, and the occupational structure is much more diversified.
While they are two different market both UK and France are complementary, with different types of growth and income..
France has a whole lot to offer tourists and investors alike, which creates a really diverse property market. If anyone is looking for an investment opportunity in France, they will be glad to know that the possibilities are practically endless.
“It has always been an ideal location for property investors, especially. Even now, the real estate industry in France is booming despite the economic woes hovering over most of the world.”
Indeed, a stable market is hard to find these days, so it is nice to know that there are many advantages of investing in France.
“Whether you are an American, European, or Asian investor, you can potentially make good profits by investing in France. Even if you have never invested in anything before, you should be able to find a profitable investment opportunity in France” he said.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Interview: Mr. Nicholas Wong, Principal, The Townsend Group

The Townsend Group was founded in 1983 by Mr. Terry Ahern and Mr. Kevin Lynch on the premise of providing uncompromised and unbiased real estate investment advice to institutional investors worldwide. Headquartered in Cleveland, it is the largest specialty real estate investment consulting firm in the industry.
In addition to Mr. Ahern and Mr. Lynch, the team is comprised of 52 real estate professionals, including 31 Principals, Consultants and Associates and a dedicated research initiative. Townsend provides global property investment counsel to more than 85 clients on both a discretionary and non-discretionary basis, representing real estate allocations in excess of $100 billion. Its clients include public pension funds, corporations, foundations, endowments, financial institutions and Taft-Hartley plans ranging from $300 million to over $130 billion in total plan assets.
Early this year, the company opened its first office in Asia, located in Hong Kong and appointed Mr. Nicholas Wong, former managing director Asia Pacific of ING Real Estate Select, as principal to focus on business development and investment underwriting in the region. Prior to joining ING in November 2007, he had held senior positions in real estate investment and commercial banking, as well as listed securities analysis. He has been in real estate investment and finance for 22 years with the past 16 years in Asia, having started his career in the US as an appraiser.
“We already have $3.2 billion invested in the region and will focus on business development and investment underwriting in the region. The real estate investment strategies currently available in the Asia Pacific markets are unique in their ability to bring true growth opportunities to global investors,” he said.
Townsend’s global scale and its expertise in manager selection will ensure that the company will be able to offer investors wishing to enter these markets insights into the region that would be difficult to match elsewhere, he noted.
His team is responsible for finding best in class funds/managers and undertakes terms negotiation, due diligence and subsequent investment management, as well as business development in Asia Pacific.
“The Townsend Group is an employee-owned private company. Since 1986, when we earned our first retainer client, our exclusive focus has been providing best-in-class institutional real estate consulting services. We recognized early on that real estate as an accepted institutional investment asset class would grow not only in size but also in complexity. As a result, we structured our company to be prepared for the coming changes,” he said.
Mr. Wong noted that the company began by establishing a dedicated research initiative which has been under the direction of its current Director of Research since 1989. It further broadened the breadth and depth of the team by adding the founders of two other institutional real estate consulting groups, and complementing the team with other key individuals with experience in law, finance, accounting, banking, real estate development, asset management, property management, research and academia.
As a result, Townsend has the most experienced and multi-disciplined staff in the industry. The quality, stability and depth of the team, their commitment to the development of the finest resources, capabilities in investment manager and product selection, and zealous client advocacy resulted in its consulting model being favored by the institutional plan sponsor community.
“We offer both discretionary and non-discretionary consulting services to our clients. Discretionary clients have further entrusted The Townsend Group with the increased fiduciary responsibility associated with the selection of investments subject to Townsend’s discretion without the additional process of going through the clients’ internal investment approval process. Townsend’s basic services are similar in both discretionary and non-discretionary mandates, but the primary differences typically reside in which party retains the authority for ultimate approval of investments,” he said.
In addition to the depth, stability and experience of the professional, the company offers other areas of expertise and experience relevant to clients.
“Given our extensive knowledge of and familiarity with providing consulting services to public pension funds, we are familiar with the issues facing larger public plan investors in real estate, including designing and implementing strategies across multiple sectors in the private and public markets, investing in wholly-owned properties through separate accounts, and developing investment guidelines and procedures.”
Speaking on the Korean market, he noted that Townsend has historically invested in the region and finds that it has a very attractive client base.
A couple of months ago Korea's National Pension Service, the world's fifth-largest pension fund, committed to invest $300 million in troubled real estate through Townsend Group, in a separately managed account. It primarily will focus on snapping up stakes in distressed private-equity real-estate funds and recapitalizing these funds.
The move by NPS, with more than $250 billion in assets, comes as a growing number of opportunistic investors are buying into troubled property funds in deals that give them a steady return and potentially a share in the profit when real-estate markets rebound, he said.
That aside, he finds China and Japan to be the most promising markets in the region. While China is a growth story, with a booming middle class, although Japan has a greying population, there are a lot of distressed ownership of assets in the market.
As for the challenges for the group, he said there is still a lot of uncertainty about the global economy. The company is looking at getting more risk exposure across the region.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Interview: Mr. Edward Casal, Chief Investment Officer, Global Real Estate Multi-Manager Group, Aviva Investors

Aviva Investors is a global asset management business and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Aviva plc, the world's fifth-largest insurance group and a world leader in financial services.
The company’s real estate team, based in New York, London, Paris, Frankfurt, Singapore and Melbourne is made up of over 170 people, of whom about 95 are investment professionals, including fund managers, asset managers, strategists, researchers and property finance experts.
It currently manage global real estate assets in excess of of $33 billion and already has extensive holdings in Europe as well as a growing presence in North America and the Asia-Pacific region. Of this, more than $6 billion has been invested through multi-manager strategies making it one of the largest global real estate multi-manager investors.
As noted by Mr. Edward Casal, Chief Investment Officer, Global Real Estate Multi-Manager Group, Aviva Investors, the company has been highly active over the past few years, expanding its range of funds and widening the client base.
“We have invested worldwide and on behalf of leading corporations, public pension funds, and other institutional clients, building one of the longest track records in the industry. We seek superior risk-adjusted returns for our clients by creating broadly diversified and actively managed private real estate portfolios,” he said.
Mr. Casal has spent over 20 years undertaking real estate transactions on behalf of institutional investors, industrial corporations and REITs while working at Goldman, Sachs & Co., Dillon, Read & Co, and UBS. In total, he has originated and executed in excess of $20 billion of real estate transactions including both entity-level and real estate property-level transactions. Immediately prior to joining Aviva Investors, he served as Chief Executive Officer of Madison Harbor Capital, a real estate multi-manager firm he co-founded in 2003.
He is a member of the Urban Land Institute, the International Council of Shopping Centers and the Pension Real Estate Association. He is also Chairman of Madison Harbor Balanced Strategies, Inc., an SEC-Registered real estate fund of funds.
Mr. Casal noted that his current team is one of the largest dedicated real estate multi-manager groups in the industry with investment professionals based in New York, London and Singapore.
“We provide local market expertise and manage relationships throughout Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Our global investment committee, comprised of members from each region, assures consistency in the approach and execution of our strategy.”
The real estate team is based in London, Paris, Singapore, Dublin, Frankfurt and New York. The global team is made up of 180 people, including 90 investment professionals, including fund managers, asset managers, strategists, researchers and property finance experts. Mr. Casal’s team is one of the largest dedicated real estate multi-manager groups in the industry with investment professionals based in New York, London and Singapore.
The group has a comprehensive range of products and services, offering real estate investors a unique combination of strengths: significant scale, impressive people, a comprehensive product range, excellent service and an outstanding reputation for innovation.
For institutional clients of scale, the group has created segregated portfolios by investing in a range of real estate ventures. These portfolios are customized reflecting the client’s individual objectives with respect to risk and return, geographic sector allocations and cash flow requirements.
“Aviva Investors has extensive capabilities with commingled investment vehicles. We seek to design portfolios with the core objective of consistently achieving superior risk-adjusted returns for our investors on a highly diversified basis,” he said.
Based on their view of the appropriate strategies for economic conditions, the group seeks to invest in newly-formed real estate ventures sponsored by managers with strong trace records that our experience and research suggest are best-suited to achieve our goals.
“Further, we seek to design a portfolio that ensures appropriate diversification with respect to geography, strategy, manager, property and asset type, capital structure, duration and asset lifecycle,” he said.
Aviva Investors is also a discreet and fast moving buyer of secondary interests in private equity real estate. The team looks at opportunities of all types and in all locations across Europe, the Americas and Asia.
Mr. Casal also noted that the private equity real estate secondary market offers opportunities to acquire specified assets that are well advanced in the investment program. A secondary transaction involves the purchase of one or more limited partnerships or similar interests from the original investor, providing that investor with liquidity.
Speaking on the main challenges, he said that while global growth is rebounding from the depths of the financial crisis, uncertainty regarding the medium-term direction of the global economy is significant, as the fiscal imbalances remain unresolved.
“We continue to structure investment portfolios with the underlying assumption that the developed economies will fluctuate as deleveraging pressures in both the private and government sectors create strong headwinds against relatively strong business financial
conditions. Therefore, relatively conservative investment strategies are warranted. The emerging markets have shown very strong recoveries, but we have to be cautious due to the risk of overheating.”
Accordingly, he said that real estate investing activity in the developed world should remain tilted toward defensive strategies rather than aggressive growth oriented objectives. Even within
emerging markets, growth expectations must be undertaken only with a rigorous value exercise in order to avoid disappointing investment results due to premium pricing driven by excessive
weight of capital overwhelming thin investment markets.
The real estate universe is vast and includes many assets with income-producing characteristics that reduce risk. Real estate investment should appeal strongly to investors during a prolonged period of uncertainty and risk-aversion, in particular because investment strategies can be devised to capitalize on many of real estate’s innate defensive qualities.
“Our investing strategy reflects this multi-speed view of the world, with a defensive bias. While in all markets value investing predominates, in the developed markets we continue to avoid development risk and strategies dependent on a robust consumer discretionary spending, and continue to participate in recapitalizations of real estate ownership vehicles.”
In the emerging world, growth strategies can be tolerated, particularly those that address continued urbanization and growth of middle class wealth. Nevertheless, it is imperative to remain cautious and vigilant regarding valuation bubbles in formation, he said.
Mr. Casal noted that Asia is a large opportunity for the company, having invested in the region for only 3 years now. This year, plans are to expand investments in Australia, Japan, Korea, China , Singapore, Hong Kong and India. The main client targets are cash rich- time poor investors.
“We provide local market expertise and manage relationships throughout Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Our global investment committee, comprised of members from each region, assures consistency in the approach and execution of our strategy,” he said.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Interview: Ms. Claribel B. David, Vice President, WFTO

The World Fair Trade Organization represents Fair Traders from grassroots through to the G8 and is the authentic voice of Fair Trade, having driven the movement for 20 years. It is the only global network whose members represent the Fair Trade chain from production to sale.
The WFTO is a global authority on Fair Trade, with a vision of a world in which trade structures and practices have been transformed to work in favour of the poor and promote sustainable development and justice. Membership of the WFTO is limited to organizations that demonstrate a 100% Fair Trade commitment and apply its 10 Principles of Fair Trade. WFTO members who are monitored against these Principles are listed in the Fair Trade 100 index of world-leading Fair Trade brands, businesses and organizations.
As noted by Ms. Claribel B. David, Vice President, WFTO, the main aim of the organization is to improve the livelihoods of disadvantaged people in developing countries by linking and strengthening organizations that offer just alternatives to unfair trade structures and practices.
“Our members come together in solidarity and mutual cooperation to create an alternative and fairer way of doing business. WFTO is a global network that promotes fair trade and provides a forum for the exchange of information to help members increase benefits to producers,” she said.
She noted that Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialog, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the South.
“Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialog, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers - especially in developing countries.”
Fair Trade organizations have a clear commitment to Fair Trade as the principal core of their mission. They, backed by consumers, are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade.
The WFTO members share the following practices: commitment to Fair Trade; transparency; ethical issues; working conditions; equal employment opportunities; concern for people; concern for environment; respect for producers’ cultural identity; and education/advocacy.
All members, reflect in their structures, a commitment to justice, fair employment, public accountability and progressive work practices. They also ensure a safe working environment that satisfied at a minimum all local statutory regulations and oppose discrimination and ensure equality of employment opportunities for both men and women who suffer from the exploitation of their labour and the effects of poverty and racial, cultural or gender bias.
In this context, she pointed out that there are different organizations working to promote fair trade practice and policy, through product certification, advocacy, campaigning and educational work.
Fairtrade describes the labelling system controlled by Fairtrade Labelling Organisations (FLO) International and national partners in different countries. The FAIRTRADE Mark appears on products that meet Fairtrade standards and come from Fairtrade producer organizations.
Product standards have so far been developed for 17 food and non‐food products, ranging from coffee, tea, sugar, cocoa, rice, and fruit to flowers, cotton and sportballs. The product standards specify the minimum price and premium as well as other product‐specific requirements.
The WFTO logo on the other hand is for organizations who demonstrate a 100% commitment to Fair Trade in all their business activities. Only monitored WFTO members are authorized to use the logo. Launched in 2004 at the World Social Forum in India, the logo shows that an organisation follows the WFTO's Principles.
The logo is not a product mark - it is used to brand organizations that are committed to 100% Fair Trade. It sets them apart from commercial as well as other Fair Trade businesses, and provides a clear signal to retailers, partners, governments and donors that their core activity is Fair Trade.
In that sense, both the WFTO logo and the FLO logo are complementary and not in competition, she said.