Five years ago Atterbury Europe set down roots outside of Africa, and it has been a steep and rewarding learning curve for the team that started out in Pretoria, South Africa and now operate from Leiden in the Netherlands, with a growing footprint across Europe. CEO Henk Deist reflects on past successes and his vision for 2020.

Did the five-year plans from the start give a fair indication of where Atterbury Europe would be today? If things are quite different to what was projected, could you explain the reasons?
The reality turned out far different from the original plans, but in fact far better. This was caused mainly by developments at the Atterbury Europe shareholder level, but also transactions that our partners pursued that were not in the five-year plan at the time we started.

In your mind, what has been the top three most significant achievements of Atterbury Europe?
Firstly, creating a sustainable balance sheet; secondly establishing a fully functional team in Europe that covers all disciplines of a real-estate fund including a development arm with technical support from South Africa; and finally acquiring a sustainable property portfolio spread over three countries.

What are the other highlights that come to mind for you? Challenges overcome, goals reached, partnerships forged?
Apart from business building, there is also relationship building and the human stories behind the business. The stories of South African families setting up a new life for themselves, not only in the Netherlands, but also in the Middle East, Romania and Cyprus and the relationships we have built with our business partners are all special and intertwined with our business.

In terms of man hours, where on the continent is Atterbury Europe spending most time at the moment, and will that change/remain stable in 2020?
Man hours are skewed towards Cyprus right now, where we are the controlling shareholder defending our position there, and Romania where we believe the most growth can be expected.

The past year was a tough one globally. What do you foresee will be the biggest challenge in 2020?
Increased competition and liquidity for growth remain our biggest challenges. New competition is very pertinent in Cyprus which is a small market, and also in Belgrade, Serbia. So we are currently and will continue spending time and expertise defending our positions there. In Romania it is all about growth.

What are the projects that will keep you busy in 2020? 
New projects in Romania, as well as and looking for alternative capital markets.

What are your hopes for 2020, in general, but also specifically for Atterbury Europe?
I have long ago given up hoping for stability! Both on a macro level and in our business. I guess the macro economic and political scene in 2020 will continue to be dominated by Brexit, the unpredictable American politics, and protests and uprisings in many parts of the world. While these elements are unstable and unpredictable, a stable and cohesive team should give us the edge in facing whatever comes our way. And this I believe we have.