The Atterbury Europe team recently had the opportunity to attend Europe’s biggest property conference, a massive event with 46 000 participants and unmatched opportunity for growing networks and spotting trends. Treasury Manager David Downes, who attended with CEO Henk Deist and CFO Martin Olivier on behalf of Atterbury Europe, shares details of the experience.

What is the importance of this conference, and is this the first time that Atterbury Europe has attended?
Expo Real is an annual gathering of the European real-estate industry – everyone in the industry from financiers, developers, service providers, investors and retailers – that takes place at the beginning of October every year in Munich, Germany. A huge contingent of 46 000 participants from across Europe congregate for three days of networking, meeting and staying up to date with the latest market and industry trends. This is the third time Atterbury Europe has been in attendance and we use the opportunity to engage with our partners and financiers.

It certainly sounds like an event that Atterbury Europe as a relatively new player in the European property market would benefit from.
Yes definitely – with everyone in one place at the same time it is a great opportunity to meet both current and potential future partners and financiers. It is also an opportunity to gain exposure to other markets, jurisdictions and perspectives, observe the latest trends and themes and better integrate ourselves in this massive market.

Was it as beneficial to attend as you’d hoped? How does this conference differ from similar conferences in South Africa, such as SAPOA?
Yes – it is always beneficial to take in and observe different viewpoints and perspectives. It is interesting to identify the macro themes that may or may not be applicable to our select markets. Sometimes the parallels are not immediately obvious, but the prevailing themes and trends are clear.

From a networking perspective it is fairly similar to the annual SAPOA Convention that takes place in South Africa – but on a vastly bigger scale and with a more fluid and dynamic format. It is a massive event, with 46 000 participants from 76 countries and 2 190 exhibitors spread across numerous convention halls – the scale in itself is impressive! By contrast, the SAPOA Convention has around 1 000 participants.

Can you share a couple of the insights gleaned about the European market? Any particularly insightful or interesting presentations that you can highlight?
The European market is huge and too diverse to put in any single category, with distinctly separate drivers and trends in the various markets. For example, the current uncertainty surrounding the UK retail sector is very different to the challenges faced in other parts of Central Europe – that of low growth and excess liquidity. And frontier markets (such as the ones in which we operate in Eastern Europe) have stronger growth prospects but limited liquidity – so it’s a complete mixed bag of drivers, themes and challenges. Some common themes of technology, consumer trends, low interest rates and the robust nature of mixed-use assets prevail across the various markets; and it is important that our strategy remains within the broader parameters and aligned with these themes.

What was the highlight of the conference for you?
Having all the various role players in the industry from all over Europe in one place was unbeatable; allowing one the opportunity to build new relationships and get inputs and different views from others within the industry.

Were you exposed to particular learnings that you plan to take forward which are of direct benefit to Atterbury Europe?
The European market is large and competitive, but there will always be pockets of value. It is important to remain ahead of the cycle because the behaviour of investors, consumers and financiers is cyclical and dynamic – and this will always create opportunity for us.