MIPIM: Optimism prevails despite spectre of rising interest rates

In the week that the Federal Reserve increased interest rates – and the Bank of England held them stable – real estate investors at MIPIM showed no outward sign of concern over the potential for the return of inflation.

Despite heightened political anxiety around the world – and the advent of Dutch elections – there was widespread optimism for real estate markets, albeit aided by the warm sunshine of France’s south coast.

Danny Queenan, who was appointed president of CBRE Global Investors in December, told IPE Real Estate in Cannes that interest rates were certainly “on our minds” but still expected to maintain investment levels in the coming months, having made $17bn (€15.8bn) of transactions globally last year.

There is a question over whether rising interest rates “will trigger the end of the cycle”, he said. “We don’t think it will”, especially when you factor in market fundamentals and capital flows into the asset class.

“There is still runway left in the cycle,” he said.

The prognosis was consistent with the views circulating at RE-Invest, MIPIM’s annual closed-door gathering of pension and sovereign wealth funds.

A poll of investors on the day revealed that 71% were assuming a prolonged low interest-rate environment but with the recognition that “inflationary pressures were building”.

Russell Chaplin, CIO for property at Aberdeen Asset Management and one of a number of moderators chairing simultaneous roundtable discussions, reported back to the room that discussions had been in line with this result. There was a consensus for “lower for longer”, he said.

Jose Luis Pellicer, head of research at Rockspring Property Investment Managers and another moderator, said he was surprised that had not been more concern during the talks, especially as rate rises do have the potential to cause a decline in capital values.

He ventured an explanation: most of the people in the room were long-term investors and would be comfortable holding through any short-term capital declines.

As reported earlier this week, another poll at RE-Invest showed that two-thirds of investors expect to be net buyers.

Robert White, founder and president of Real Capital Analytics (RCA), responding to the result with some surprise that there were not more investors looking to take some profits.

Indeed, during the event, the head of real estate at a large Asian pension fund was very clear when he told IPE Real Estate he was a net seller.

RCA recorded $1.3trn in global transaction in 2016, down 4% on the previous year but still up 25% on the 10-year average.

White said he was seeing more investors adopating a wait-and-see approach as political risks rise, with there was still strong activity.

He was fairly bullish for 2017. “Across the globe we do not see an irrational exuberance among investors,” he said.

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