Arab Banker caught up with Paul Bulstrode (Senior Manager at VG), Ayda Habboush (Partner at Trowers & Hamlins) and Mike Williams (Group Partner at Collas Crill) to make sense of an enigmatic real estate market.
ARAB BANKER: Before and during Covid there were reports of plentiful liquidity and “dry powder” being held by real estate investors. Has this changed and how are you seeing the market today?
AYDA HABBOUSH: The market is buoyant, busy and people want to do deals. I don’t think Covid has had a negative impact; it did delay purchase activity at the start of the pandemic as investors were not able to travel but once restrictions started to lift, activity quickly started to ramp up, but yes, the delay has resulted in a build-up of dry powder. The other impact is a question of in what and where investors should deploy capital. When investors are looking to invest or expand into the UK, they need to consider that high inflation is causing interest rates to rise, and that might have an impact on their existing portfolios. Additionally, lenders’ appetite for certain sectors and asset classes has shifted. A changing retail sector, as we all know, is probably not the most popular sector now. So, investors need to adapt to and think about what they are investing in and when the most appropriate time to strike is.
PAUL BULSTRODE: I agree; we saw that covid delayed purchases for foreign clients, specifically our Middle Eastern investors who like to physically see the assets which was less possible during the pandemic. It is now a question of where investors can find value with so much demand for assets. Picking up on the point about lenders, we’re seeing quite a few refinancings at the moment including short one- or two-year agreements with the option to renew thereafter. At the same time, on certain assets where value has not appreciated, it is requiring investors to allocate additional equity funding to satisfy loan-to-value requirements.
MIKE WILLIAMS: I would add that in terms of the deal flow, we see that a full spectrum of investors, from sovereign wealth funds to high net-worth individuals and family offices, private equity, and pension funds, are continuing to do deals. We are however hearing that some of the challenger banks and some of the non-bank lenders appear to currently be seeing a pause on deal flow because of the price of money going up and inflation. I think they are pausing to see how they should price things.
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