Can Cannes?

MIPIM – remember the acronym. Pronounced Mip-em, Le Marché International des professionnels de l’immobilier held each March in Cannes, is fast becoming a key date for local authorities and social landlords seeking finance for new development.

But don’t think Harrogate with sand, or Manchester with yachts. With over 20,000 delegates, this focus for investors and developers now rivals the town’s Film Festival for size. Attracting almost 8,000 organisations from 89 countries, the conference is, in reality, the Davos for development.

So why have bodies from London, Leeds and Liverpool shelled out scarce rents or council taxes to fund the £1,400-a-head tickets? The answer is simple. Capital looking for an asset. With the decline of central government funding, UK councils and LEPs are looking to attract inward investment to transform their economies and housing markets.

And they are in deadly earnest. If our Easyjet pilot had turned sharp left into the Alpes-Maritimes, the mayor of Liverpool, his chief executive, Liverpool Vision’s head honcho, plus a former member of the Olympic Delivery Authority would have all promptly checked in to the schmoozefest in the sky.

The lure is 1,600 investors. Dodging the stands proffering Latvian firewater or Portuguese opera singers are men (and they are overwhelmingly men) with cash in search of an asset.
Britain is an important target (but not a sure thing). The unchained capital takes many forms, from a diamond-Rolexed Indian family wealth fund manager, to a nervous French crowd funder or a major institutional investor.
The investors are less concerned with tenure and more focused on the bottom line.

Visitors to our joint Grant Thornton/arc4 stand showed that interest in UK private renting is not just paper talk. So products like ours, which can analyse the private rented market to a forensic degree for investors, developers and local authorities, attracted significant interest.

Notwithstanding the benign weather, MIPIM was not plain sailing for the UK pitchers. A staggering 544 local authorities were there competing for funding.

Striking presences by, for example, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and London, were up against very well heeled contributions from Montreal, St Petersburg, Dubai, Tokyo, Istanbul and Warsaw.

The US had a large showcase for developing states. And whoever paid to get the key main road outside the Carlton Hotel closed for the evening could give tutorials on how to make a really big impression.

So can the Cannes property festival supplant conventional routes for development financing? No, It will always be the province for big-city, often signature developments and for the present, substantially London-focused interest.

However, it is clear that MIPIM-sourced finance will increasingly become a feature of major programmes of social landlords and local authorities’ non-market development across the UK.

Derek Long, a director of housing and data consultancy, arc4
First published in Inside Housing Magazine

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