ECONOMY

Property draws funds

The purchase of the «Florida 1» business and entertainment park in Thessaloniki by the UK investment fund Pradera for about 40 million euros is only the latest move by foreign investors in the Greek property market. This confirms the recent feeling that something is changing in the local commercial and professional real estate market. In the last 12 months the volume of investments by foreign as well as Greek investors was bigger than that of the previous two years. «It is true that the Greek property market has recently changed regarding its investment dimension and slowly but steadily it is obtaining the characteristics of a mature market,» said Dika Agapitidou, general director of the Athinaiki Economiki firm that represents Jones Lang LaSalle in the Greek market. «The main points that make today’s situation different to the recent past is that gradually the market offers products that attract the interest of local and mainly foreign institutional investors,» she notes, adding that «at the same time changes in the tax system create a much more rational environment for the entry of foreign funds in the Greek real estate market, while returns are considered particularly competitive compared with other Mediterranean countries.» Crucially, there is a notable improvement as far as transparency is concerned as well as the flow of information within the market; these are elements that foreign institutionals always ask for. Besides the improved picture of the local market, the huge cash flow is a key feature for the real estate sector internationally. «A great number of investors with huge funds are after a very small number of opportunities,» say many foreign fund managers and heads of investment funds. This improves the prospects of emerging markets including Greece. Agapitidou argued that the show is stolen by the retail sector, as it has a remarkable product to sell. «There is interest in the office sector, but the lack in quality product does not allow for too much activity by foreigners. This is due to many sale-and-lease-back deals and the fact that many companies develop good buildings for their own use,» she said. The Florida 1 deal concerns the purchase of a business park covering 20,000 square meters at Pylea in Thessaloniki, hosting a Vassilopoulos supermarket, a Mega Kotsovolos/Dixons outlet, an Intersport store, some Village Roadshow cinema screens and a bowling center. The value of the Pradera portfolio in Greece now comes to about 120 million euros, as the fund had bought Village Park in Rendi, western Athens, in 2001. According to sources Pradera intends to proceed to one more investment this year. In end-2005 two more important investments were completed. The first was the purchase of 16 properties from the Eurobank Properties-Deutsche Bank by the UKA investment fund. Those properties, spread in various Greek cities, are leased by the Champion supermarket chain of French firm Carrefour. The second investment concerns the purchase of the building of the Carrefour super market in Ambelokipi by a Greek institutional. Other deals that stood out last year were the acquisition of S&B’s property (of 15,000 sq.m.) on the national road, the purchase of the old buildings of Ethniki Insurance on Merlin Street by the Hondos retail chain and the sale of the Barbalias building in Ilissia to Commercial Value insurance company. Also significant was the agreement between REDS property developer and France’s La Societe Generale Immobiliere Espagne last August for the construction of a shopping center at Kantza, northeastern Attica, which the French firm will buy for 70 million euros from the Hellenic Technodomiki-Aktor group. The investment will come to 300 million euros.