ECONOMY

Foreign investors find Greek commercial property increasingly attractive

International investment funds, armed with ample liquidity, have been showing increased interest in Greek malls in the last 12 months. This is not surprising; the Greek market may be relatively small but its consumers are avid spenders; moreover, return on investment is fully satisfactory. Real estate market players argue that the increasing flow of foreign investment in Greek commercial property is a logical development and is not the result of some sudden love affair. At a time when investment opportunities in Central and Eastern Europe are drying up and consumer profiles and spending power in the other Balkan countries are still weak, Greece seems an attractive alternative. This increasing interest can take the form of foreign institutionals investing in listed construction companies, such as Babis Vovos, or acquiring stakes in real estate investment companies. Lamda Development’s initialing of an agreement to sell 50 percent of The Mall Athens, the country’s biggest, to HSBC Property Investments is a good indication of trends; the 135-million-euro deal is comparable to those in any mature European market. Changing environment «It is true that the Greek property market has been changing recently, as regards the investment dimension. It is slowly but steadily acquiring the features of a mature market,» said Dika Agapitidou, general manager of Athens Economic, which represents Jones Lang LaSalle. «The basic elements making the situation different now is that the market is gradually acquiring a product capable of attracting the interest not only of domestic but mainly foreign investors. At the same time, tax changes are ushering in a more rational environment for the entry of foreign funds into Greek real estate. Return on investment is now considered particularly competitive, compared to other Mediterranean markets,» Agapitidou said. New mix Market players argue that the ascent of malls and leisure complexes, which attract multinational retail chains, creates the right mix of uses and users and promotes the Greek market abroad. They cite the fact that in many emerging markets the coming of real estate investment funds followed the invasion of retail chains and hypermarkets. There is, in fact, high expectations that there will soon be announcements from such funds based in Germany, the UK, Australia and, to a lesser extent, the US, which are currently exploring opportunities in Greece. Already, Pradera, following the acquisition of the Florida 1 business park in Thessaloniki, is said to be considering another investment in Larissa, Thessaly. Another foreign fund has approached Babis Vovos with a view to buying the complex it is developing on Syngrou Avenue in Athens. In both cases, the leasee is Media Markt. Apart from Pradera, whose portfolio also includes Village Park in Rendi, another very active foreign fund is UKA, of British and Australian investors. At the end of last year, it bought 16 properties in various parts of the country from Eurobank Properties – Deutsche Bank. The properties in question are leased by the supermarket chain Champion of the Carrefour group.