More than 900 industry leaders, representing 570 firms from 36 countries, attended the annual MIPIM Asia real estate conference in Hong Kong last week, with technology and trade tensions among the recurring themes throughout the packed program of presentations, panel talks and keynote addresses.
The two-day event, with Mingtiandi among the media sponsors, welcomed more than 90 speakers appearing across six stages.
Dealmakers had plenty to chew on during a series of compelling discussions focused on prospects and opportunities for the region’s property market. Among the topics were “Key Investment Trends in Asia Pacific,” “Investment Strategies in Top Markets in Asia Pacific,” and “Asian Cities: Investments & Opportunities Outlook.”
In a 90-minute session entitled “Meet the Chairman,” Mingtiandi’s Michael Cole moderated a panel discussion featuring Kenneth Gaw, president and managing principal of Gaw Capital; George Hongchoy, CEO of Link Asset Management; Nigel Slattery, founder and CEO of the Slattery Property Group; Francois Trausch, Global CEO of Allianz Real Estate, and Andrew Weir, KMPG’s Global Chair of Real Estate and Construction.
Gaw Sees Strength in China’s Logistics Sector
Having recently sold a 50 percent stake in a portfolio of mainland China logistics assets to Allianz, Kenneth Gaw said he continued to favor the logistics and warehouse sector in China on the strength of the country’s growing domestic consumption.
Gaw also singled out Singapore as an investment destination, seeing it as a “countercyclical” play. Meanwhile, Japan and South Korea are likely to continue benefitting from the flow of Chinese outbound tourism, he added.
Hong Kong’s Link Asset Management, on the other hand, maintained its interest in retail assets in Greater China, as evidenced in its acquisition of a recently completed shopping centre in Beijing’s suburban Tongzhou district for RMB 2.56 billion ($371 million) in late November.
“We’re very selective,” Hongchoy said. “We focus only on China’s tier one cities and their surrounding areas, usually near a train or subway station. We’d get into the second cycle and turn around a shopping centre by changing the tenant mix.”
Slattery recommended Melbourne as an investment destination for 2019. “It will receive more international students than London this year,” he said. “It has got a very good state government — very diversified and with lots infrastructure projects going on.”
Investors Urged to Be Agile
Weir of KPMG said he believed the institutional allocation of capital into the property market and into Asia was still on the way up. “What used to be called alternative real estate now is now very much mainstream, and traditional players [have] started to move into those spaces as well,” he said. “My advice is to be super agile and be prepared to think differently.”
European financial giant Allianz, which manages more than euros 60 billion in property assets globally, has set a target to having 10 percent of its real estate portfolio in Asia. “To summarize our strategy for Asia, it’s mainly China,” Trausch said. “China is the defining event of our generation. For global investors, having a meaningful exposure to China is a necessity, as well as good trust fund management in terms of portfolio diversification.”
Europe was declared very much open for business during the “BRI: European Opportunities” panel, which hosted speakers from four key European cities — London, Paris, Amsterdam and Moscow — to talk about the prospects for investment in light of China’s ongoing Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a multibillion-dollar cross-border program of infrastructure development in Asia and Africa.
Impact of US-China Trade War
Headline speaker Ronnie Chan, chairman of Hang Lung Properties, tackled current affairs head-on in a talk entitled, “The China Growth Story: How will it be impacted by the US-China Trade War?”
“Trade is not a big deal — everybody will lose, but as far as China is concerned, it won’t hurt that much,” Chan reassured attendees. “Like it or not, we live in a G2 world — but it does not have to be a bipolar world. Many, many issues cannot be resolved unless we work together. We can compete in tech and trade, and be friends, too. That is the world we’re looking for.”
Also among the star attractions were Google geospatial technologist Ed Parsons, TripAdvisor’s Head of Destination Marketing APAC, Sarah Mathews, and leading China expert Dr. Jonathan Woetzel, a director at McKinsey & Company.
Woetzel outlined his predictions in a keynote entitled, “Smart Cities: For a More Livable Future.”
“I can already see that people have different reactions to that subject,” he quipped. “There’s so much noise around smart cities, so much hype — but it’s important to get the facts. That’s what this is about: The facts.”
Retailers also flocked to hear the thoughts of William Lo, Vice Chairman of China’s largest toy retailer, Kidsland. “I don’t believe physical retail will die, especially in Asia,” Lo said. “In Hong Kong we live in very small spaces — we need to go out, so the shopping mall is very important.”