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Desert Diary

Originally published February 2018.  The UAE's appetite for attracting the great and the good (and sometimes the bad and the ugly) remains impressive. This week, Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, hosted the first Milken Institute MENA Summit, and what a gathering it was. Milken, known in a former life as the junk bond king, can call on pretty much anyone to appear at these gatherings, which discuss political, business and societal issues, ranging from Brexit, women in the... Read More >

Recent Articles:

There is brighter weather ahead in Poland for property investors after the COVID storm
Poland’s commercial real estate sector has just recorded what some reporters are calling it's "best-ever" first-quarter, which is quite something to achieve over the precise period in which the world was waking up to the horrors of Read More >
A recent Prop tech investor writes… Proptech – From Hype to Hyperdrive?
Having recently completed proptech investments in Unissu and Dashflow, I was interested to read Andy Saull’s article, “Proptech disruption won’t hit any time soon”, in the last issue of Property Chronicle. It introduced me to the Read More >
Since the financial crisis in 2008, interest rates have been low and borrowing costs for commercial property similarly low.  With such low rates, relatively high yields and seemingly ever-increasing values, many have chosen to use Read More >
Heard on the road: office pricing, retail gossip and Belgium (not just for the beer)
What do investors want right now? What are their preferred opportunities, and what do you need to know about them? This series sums up what one investment adviser has gathered from roadshows, conferences and meetings across Europe. Heard in Read More >
How to win awards
Awards are show business, mining a deep human need or peer approval. Formed and shaped for profit by producers. Staged and fronted by directors nurturing sector nabobs. Marketed and sold with ‘your rivals are on board’ whispers to sponsors. Read More >
Desert Diary 7
The new decade that was ushered in by the usual dazzling Burj Khalifa fireworks provoked some reflection on my part, for it was 10 years ago this year that I made the move to the Gulf.  Back then it was a leap into the unknown, where Read More >
Cautiously optimistic?
A famous quotation, probably erroneously dedicated to the financier J. P. Morgan, is that, when asked for an outlook on the stock market, he replied, “it will fluctuate”.  The real estate market tends to fluctuate too, between two Read More >
Let’s kick lower-league football up a notch
To stop small clubs going under requires not extra cash but an independent body charged with developing the game as a whole After death throes worthy of a B-movie murder scene and with a parliamentary committee picking over the bones and Read More >
Heard on the road: residential, retail and London all appeal
What do investors want right now? Which are their preferred opportunities, and what do you need to know about them? This new series sums up what one investment adviser has gathered from roadshows, conferences and meetings across Europe Heard Read More >
Why northern buy-to-lets are still a bargain
Investment pouring in from the south hasn’t yet brought down northern England’s higher yields.  It has been widely reported for several years now that rental yields are typically higher in the north of England than they are in the south. Read More >
Waiting for the drop
Watch share prices, brace for a bang. “If something is true, no amount of wishful thinking will change it. - Richard Dawkins  Real estate currently beats any but the riskiest investment classes – doesn’t it? Provided interest rates Read More >
Can Boris Johnson live up to Lord Palmerston?
The new PM shares his 19th-century predecessor’s charm, but on statesmanship skills it’s another matter  Our new prime minister is said to be an admirer of Winston Churchill, but a better model for Boris Johnson would be Lord Read More >
What the tenant fee ban really means for agents
Should letting agents be worried about the impact of new legislation? The Tenant Fees Act 2019 or, as it’s more often referred to, the tenant fee ban, is a piece of legislation that came into effect on 1 June 2019 and basically prohibits Read More >
How European property found a home
It is exactly 20 years ago that Prologis stormed into Europe and transformed the landscape of property funds, announcing it had raised $1.07bn of equity for its first European fund. This was a game-changer for the European markets, and not just Read More >
All change in the countryside
Farming in the UK is changing faster than anyone realises. There will be winners – and losers… The UK farming industry is facing a period of radical change that most farmers are underestimating both in extent and speed. There will be Read More >
European markets: an update on Spain post-2019 election
With the PSOE coming out on top, Spanish prospects are only looking up Pedro Sanchez’ gamble to call a snap election has paid off. His PSOE (the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party) has become the biggest party in parliament, with its share Read More >
Thinking outside the box
How forging a new path in the property market can reap big rewards I have several guidelines to which I have mostly adhered when investing. Amongst others, this includes targeting high yielding properties: properties with sustainable income Read More >
Quoted German propcos – a brief history
Back in 2007, left behind by the likes of the US, the UK and (shock horror!) France, the German government moved with its customary celerity to create its own REIT sector. A year before, and two years after Emmanuel Valavanis and I had set up Read More >
Getting started – A life in Real Estate
In the following monthly series of articles Oliver Ash tells the story of his initial steps in the field of real estate, how this took him overseas to a new life, how he navigated the financial crises of 1991 and 2009, how real estate operations Read More >
Goldilocks And The Ten Bears
With the bull market scaling new heights and global growth re-accelerating, I explained last month why this situation is likely to continue (see Why The Bulls Are Back In Charge). But I noted at the end of that paper that, as Read More >
UK commercial property could stay the course through waves of uncertainty
Waves of political and economic uncertainty have become something of a norm for markets in recent years. Against a backdrop of significant events – from US-China trade tension to Brexit - investors are taking extra caution with their asset Read More >
Investing in Polish Commercial Property 4
How to earn double-digit returns from Polish property As readers of my articles might recall we have, for many years, been earning double-digit returns from our property investments in Poland. There are many factors which have contributed to Read More >
Desert Diary 6
How the peaceful Gulf state became one of the dominant economies in the world in under half a century Here in the United Arab Emirates 2018 was the Year of Zayed, 12 months of commemoration to celebrate a century since the birth of the Read More >
Why Centrica no longer meets my investment criteria
In 2012, one of the first companies I invested in as a defensive value investor was Centrica, the company behind British Gas. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Centrica was a leading player in the defensive utilities sector, with a Read More >
Good News, Bad News and Walls of Worry
The MSCI All Country World Index is up some 250% since the financial crisis. But was there ever a cycle in which investors were more skeptical about the market’s upward momentum, where stock valuations had to climb so many “walls of Read More >
The Wisdom of Crowds
Why was our “Solving for 2019” audience less worried about recession but more cautious on equities? At our flagship annual conference for the EMEA region, “Solving for 2019,” it is now tradition for my colleague Joe Amato to ask the Read More >
The Market Weighing-Machine “The market is a voting machine in the short term but a weighing machine in the long term.”
If there is one useful conclusion for investors from the crazy year that has just ended, maybe it is this: as they say in Hollywood, “Nobody knows anything.” After all, if the richest and best-informed studio moguls spend tens of millions of Read More >
A Gentle Descent Back Into Balance Our senior investment leaders look to the coming year in the global economy and markets, and offer their “10 for 2019”—the themes and dynamics that they believe will define the next 12 months.
Macro: A Soft Landing 1. A Soft Landing for the U.S. and the Wider World We anticipate that U.S. GDP growth will slow from 3.5% to around 2.0 – 2.5% in 2019, and some of the tail risks associated with the U.S. – China trade dispute will Read More >
The View from Berkeley Square Brexit will be a key driver for the UK Sector in 2019
- Global Real Estate Sector robust in 2018 - Fed policy will drive equity markets in 2019, including Real Estate - UK performance hit by Brexit and structural change in UK Retail The Global Real Estate Sector showed a Total Return in Read More >
Market uncertainty should encourage rather than deter investors in 2019 A look at some of the best investment opportunities for the year ahead
There were plenty of headwinds facing the property sector in 2018, with Brexit and broader geopolitical turmoil causing investors to pause for breath. Whilst buying decisions have in some cases been put on hold, commercial and residential real Read More >
Investors are getting more flexible Widening participation in the Asia Pacific flexible space
Across Asia Pacific, conversations surrounding flexible space are typically one-sided and largely concentrate on co-working. Given the current stage of development in this region, it is somewhat understandable that discussions on flexible Read More >
Bucking the trend in bricks and mortar retail An expert view of retail in Central and Eastern Europe
The health of bricks and mortar retail, and the resulting impact on retail property owners, have rarely been out of the news in 2018. In many western markets the pace of structural decline in retail has accelerated, and this has brought enormous Read More >
The Long View The retail industry has been going through a period of adjustment rather than a revolution.
The online retail business is 11% of the total world wide retail sales and 16% of the UK’s. In both cases it seems to be growing at about 1% per annum but with signs of a slowdown in the more mature markets. There is no doubt that some Read More >
Investing in Polish Commercial Property 3 Lessons learnt from first-time investments in Poland
In my last article I set out my company’s broad approach to investing in commercial property and in Poland in particular. I thought it might be interesting for anyone considering investing in Poland to hear about one of our first investments Read More >
Transaction speeds The market players are different and the transactions are significantly more complex than 30 years ago
Perhaps the long hot summer in continental Europe is not the most prudent time to review how fast transactions take to conclude. However, with the benefit of over 30 years of experience in Europe I am convinced the average time from the start of Read More >
The View from Berkeley Square UK trading businesses are suffering the effects of economic and political uncertainty
The Global Real Estate Sector has shown a Total Return of +7% YTD for a Sterling investor, compared to -1% for UK Real Estate Sector, or +2% for the FTSE All Share. The major contributor at the time of writing has been the US Real Estate Sector Read More >
Desert Diary 5 Seasonal Observations
Fitting in as a fifty-something in a country so diametrically different from one’s own is no easy thing. Apart from the obvious; you know, driving on the wrong side of the road, cars having no indicators (at least seemingly so), magnets fitted Read More >
The UK Commercial Real Estate Finance Market, Ten Years after Lehman Various factors are making real estate an ever more operational proposition
Ten years ago, I had just extricated myself from almost a decade as a tax lawyer in the City, mostly advising on structured real estate finance deals, and started work as finance policy director at the British Property Federation. The next few Read More >
The UAE – Geared to lead The laws will be finally introduced in the last quarter of this year making for an exceptionally exciting H2 2018.
A global economic crisis, rising regional political tensions, and a dismal outlook to the macro economic stance all make for an exceptionally tumultuous atmosphere to navigate through. Nevertheless, the United Arab Emirates led by its capital Read More >
Investing in Polish Commercial Property 2 Poland is a robust growing economy, and a property market which offeres a very significant yield gap
Since the peak of the property cycle in 2007, First Property Group plc has grown its net asset value at an annualised rate of some 25% per annum and either maintained or increased its dividend payouts each year. Most property companies either Read More >
The View from Berkeley Square The Emerging Majors
The UK results season for the March year ends has not generated much investor interest - to the extent a frustrated senior equity fund manager confronted me as I walked past Mortons demanding 'where are the Emerging Majors?!' He was referring to Read More >
Desert Diary Month 4 The Capital Club Dubai
If your perception of business in the Middle East is one of men in sunglasses discussing arms deals and oil trades, then you’d be wrong. Well, that’s not to say this doesn’t go on, but a visit to Dubai, and in particular DIFC, the vibrant Read More >
Investing in Polish Commercial Property 1 Successfully navigating the Polish property investment market: Part 1
My company, First Property Group plc, is an active investor in Poland, having commenced our operations there shortly after it joined the EU in 2004. Not many investors have successfully navigated the Polish property investment proposition. In a Read More >
Free enterprise is the solution to South Africa’s problems Statist economic policies have hurt the South African economy
In 1986, a well-known African-American economist travelled to South Africa for a conference on the role of business in helping to overcome racial divisions in that country. Three years later, Professor Walter E. Williams of George Mason Read More >
Euro property investor – April 2018 The French Investment and Property Market
I have been active in the European real estate markets for over 30 years with a focus on the more liquid north-western countries. I have worked for agencies (Knight Frank and CBRE), an accountancy practice (Touche Ross & Co) and investment Read More >
Desert Diary: Month 3 The relationship between sport and real estate
As Sydney Harbour fills up with the tears of lachrymose cricketers, transgressors of a law of the game, rather than of the land, one can’t help but think how hysterical the response has been, and ask why. How does the game of cricket, (cricket Read More >
Lending Smart In 2018 Where will debt providers go to out-perform?
Comparing returns, and risk, for debt markets across Europe has historically been nigh-on impossible due to a lack of data. But new research from CBRE will help existing and new lenders determine strategy from a position of greater understanding. Read More >
Abstract digital numbers The View from Berkeley Square A watershed for the Global Listed Sector
In January I highlighted the underperformance of the North America listed Real Estate Sector in 2017 but that it still didn’t offer great value – however with interest rates set to move higher in 2018 I looked forward to some interesting Read More >
Young professionals working at desks in an office Let your office tenant sublet space without your consent?! How to make a "traditional" lease a more attractive choice for occupiers in the new normal of serviced offices and co-working spaces
I've recently been involved in a few subletting transactions relating to offices in London. These transactions were time-critical, but very time-consuming, and the pain of securing superior landlord consent for the subletting at times made me Read More >
Desert Diary: Month 2 Old boys, new schools and the rapid pace of change in the UAE
“No, Your Highness, you’re NOT allowed any more pudding! And while we’re at it, why haven’t you finished your prep?!” Not words you’d imagine many royal or senior Arabs to hear very often, as another tray of baklava arrives to Read More >
Frontier Notes – March 2018 The growing economies of Ghana and Nigeria
Nominally at least, both Ghana and Nigeria are in the midst of an economic uptick. The latter is forecast to grow at 2% per annum this year as against 0.6% in 2017 and -1.6% the year before (its first recession in a quarter century). Ghana Read More >
Stacks of pennies The listed markets for small companies Why being on AIM is tougher than it should be
I have, for the last 18 years, had the pleasure of running First Property Group plc, a small listed property company with a market value of £52 million, which I founded and which invests in the UK, Poland and to a small extent in Romania. My Read More >
Pile of euro coins on a chart Euro property investor Belgian office accommodation, the challenges for businesses in France and why the Germans are not always more efficient
I have been active in the European real estate markets for over 30 years with a focus on the more liquid north-western countries. I have worked for agencies (Knight Frank and CBRE), an accountancy practice (Touche Ross) and investment banks Read More >
Globe The View from Berkeley Square How the listed real estate sector fared in 2017 - and what we can expect next
The global listed real estate sector In 2017 the FTSE EPRA NAREIT Global Index showed a total return of 5% for a sterling investor, although currencies were again a big factor (e.g. for a US$ investor the global total return was a healthy Read More >
Burj Khalifa in Dubai at night The GCC: opportunity born from positive momentum Why the GCC is geared to become one of the most rewarding investment destinations in 2018
The GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) region has historically been a source of capital raising and outflow of funds that invested in everything global. Sovereign wealth institutions in the region are among the wealthiest in the world, and the Read More >
Corpus Christi College, University of Cambridge Notes from Cambridge A Bursar reveals the challenges and delights of managing the finances of an Oxbridge college
Since 2013 I have been Bursar and a Fellow of Corpus Christi College, part of Cambridge University. Before that I spent 26 years in finance, predominantly in equity capital markets at Citigroup (where I led the ECM business for Europe, Middle Read More >
World map showing Africa painted on hands Frontier notes The latest updates on Kenya, Liberia and Nigeria
12 December marks Kenya’s 54th year of independence. It is also the day on which opposition leader Raila Odinga intends to hold his own inauguration as the ‘People’s President’, rival to re-elected President Uhuru Kenyatta. Without naming Read More >
Zimbabwe flag Is Zimbabwe’s real estate investment future secure? Nana Ampofo looks at the outcome of recent political events in Zimbabwe
President Robert Mugabe announced his resignation on Tuesday 14 November after 37 years in power, the last three of which included the dismissal of vice-presidents and ruling party stalwarts: Joice Mujuru in 2014 and most recently, Emmerson Read More >
Skeleton key hanging on wooden door Retirement living – the next crisis and opportunity What is the future for this major growth market?
A key priority for government is to build new homes, particularly social housing, but the demographics point to another major shortfall over the next 20 years. According to McCarthy & Stone (MCS), the retirement living sector leader, of the Read More >
Dubai marina A letter from Abu Dhabi On innovation and why Brexit does not represent erosion of value
From Abu Dhabi to the world: this is the motto of Etihad Airways, the UAE national carrier. This rings true on many fronts as Abu Dhabi has been aspiring to be the Middle East and regional hub for everything from regulated financial services Read More >
Pocket watch on pile of dollars Lessons from behavioural economics Overcoming trustees’ bias towards the short-term
Richard Thaler was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics in October 2017 for his work in behavioural economics. His citation refers to his contribution to building a bridge between economic and psychological analysis in individual decision Read More >
The future of finance is female How the changing nature of real estate investment will require more empathy and emotional intelligence
Ironically, being a Muslim woman sitting in the backseat of a male driven Uber, in London, I was tickled to hear the radio announcement that HRH King Salman had finally decided to lift the moratorium for females to get behind the wheel. As with Read More >
Boutique selling children's toys and clothing Have you missed the Great Singapore Sale? KK Tan explains how investors can look beyond the hype
As I read the billion dollar bids for land in Singapore and new launches of private apartments selling out in three days, I began to wonder whether the government has expanded the retail-driven Great Singapore Sale to the residential property Read More >
Stacks of pennies UK residential property has seldom been this cheap Low interest rates mean keeping up with mortgages is easier: but does this make home ownership a safe option?
Much is being said and written about the lack of affordable housing in the UK. Since the trough in the first quarter of 2009 following the financial crisis, the average UK house price has risen by 40%. To buy a home in London, young first time Read More >
Container ship in port Ship owning: an investment warning? Our insider looks at whether investing in shipping is 'as safe as houses'
Shipping carries over 90% of world trade. Until anti-gravity transport is invented nothing will replace it. This island race has salt water and shipping in our veins and history. As befits our special relationship with the Creator it is obvious Read More >
Gears of a vintage clock machinery, close up Thanks for the memories UK real estate: comparing then and now
I started my real estate career in the early 1980s, so over 30 years ago! I have been involved in many areas of UK real estate during that period, both cosseted in booms and fighting for survival in busts whilst finding my way through the world Read More >
A house roof with two dormer windows and the sun shining between them The View from Berkeley Square Robert Fowlds sets out a bold solution for the housing supply crisis and illiquidity in the secondhand homes market
Crisis? What crisis?! Results from the listed home builders this summer describe a sector in rude health, particularly in the mid-market house price range of 250k-350k. Redrow for example reported sales up 21%, PTP up 26%, EPS up 27%, DPS up Read More >
Village with fields in the distance The View from Berkeley Square The listed European sector shows a strong recovery
Continental carry trade The big takeaway from the interim results season is the recovery in continental property markets. It’s been a decade since the listed sector in Europe signalled such a positive outlook in spite of some mixed Read More >
Lightbulb on plain white background Investing in megatrends in India Looking at the factors that will drive India's growth over the next decade
Stock markets in India have been soaring as the economy enters a prolonged period of political and economic stability. At elevated valuations, near term returns seem uncertain but investors should focus on riding the megatrends. India’s per Read More >
Young professionals brainstorming around a computer The View from Berkeley Square A mid-2017 update on the global listed sector
Halfway through 2017 the global listed sector is performing better than I had expected, up over 7% Total Return in USD terms, although much of this is down to dollar weakness with the sector up just 2% in sterling and flat in euros. But the big Read More >
Myanmar cityscape Real Estate Journeys: Myanmar Our Asia real estate markets commentator recounts a trip to Myanmar
Above: a view of Yangon CBD, March 2012 Real estate is the ultimate wealth creating machine. I have had the privilege of covering real estate markets from the perspective of a valuer, a policy-maker, an equity analyst, a real estate fund Read More >
Big Ben and Houses of Parliament in London, UK The View from Berkeley Square My latest thoughts on the outcome of the UK general election
Two months ago the view from Berkeley Square was cautious, particularly on Brexit and retail, but one could see 'clear blue water' (even if bitter tasting!). After a disastrous Tory manifesto and even worse campaign, the waters are muddied and in Read More >
Vintage map of Berkeley Square in London The View from Berkeley Square This week, Robert Fowlds reflects on political change and retail portfolios
Chaos in Washington and dollar weakness, combined with the Macron win, has had a major impact on markets. For a sterling investor, the global real estate sector is flat YTD, but the Americas is down 6% compared to Europe up over 8% including Read More >
Two tin cans joined by a piece of string The View from Berkeley Square Robert Fowlds, one of the City's biggest real estate rainmakers, looks at the real estate markets from his perch high above Berkeley Square
Well, if 'a week is a long time in politics' (and even longer in UK politics!), it’s also a long time for the listed global real estate sector. Ironically as a property developer moved into the White House last autumn, the sector badly Read More >
Skyscraper viewed from street level The View from Berkeley Square Robert Fowlds, one of the City's biggest real estate rainmakers, looks at Brexit and the global real estate listed markets from his perch high above Berkeley Square
The West End has been a joy to drive around this Easter as half of London (and most of the property industry) has been away! As well as being able to secure reservations in some fine restaurants, it has also provided some time to reflect… On Read More >


Investor's Notebook

Smart people from around the world share their thoughts

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The Macro View

Recent financial news and how it connects across all asset classes

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Fintech, proptech and what it all means

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A sideways look at the world of wine

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The Architect

Some of the profession's best minds

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The Auctioneer

What's going on in the auction world

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Residential Investor

Making money from residential property investment

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The Professor

Analysis and opinion from the academic sphere

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Face to Face

In-depth interviews with leading figures in the real estate/investment world.

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The Headhunter

Recruitment and career moves

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The Analyst

Investment themes and trends

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The Historian

A look back at previous cycles, events, characters

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The Economist

Money, rates and prices

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Political Insider

The inside scoop on Washington, Westminster and Whitehall

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The Agent

Reflections on estate agency, today and in past times

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Alternative assets

Investing in tangible assets

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