Comment: Putting Scotland in the frame on the Côte d’Azur

MIPIM allowed Team Scotland to promote some of the country's key development sites, says Boyle. Picture: Contributed
MIPIM allowed Team Scotland to promote some of the country's key development sites, says Boyle. Picture: Contributed
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Last week, Rettie went to the Marché International des Professionnels d’Immobilier (otherwise known as MIPIM). Held in Cannes, it is the annual international property festival/jamboree/jolly, with your overall view of the event dependent on your level of enthusiasm/knowledge/cynicism.

Last week, Rettie went to the Marché International des Professionnels d’Immobilier (otherwise known as MIPIM). Held in Cannes, it is the annual international property festival/jamboree/jolly, with your overall view of the event dependent on your level of enthusiasm/knowledge/cynicism.

As a largely Scottish-based company with most of our clients UK-based, the need to go to MIPIM is not usually a big requirement. However, our moves over the last couple of years into Build to Rent (BTR) and our increasing number of international clients meant that this year we decided to take the plunge into the French Riviera.

Our decision to participate was helped by a Team Scotland approach, spearheaded by the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise, intended to create a public/private sector collaboration to “sell” Scottish development opportunities.

MIPIM is a major European event, and not just in a property context. Try imagining 30,000 people sauntering up and down Princes Street in the summer, with restaurants and bars on the shops side and yachts and cruise ships where the gardens are, and you will get a basic idea. It is a sort of Eurodisney for property professionals, with fantastic things to see in a whirling background of noise… and lots of queueing, and pricy.

So apart from the getting a bit of sun in March and spending a lot of money, what is the point of MIPIM? It allows the major players in the property development sector to get together to exchange information and knowledge and help to facilitate deals. It does work – deals such as Buchanan Wharf in Glasgow, which will bring thousands of jobs and new homes to a formerly derelict site near the River Clyde, were discussed and refined at last year’s MIPIM. An event like MIPIM focuses minds and allows people to get together in a relaxed environment when even arranging such meetings may take months of preparation back home.

It is not to everyone’s taste. Seeing property people swaggering (in ways that only property people seem to do) on the promenade in their shades and blue suits, while on the way to another cocktail reception on a yacht that looks like something from The Wolf of Wall Street, gives some ammunition to those who see MIPIM as an expensive and hideous beast.

But you need to see the upside as well as the down. MIPIM allowed Team Scotland to promote some of the country’s key development sites that all need further investment to thrive. Dundee Waterfront, Aberdeen Harbour, Glasgow’s Avenues Project and Western Harbour in Edinburgh all featured prominently in the talks from the Team Scotland pavilion. Rettie & Co has been heavily involved in the last of these sites, working alongside partners such as Forth Ports and City of Edinburgh Council. Western Harbour offers potential development for more than 2,000 new homes in North Edinburgh, on Forth Port’s Edinburgh land holdings. The first phase of 230 BTR homes was delivered with 36 applications for every home available. The next phases comprise 1,600 BTR homes and more than 400 additional homes, with opportunities for institutional investment available.

We need to get these types of opportunities in front of an international audience of developers and investors, and MIPIM gives us the opportunity to do so.

And MIPIM does provide great gifts for attendees, whether it be the free Guinness flowing from the Belfast pavilion or a full-scale opera laid on by Moscow, there is plenty to see and enjoy.

It was a few days out of the office at a busy time of year and a lot of early starts and late finishes, and I still feel my ears ringing such was the unrelenting noise of chatter. Was it worth it? If it helps to get a deal over the line, definitely. That will help us decide whether to go again next year.

- John Boyle, director of research & strategy, Rettie & Co