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By Carolyn Cohn and Simon Jessop
LONDON (Reuters) - Investors expect to plough billions of pounds into UK commercial real estate this year, citing some long-awaited Brexit clarity after last week's departure from the European Union.
Real estate investment foundered after Britain's vote to leave the EU 3-1/2 years ago, hit by uncertainty over the move and its potential impact on the economy. But sentiment has improved with December's resounding election victory for the Conservative party, effectively guaranteeing Brexit.
Though a trade deal between Britain and the EU has yet to be negotiated, LaSalle Investment Management told Reuters it plans to spend 1 billion pounds (on UK property this year. The company already has 12.3 billion pounds in real estate assets in Britain.
Madison International Realty, meanwhile, is "pursuing several possible transactions", accoring to the private equity firm's president, Ronald Dickerman. The firm said in October that it had more than $1 billion to spend on central London.
Dutch real estate developer Breevast, London-listed Intermediate Capital (ICG) <ICP.L> and U.S. duo CA Ventures and Invesco Real Estate <IVZ.N> all told Reuters they see opportunities in Britain, with ICG's co-head of real estate, Martin Wheeler, highlighting increased appetite from overseas investors.
Apollo Global <APO.N>, which lent $2.9 billion for real estate in Britain last year, is similarly upbeat. Ben Eppley, head of European commercial real estate debt at Apollo, said there has been an "an unlocking of transactions" in recent weeks thanks to greater clarity over Brexit.
Ghada Sousou, CEO of real estate recruitment agency Sousou Partners, said the business had been introducing UK real estate companies to overseas investors.
It is also helping a private equity firm to build up a UK real estate team, she said without naming the firm.
Uncertainties have by no means disappeared, however, with the trade deal negotiations and broader global economic factors having the potential to weigh on UK property.
"We are starting to hear from some European capital that maybe it’s time to think about London," said Zach Vaughan, head of European real estate at investor Brookfield, adding that it may be too early to talk about a rise in transactions.
"If you are sitting on an investment committee in another country, you will ask what happens if there is no trade deal? More uncertainty is never helpful.”
(Reporting by Carolyn Cohn and Simon Jessop; Editing by David Goodman)