05:42, March 19 302 0

2018-03-19 05:42:07
MIPIM 2018 blog: Eversheds head of real estate is as nervous as a canary in a cattery

As MIPIM 2018 draws to a close, Eversheds head of real estate Bruce Dear reflects on a hectic three days of presenting, assessing the gougères and scanning the horizon.

We land in Nice to a Titian-blue sky and a trillion taxi boards blazing the names of every global property player. This is why people come to MIPIM: you can meet the whole market. I wander around looking for my name dumbly, like a Muppet in a maze.

Eventually, my taxi driver rings the idiot English person. “Bruce, I am the one in the big orange scarf, outside the toilet!” My Hercule Poirot instincts immediately engage, and I locate my distinctive chauffeur. I find him in relatively anti-ros-bif mood. “Beautiful day”, I say. “Yes, your UK weather is God’s revenge for Brexit.” It’s going to be a long 45 minutes to Cannes.

A few of us are due to play tennis with clients, so I rush there. I am the anchor of our team. Yes, literally. I have the mobility of a mushroom and the eye-hand coordination of a concussed sloth. So it’s my job to stand stock-still – drinking rosé, eating gougères and talking to clients (including a fascinating bloke from a REIT who, like me, is a massive Terry Pratchett fan).

To the Eversheds Sutherland brunch. I am as nervous as a canary in a cattery. Not because of brunch (which I have eaten before), but because I am due to speak on the market to about 500 people – 200 in the room, 300 on-line. This cannot flop. Well, it can of course. That is the worry. So I take my parents’ advice: “If in doubt, work hard.”

My colleague Tom Hemmings and I are up all night refining the slides, rehearsing and choosing the accompanying news and music clips. If I die on stage, it won’t be for want of effort.

As part of the research, I discover Uno’s Pizza Bar, O’Hare Airport, Chicago. This isn’t just any old pizza bar – this is the pizzeria of destiny. Here, the UK’s fate was decided over a 43″ deep-dish pepperoni. Yes, it was at Uno’s in May 2012 that David Cameron decided to offer the UK an in/out EU referendum.

Asked later what could go wrong, he said (quoting Game of Thrones) “You might unleash demons of which ye know not…” Which reminds me, recent surveys show people who read the news are more disassociated and depressed. Perhaps I’ll stay in Cannes.

Everyone is very kind about my talk, which gives me an excuse to do it again next year. By which time, we could have president Pence, prime minister Michael Gove or even Jeremy Corbyn – and we will have left the EU. So there shouldn’t be much to say at all…

Cannes is channeling its inner Clacton (which it doesn’t often do). The wind is cold as a robot’s stare and the dirt-grey sky is raining chats et chiens. The chill along the Croisette is not just the weather. Brexit uncertainty is beginning to bite and with it a sense of weakening consumer confidence and intimations of the (distinctly possible) twin thunderheads of hard Brexit and mass re-nationalisation.

Still, our dinner at the Carlton (an Art Deco masterpiece framed with iron-tipped towers) is a resolutely optimistic and cheerful affair. Global CEOs of institutions mingle with entrepreneurs selling them all manner of new ideas such as modular retail, structuring solutions, financing and rates mitigation.

MIPIM is a mirror of the whole property market. 25,000 delegates come to Cannes, simmer and chatter in a bouillabaisse of rosé and seafood and – voila – out comes a market view.

The consensus? Some tightening is on the way, but there are plenty of opportunities to provide property solutions to the great themes challenging the western world: ageing populations, residential shortages and infrastructure deficits.

Indeed, MIPIM may come into its own as Brexit chimes next year. Where else can you meet the whole European property industry within a two-kilometre Croisette-size strip?