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Christian Delaire, whose career spans more than 25 years of experience in finance and real estate, is Senior Advisor in Foncière ATLAND, a listed real estate investment trust. He talks to Finbuzz regarding his position as General Advisor and about the market of real estate in France.
Please tell us about the current market situation with regards to real estate Investment in Europe.
Our focus of investment is mainly centred around France so I can talk to you about that. The yıelds have compressed as they have almost everywhere because many investors are chasing real estate. They [investors] are attracted by the yıeld component of the perfomance so they want to benefit from the returns offered by real estate. The yields have compressed and prices have increased, which means it’s [real estate] expensive in many areas. Even though the recent markets are expensive right now, it doesnt mean there are no opportunıtıes. In this context, we think it’s better to take measurable and manageable risks rather than invest in assets which investors consider safe. So I definitely think there are opportunities but you need to take some risks, provided that you are able to manage and measure them.
Could you update us on the latest developments of Foncière ATLAND and on your appointment as Senior Advisor?
My appointment as Senior Advisor of the company is happening in the context of growth within the Group ATLAND and Foncière ATLAND. The idea is to support and to advise Foncière ATLAND in this new era within the new phase of this development. The company has seen a growth which happened some months ago and was brought about by the Foncière ATLAND’s decision to buy a new business called VOISIN which deals with the management of regulated vehicles (SCPI and OPCI in France). The deal was closed in September last year, and represents a significant step for Foncière ATLAND in terms of development of its asset management business. There are things in the pipe, but it is a little bit early to tell you more about it. The focus is about continuing this growth and doing everything we can to support it.
As Senior Advisor, what is your strategy for the performance and growth of the company?
A Senior Advisor has a non-executive role. It means that personally, I have no specific strategy. My role is to advise where relevant and when I am asked to. The company is run by its management team and its General Manager George Rocchietta. Foncière ATLAND’s strategic decisions are made by the shareholders of the company and these decisions are based on the recommendations prepared by management and I advise them both. I do not personally make decisions for the firm because I am just a Senior Advisor.
Career wise, what was the driving force behind entering the real estate world?
It happened completely by chance because I started my career as an auditor with KPMG from 1 st January 1992 till beginning of 1994. Subsequently, I was contacted by someone working in the real estate teams of the AXA group. Then I discovered something very exciting, with real assets, managed by very passionate people working in a very interesting field. They were doing remarkable things with concrete underlying assets and quite sophisticated issues, so I just fell in love with the asset class.
What qualities do you consider to be prerequisite for the position of Senior Advisor?
I think the first quality is about experience. I have this role today, because I have done things in the past which might be interesting for a company like Foncière ATLAND in the future. So the marriage of my experience and my market knowledge, as well as the things I have done, probably match some of the objectives that Foncière ATLAND has today. It is also important to understand and adapt to the precise context of the company you advise. I know what Foncière ATLAND is, and what it wants to be in the future. It’s not only experience but the capacity to use this insight cleverly within the context of Foncière ATLAND having its own objectives and history
What made you focus on a career in real estate rather than another aspect of finance?
I have enjoyed the concrete aspect of real estate because when you manage real estate you manage assets that you can see, touch, and visit so that is important; working on something concrete. Sophistication is important to me, meaning that you can deal with very complicated and complex issues and I like complexity. The last element is about people, namely, the industry of people which make up the profession. This is very interesting. You have very dynamic people, you have people passionate about their jobs and I think that this is very specific to the real estate industry. The combination of these three elements is why I am in the real estate industry today.
What trends have you picked up on in 2016 and what are your expectations for the years ahead?
As I said earlier, I think the specificity of Foncière ATLAND, is that it is an independent player and highly skilled in real estate. I mean their capacity to invest in real estate and to co-invest with clients is impressive. Foncière ATLAND has been very successful over the years and . So my role is to support and facilitate this.