Antoine Castro, Group CEO, PAREF Group

PAREF Group: Your One-stop Solution for all Real Estate Investment Solutions

Like every other sector globalisation penetrated the real estate market expanding economic activities across borders. Today, it is easy to have an international partner for all your real estate solutions and to grow your real estate assets.

We came across one such company that is a pioneer in real estate management across Europe, the PAREF Group. A one-stop shop for real estate asset management and a capacity to expand its presence internationally, the company has set a benchmark for many in the field.

Following are the excerpts from the interview: 

Give us a brief overview of your company, its vision, and the key aspects of its strong foothold in the real estate industry.

PAREF Group is a pan-European real estate management group with a 360-degree vision and capabilities. Our know-how spans from core to value-add, covering the whole investment spectrum across sectors and countries. Our headquarter is based in Paris, with offices in Zurich, Milan while our investment footprint covers France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, and Hungary.

PAREF GROUP is organized around three pillars which represent THE BACKBONE OF OUR STRATEGY:

  • 1- The first PILLAR is PAREF SA, a listed REIT on Euronext with SIIC status the DRIVER of the VALUE CREATION which directly own properties, minority participations in some SCPI’s and two subsidiaries,
  • 2- Our second pillar is PAREF Gestion: an asset management company regulated by the AIFM that launch innovative vehicles dedicated to specific strategies. These funds can invest internationally, as we have seen over the years with Novapierre Allemagne 1 and the recently launched Novapierre Allemagne 2 and now with Interpierre Europe Centrale.
  • 3 – Finally, we are pursuing our development through PAREF INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT, a newly created operating company which offers institutional investors to benefit from PAREF’s quality integrated services in terms of acquisition, asset management, project management and facility management, among others. PIM Italy manages the ongoing heavy redevelopment project “The Medelan” in Milan, a building of 55,000 sqms, located in the heart of Milan CBD, on behalf of an Institutional Investor: the Portuguese insurance company Fidelidade.

So PAREF’s strategy is based on a balanced development of these three businesses to better diversify the sources of revenues and be adapted to the cyclical economic environment, in order to generate higher total shareholder’s return.

PAREF in a few key numbers: 2.3 bn assets under management, presence in 7 countries, 21 000 investors.

What makes your company a preferred choice among your clientele over other competitors?

PAREF is a pioneer benchmark international group in real estate management: a one-stop shop with extensive experience to grow real estate assets and a capacity to expand our presence internationally. We are a truly pan-European group with real-estate knowledge and capabilities covering the full spectrum of asset management.

Our goal is to offer our clients tailor-made investment solution and develop long-term strategic relationships around three pillars:

  • PAREF, our REIT, is designed to provide investors with access to secure, income focused returns and value add projects in pan European gateway
  • PAREF Gestion offers resilient funds designed for institutional and retail investors looking for diversification and long-term income and capital growth.
  • PAREF Investment Management develops active asset management strategies and invest in emerging sectors and locations for institutional investors looking for an enhanced level of growth thanks to our 360 degrees integrated services.

From a business leadership perspective, what is your opinion on the impact of the current pandemic on the real estate development sector and the related market?

The current pandemic does affect all lines of businesses, including real estate of course and the major shift is seen in offices, retail and hospitality as asset classes.

Working from home is a trend that is now here to stay, and it has been integrated by most companies as part of their work organization. However, at PAREF, we believe that offices are still here to play a big part in the life and success of companies worldwide as a catalyst for team spirit and drive to thrive among employees and managers. The focus in the future will be on offices as lifestyle spaces where employees will work but also be able to be creative, a real tool for company managers to nurture their employees’ attachment to the company and its values.

The impact of Covid-19 has also been felt on the hospitality industry as most countries around the globe have put up travelling restrictions. The remaining lack of clarity on travelling conditions prevents from estimating with certainty when and how demand will pick up. However, despite the lack of certainty on the timeline, we are convinced that once the impact of Covid-19 subsides, people will travel again, maybe with increased eagerness even. This is why we are confident in the resilience in the hospitality sector. To prepare for that event, we believe that, in line with the way we see offices evolving, we can see the hospitality sector investing more in technology to streamline processes and increase flexibility.

Last but not least, the retail sector has obviously felt the full impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Even as shops are reopening their doors, customers are not shopping in the same way, due to fears about the spread of the pandemic and also due to the rise of online shopping. However, retail real estate is still a strong asset class to be considered in the long term but with a probable shift towards shorter leases, higher demand for pop-up spaces and of course the resilience of the existing retailers who are able to step up their game in terms of online shopping. Retail spaces will have to adapt more to the shoppers, offering a full experience, a concept and therefore focus on facilities and functionalities.

What is your opinion on the necessity for businesses to align their offerings with newer technological developments, especially when it comes to changing trends and customer preferences?

Technology is now an inherent part of all businesses, and especially real estate, which is a permanent component of our daily lives, whether we are going to the office, spending time at home, shopping or going to a restaurant.

This is why we recognize the importance of integrating criteria such an energetic sustainability, environmental adaptability, connectivity but also adequation to new sanitary measures for all our projects.

For example, we are installing contact-less solutions (for doors, bathrooms, lightings, and air renewal etc.) in our buildings. Some of these initiatives are already recognized by labels such as Leed, HQE, Well or Wired Score while other labels adapted to sanitary protocols are still to be implemented.

In your opinion, what could be the future of the real estate development market post the COVID-19 pandemic? And how are you strategizing your company’s operations for that future?

The focus is going to be on location and services. We think that the shift created by the Covid pandemic is about to create an increased demand for qualitative real estate spaces, with a focus on high quality location and facilities such as outdoor spaces and flexible common spaces. As such, our focus in on integrated projects that offer a full range of services and options, 24/7 in exceptional locations. Buildings as lifestyle destinations where users will work, shop, dine and explore.  

If given a chance, what is the one thing that you would change about the business ecosystem in your respective market?

Definitely less bureaucracy for more agility!

As an established business leader, what would be your advice to the budding entrepreneurs aspiring to venture into real estate development industry?

I would tell them to trust but always verify! Getting into the finer details will allow you to avoid many mistakes.

How do you envision on sustaining your company’s competency in a cutthroat and volatile world of business? Where do you see your company in the next five years?

Leverage on 30 years of expertise that is recognized by our clients with whom we developed long-term relationships, sustained work, new talent with ambition and international capabilities to grow by 10 times in 10 years to become a pan-European leading one stop shop.