The Round-Up, February 2024

To our valued clients and friends, 

We’re delighted to share with you our latest quarterly global real assets newsletter, in which we shine the spotlight on the hospitality sector. We are pleased to a feature an insightful interview with Philippe Attia, Co-Founder and CEO of Vertu Hotels & Resorts, in which he discusses his extensive experience in global hospitality and leisure with some of the world’s largest high-end groups. Meanwhile, Sousou Partners’ Tina Rasmussen and Mark Wareham give their views on trends they expect to see in the sector over the course of 2024. Finally, as part of our ‘View from the Middle East’ series, Ghada Sousou gives her thoughts following a recent trip to the region.

Best wishes,
Sousou Partners

Veni, Vidi, Vixi

As Christmas and the new year fade from our thoughts, some of us may already be thinking about getting away for a winter break or further ahead to summer escapes. With that in mind, what will 2024 hold for the hospitality industry in general? Following years of extreme difficulty through the pandemic, has hospitality sufficiently recovered and what developments are we likely to see? Many believe that the travel industry is poised for a robust comeback in 2024 and, despite concerns around macroeconomic and global political uncertainty, a number of trends are expected to continue through 2024.

Tech and Digital

As in other industries, the influence of tech continues to grow in hospitality. 2024 will bring continued increases in online bookings as millennials prefer digital interaction. The question is whether online travel agents will capture this growth or whether hotels can claim a large slice for themselves. Artificial intelligence is set to become increasingly prominent, used to analyse trends to influence everything from room pricing to staff scheduling and supply chain.

At the budget end of hospitality, we will see growth in the use of apps to facilitate hotel experiences, encompassing online check-in or engagement with customer support whereas at the luxury end, touch points with guests are more valuable and therefore automation and AI will be restricted to back of house. Tech will also affect marketing with younger consumers preferring peer reviews over traditional advertising, therefore we are likely to see the role of social media to continue to evolve, with platforms finding more innovative ways to share experiences.

Mark Wareham

Sustainability

Consumers increasingly want hotel groups to behave ethically, particularly at the luxury end of the spectrum. Carbon offsets and locally sourced food and beverages remain important; however, it is also important for new hotels to be built with sustainable materials which increase energy efficiency, and energy supplies must be drawn from renewable sources.

Personalised Experiences

One size fits all no longer cuts it in hospitality and with increasing diversity of customer demographics, hyper personalisation will become increasingly prominent. This will be particularly prevalent at the luxury end of the market, with a focus on bespoke experiences.  Tech and AI will gather data on guest’s preferences and past interactions with the hotel and this can be used to create a truly tailor-made experience which goes beyond mere comfort and good service.  A number of data management systems have emerged to facilitate this and to aid in the development of personalised marketing.

Tina Rasmussen

Wellness

The hospitality industry continues to adapt to a broader global movement that prioritises slower living and self-care, particularly following the Covid pandemic. Wellness hotels fall into 2 main categories: medical wellness combines medical diagnosis and therapy; recreational wellness provides holistic getaways including yoga retreats, meditation resorts and destinations, which assess overall health and objectives and offer tailored 10-14 day programmes. We have already seen several wellness brands emerge including SIRO and Even from IHG to Janu from Aman Resorts and Lanserhof, as well as more specialised experiences from the likes of Zulal which operates a traditional Arabic and Islamic medicine and well-being philosophy.

Community Engagement and Belonging

The days of isolated resorts which discourage guests from leaving the site to engage with the broader community have passed. Hotels and resorts are increasingly offering tangible lasting experiences engaging with local communities.  In addition, hotel public relations with the local area play an essential role in how brands are perceived.  A hotel or resort which engages locally is more likely to attract local customers who become brand ambassadors.  By working with local communities, sustainable economic and social development ensures a win-win for everyone – the hotel itself, guests and local people and businesses.

Branded Residences and Luxury Villas

The branded residences sector has remained resilient in the face of economic uncertainty with around 600 new schemes planned, many of which are in the APAC region and across the Middle East.  Although luxury hotel brands such as Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton remain prominent, non-hotel brands such as D&G, De Grisogono, Rare Finds and Louis Vuitton are now present in the market.  With ever increasing numbers of high-net-worth individuals, the demand for branded residences is expected to increase. Coupled with this, growth is expected in the luxury villas market; since the launch of Eden Rock Villa Rental in 2012, the likes of Homes & Villas by Marriott and Singita have emerged. The pandemic has accelerated this market, as a private villa guarantees privacy and a sense of safety.

Expert Opinion

Interview with Philippe Attia

Philippe Attia brings with him more than 30 years’ experience in the field of hospitality and is the Co-Founder and President of Vertu Hotels & Resorts, a hospitality management company operating worldwide. He is also Director of Hospitality Advisory Switzerland at Horwath HTL Switzerland focusing on hotels, tourism and leisure consulting. He serves on the Board of Directors for the global and European IACC, International Association of Conference Centers.

He has extensive senior management experience in global hospitality and leisure, hotel and resort operations and development, with some of world’s high-end groups including Dolce Hotels & Resorts, Occidental Hotels & Resorts, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Club Med and The Walt Disney Company.
 He previously served as CEO of Glion Institute of Higher Education, Switzerland.

He has worked in 14 different countries and held several hospitality leaderships positions such as General Manager, Managing Director, Regional Director, Senior Vice President and CEO. He has overseen the hospitality operations and development of several new upscale and luxury hotels, resorts, spas, golf courses and conference centres, in EMEA, Asia, the US and the Caribbean.

Co-Founder & President
Vertu Hotels & Resorts

View from the Middle East

Sousou Partners CEO and Founder Ghada Sousou gives her thoughts following her most recent trip to the Middle East,
where she spent time in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh:

What is the current atmosphere like on the ground in the region?

The region is buzzing; across Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh there is so much going on, it is almost like the cities are competing with each other for attention! Dubai remains at the forefront as a centre for servicing the wider region, from business building to the social scene. Abu Dhabi is seeing increased activity, with lots of restructurings and changes to how capital is allocated. There is already plenty of capital flowing out of the Emirates into Europe, with more to come. But Saudi, particularly Riyadh, is attracting the most attention and the most amount of human capital.

Ghada Sousou

You’ve been to Riyadh many times before, what are your impressions this time?

Riyadh as a city is struggling to keep up with the immense growth going on in and around it. The ambitions there are very high, but there are actions behind these ambitions with 100 projects greenlighted in the last year and a pipeline of more to come. There is also an influx into the city of service providers, following the introduction of a law that requires groups that wish to service government agencies, to be headquartered in Riyadh. This is helping to shift activity into Saudi.

How are investors looking to take advantage of these changes?

On the whole, the region remains a big target for those seeking capital, but the capital is getting even smarter. LPs are wary about being over targeted, they are setting the bar higher and getting stricter on who they work with – there is certainly less appetite for plain vanilla funds. Groups are agnostic to how they allocate, they are taking a top-down approach, deciding on the themes they want exposure to, then deciding the best way in – through funds, JVs, co-investments or direct deals.

Western GP interest from private capital remains very high, but capital is becoming ever more sophisticated. They are looking for strong track records within specific mandates, where there is a long-term market opportunity and real conviction. They are increasingly looking at entering through GP stakes, corporate acquisitions and co-investments. Private capital is becoming more difficult to target, which is the way it should be.

There is also a lot of smart capital flowing into the region, not only through the ‘dollar-in, dollar-out’ mandate, but with investors carefully selecting local groups, looking for specialists, with Riyadh being at the forefront of attraction

And what about the region’s view of the West’s general economic difficulties right now?

In the short term, the East still recognizes that there is pain to filter through in the West, and there is a bit of a hold on placing capital, understanding the need to focus on workouts instead. Areas that are of interest remain narrow, niche strategies and credit.

And any update on the need for talent that typifies the region?

There still is an enormous need for talent across the region, especially those with the track record to build out business in industries such as emerging Infrastructure. The changes happening and the buzz that creates is palpable and the general sense of positivity is leading to a need for talent in many sectors. For instance, in the Emirates, plans are moving ahead to open casinos in Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah, so there’s a growing need for talent in the entertainment sector.

The region will be in the spotlight in 2024, as there is so much happening.

Key Moves

A highlight of key people moves within global real assets over the last quarter

EMEA

  • Blackstone appointed Ken Caplan and Lionel Assant as Co-Chief Investment Officers
  • UBS Asset Management appointed Jon Hollick as Global Head of Real Estate
  • Partners Group appointed Karim Habra as Global Co-Head of Real Estate and Esther Peiner as Partner and Head of Infrastructure Europe
  • Ares appointed Stefano Questa as Partner and Co-Head of Europe for Alternative Credit
  • La Banque Postale AM hired Christophe Murciani as Head of Real Estate Debt
  • Marathon Asset Management appointed Alex Howell as Head of European Alternative Credit
  • DWS appointed Ulrich Steinmetz as Head of Real Estate Transactions for Europe, Christian Baecker as Head of Portfolio Management Real Estate Retail and Ronen Ribak as Head of Value-Add Real Estate for Europe
  • Fidelity International appointed Chantale Pelletier as Global Head of Infrastructure Equity Investments and Emma Haight as Head of Infrastructure Debt
  • Clear Sky Capital appointed Iyngaran Muniandy as Head of Europe
  • Auriens Group appointed Julie Fawcett as Chief Executive Officer
  • Generate Capital appointed William Sonneborn as President
  • Knight Frank appointed Anthony Duggan as Chair of Europe
  • Global Student Accommodation hired Simon Bray as Global Head of Finance
  • DigitalBridge hired Ersin Yorulmaz as Managing Director, Co-Head of European Capital Formation
  • Henderson Park appointed Bob Lee as Managing Director and Global General Counsel
  • JLL appointed Marie-Laure Leclercq de Sousa as Chief Executive Officer, France and Cluster Leader for Belux and Southern Europe
  • CBRE appointed Chris Gow as Head of Debt and Structured Finance, Europe
  • Neuberger Berman hired Yahya Abdulla as an EMEA Real Estate Product Specialist

Americas

  • Chad Tredway rejoined J.P. Morgan as Head of Real Estate Americas
  • KKR appointed Chris Lee and Billy Butcher to Co-Presidents of KKR Real Estate
  • Evercore appointed Neil Wolitzer as Senior Managing Director in the Real Estate Investment Banking Group
  • Chad Pike, former Global Co-Head of Real Estate at Blackstone launched a new firm, Makarora, which will target US private debt and equity opportunities and also those in the public markets
  • Sixth Street appointed Marcos Alvarado as US Real Estate Head
  • Voya Investment Management appointed Matt Toms as Chief Executive Officer, as well as Eric Stein as new Head of Investments and Chief Investment Officer
  • Prologis appointed Carter Andrus as Chief Operating Officer

APAC

  • Blackrock appointed Hamish Macdonald as Head of Asia Pacific Real Estate Equity and Stella Ju as Co-Portfolio Manager of the APAC Rel Estate Value-Add Fund series
  • Link REIT appointed John Saunders as Group Chief Investment Officer

Transactions

A look at some of the largest real estate deals over the last quarter

Sector Focus: Hospitality

Sector Focus: Logistics

Market Insights

Market Trends

  • Europe faces the largest upcoming debt funding gap on a relative basis (16% of loan originations), closely followed by the US whereas the APAC remains relatively immune. In terms of asset classes, office loans emerge as the primary concern across all the regions, followed by multi-family and retail sectors
  • Blackstone’s flex office business Fora now boasts more locations in London’s zones one and two than any other flexible office brand
  • Life Sciences could add another £4bn of gross value to the UK economy by 2035 if growth matches that seen in the US
  • Middle Eastern investment into central London is set to be the busiest since pre-pandemic with November 2023 investments standing at £621m, already in line with the previous five-year average

Fund Raises

  • Starwood Capital launched capital raising for Starwood Distressed Opportunity Fund XIII with an equity target of $10bn
  • Cheyne Capital announced plans to raise £7.5bn for real estate lending through its Cheyne Real Estate Credit Holdings programme
  • Ares Management raised c. $3.3bn for its Landmark Real Estate Fund IX
  • Blackstone announced the final close of $2.6bn for its Strategic Partners Real Estate VIII fund
  • Hines closed its Hines European Value Fund III at $1.75bn
  • Mubadala joined forces with Aldar Properties and Ares Management in a platform designed to invest in real estate credit opportunities in the UK and Continental Europe with ambitions to invest $1bn into the sector
  • RXR and Ares launched a $1bn fund to buy distressed Manhattan offices
  • Blackfinch Group launched two new funds: IFSL Blackfinch NextGen Infrastructure and IFSL Blackfinch NextGen Property Securities

Corporate Acquisitions

  • Blackrock acquired Global Infrastructure Partners in a deal valued around $12.5bn
  • Keppel agreed to acquire Aermont Capital in a deal worth up to $1bn
  • Morgan Stanley Investment Management Infrastructure Partners bought a 70% stake in French data centre platform, UltraEdge, valuing the platform at $836.5m
  • Aldar Properties acquired UK developer London Square in a deal valued at €267.1m
  • General Atlantic agreed to buy Actis, growing total AUM to c. $96bn

Debt

  • Brookfield sourced €1.9bn of debt to refinance office portfolios that it took private in 2022
  • Ivanhoé Cambridge and Residential Land completed a £465m refinancing for their London residential portfolio
  • Prime London Ventures secured a £465m sustainability-linked loan from UK bank HSBC and Singaporean lender OCBC Bank
  • Rhize Capital entered the Italian market with a €100m facility for two student housing schemes in Milan

Infrastructure

  • Macquarie launched an onshore renewables business called Aula Energy which will focus on development, construction and operation of wind, solar and integrated battery projects in Australia and New Zealand
  • CIP is seeking to raise $3bn for a new fund (Growth Markets Fund II) that will invest in greenfield renewable energy
  • BlackRock held the first close of its Evergreen Infrastructure Fund at $1bn
  • Investcorp acquired a 50% stake in Corsair’s infrastructure business