John Duckworth, Jones Lang LaSalle

Jones Lang LaSalle is a financial and professional services firm with more than 40,000 people in 70 countries, specializing in real estate services and investment management. Real Estate Publishers asked Managing Director for Central and Eastern Europe (CEE)John Duckworth about the company and his view of the Eastern European markets today.

Jones Lang LaSalle and Eastern Europe

“Jones Lang LaSalle employs 380 people across seven countries in CEE. We have been present in Eastern Europe for 20 years and it is a very exciting time for us. In the last five years, however, perceptions and views on Eastern Europe have changed radically. The recession has had a filtering impact on Eastern Europe, in the sense that the CEE market was relatively homogenous five years ago while five years later there is a much wider spectrum of views from market to market.

“At the top end you have a more positive view on countries like Poland and the Czech Republic, while at the other end of the spectrum there are countries that appear in the press on a regular basis, where perceptions have shifted, especially around political and economic risk. That filters into real estate decision making, both from an investor, corporate and developer point of view.

“What we have been doing as a company is covering the markets in CEE (Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Croatia and Slovakia) ensuring that we are active in the important sectors for our clients. Our activity includes primarily the capital markets, the buy/sell side of real estate, particularly in the office, retail and industrial asset class, developer and landlord leasing and corporate real estate representation again in those three primary asset classes.

“We are also very active in the valuation and management of portfolios and funds in the CEE region. International and domestic investors with assets in these markets use Jones Lang LaSalle to ensure that their assets are protected from a value and asset risk point of view.”

Rise of a strong local interest

“Over the past 20 years there has been a steady flow of international investors who have been interested in the emerging CEE markets. However, the past five years have seen a more mixed approach, where domestic corporations, investors and developers are beginning to emerge.

“International parties are still very active and Poland in particular has become the focus of investor, developer and corporate interest, mainly due to its relatively strong economic performance in the past three years. For example the burgeoning BPO and SGC sector in the whole CEE region is driving exciting levels of corporate activity in many cities in the region”.

“Opportunities in some of the core and second-tier economies and markets in Western Europe have become more constrained. Decision makers have taken note of Poland and to varying degrees across CEE. Polish economy and property market is not without risk but today offers a level of stability which is uncommon cross a wide range of markets.”

JLL: a global and local player

“Companies from our peer group have also seen the opportunities in emerging markets. Currently there is a trend between players who want to be global and local, and players who are trying to get there. In our experience it is very hard to be global and local taking years to build up teams and networks investing in the offices and, most importantly, in people”.

“One of the key features of Jones Lang LaSalle in Eastern Europe is that we have strong teams in local offices, but we are also bound by a global network with a strong global brand. From a business point of view this is good, because it means that it is respected and it opens doors both domestically and internationally, but also the company is bound by ethics and the responsibility to its staff and also the environment.”

Sustained confidence will lead to decision making

“Comparing the situation with this time last year, there was some enthusiasm which was grounded on hope as opposed to anything real, while today people are cautious but urging things to move forward. Obviously what is exercising everyone’s mind is what is going to happen from a broader and longer-term economic point of view.

“If there is continuing stability without any further shocks, this will filter down to sustained confidence from the investor and corporate community. Clearly the future of the euro and the Greek question is on everyone’s mind so for the time being caution is the prevailing sentiment."

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