Mary Ricks, Kennedy Wilson Europe

Mary Ricks is President and CEO of Kennedy Wilson Europe, a company active in Europe, with a portfolio focused on the Irish and UK markets. In this interview with Europe Real Estate, she talks about today's real estate market and shares her view on dominating trends for 2013-2014.

Tell us a little bit about Kennedy Wilson Europe and what you are active in.

Kennedy Wilson Europe was established in 2011, and we now have offices in Dublin, London and Madrid, employing a team of more than 50 professionals. Through a series of strategic, opportunistic investments, our portfolio in Europe has grown significantly since then, and we currently have approximately $5 billion of assets under management in Europe. Our focus is on the Irish and UK markets, and we have just opened our office in Madrid.

Highlights of our European platform include an institutional quality platform delivered with an entrepreneurial approach, a fully integrated investment process across acquisition, asset management, finance and risk management, as well as significant investment in and operational knowledge of Yardi, a state-of-the-art property and portfolio management system that has been rolled out across
different countries.

We have made many acquisitions in the European market with our partners in the last few years. Recent, notable acquisitions include a portfolio of 8 shopping centers purchased across the UK for £250 million and a portfolio of 14 properties in Ireland purchased for €306 million. These are an indicator of our commitment to the European market and we plan to strengthen our presence in European real estate over the coming years.

You recently acquired a large portfolio in Ireland. Does this reflect your confidence in this market? How do you think it will evolve in the near future?

Yes, our recent acquisitions in Ireland reflect our confidence in the market. Our real estate portfolio in Ireland now totals $1.2 billion, including some of the highest quality multifamily and office assets in Dublin, the Alliance Building and Sandford Lodge in Dublin, to name a few. We plan to continue growing our portfolio focused on Dublin and to establish Kennedy Wilson as one of the country’s preeminent real estate investment companies.

Recently we purchased a portfolio of 14 properties in Ireland for €306 million. The Opera portfolio is one of the highest quality portfolios to trade in Ireland, with an excellent spread of core income assets and some unique well located, value add asset management opportunities. Additionally, we recently purchased a premier multifamily asset in Dublin for €82.5 million.

All of these transactions represent a commitment on the part of Kennedy Wilson to the Irish market.

Which other European markets are interesting to you at the moment? Would you be looking at other ‘troubled’ markets such as Spain or Italy?

With an office in Madrid, we continue to look at the Spanish market as important. Currently, the Spanish government is working to revitalize investor confidence, and trading in Spain has become active. We see Spain as having great potential.

In your opinion, which trends will dominate the European real estate market in 2013-2014?

The strength of economic recovery in the European market has led to slow but continued improvements in the European real estate market. At the moment, it appears that interest rates set by the ECB are set to remain low, which will continue to add liquidity to the EU markets.

In the UK, investors continue to be attracted by the safe haven London presents, liquidity of the real estate market and the stability of the GBP, compared to the Euro. We have seen secondary EU markets start to strengthen, and we continue to be optimistic investors in the EU.

I would say that there are improved prospects for Dublin real estate, with increased opportunities to invest in certain properties as banks begin to release properties to the market. Currently, high yields are attracting buyers to this market, and Kennedy Wilson has proven itself as a solid buyer that does what we say we are going to do in addition to transacting quickly and efficiently with a
long term outlook.

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