Wenceslao Bunge, Credit Suisse Real Estate Group

Where is Credit Suisse heading today? Credit Suisse has been adapting itself to the new realities; I think that today’s world requires financial institutions to be agile, to adapt themselves to the new realities, the new regulations and the new economy. Credit Suisse has a history of over 150 years as a bank. One of its strengths has been the private bank, as it is a much more recurrent business. Putting it in real estate terms, a private bank means recurrent revenues, while an investment bank means development, riskier activity with higher returns.
I am focused on investment banking, which is more of a non-recurrent business and in an environment like this it’s a much more challenging business than it used to be four or five years ago. Relatively I think that Credit Suisse is doing extremely well, since the whole sector is suffering a lot. We still have a very strong franchise globally and within real estate we are one of the top three to five banks, depending on which country or which product you are looking at. We focus on certain types of transactions and help clients where we can have value. We have been very active in raising capital for large corporations and we are looking for long-term partners who will work with us even in the tough times that we are going through.
What have you been working on last year? We have some very important advantages; one in emerging markets where we have been extremely active, for example in Latin America and in Asia. On the European side the market has been quite slow, but having said that, we are pleased to have been very active in the few transactions that took place. Right now we are involved in many M&A activities and we can see that the market is starting to pick up again. We have done two very high-profile transactions over the last couple of years in the UK; we assisted Qatar Holding to acquire Harrod’s and we helped in the Regent street acquisition, when Norges Bank made its first investment in real estate.
And in the future, what would you like to get involved in? I think that what investors in general really want is assets with good managers, with people that are here for the long term. Europe is suffering greatly from the lack of liquidity and the lack of investment opportunities, so I think that private companies that need capital and are conservatively managed have many opportunities to raise capital from public investors.
I think that the whole German market will be restructured, there’s a lot of noise about what’s happening with the open-ended funds and how it will evolve. We have very good franchising in Germany, we are very focused on bringing capital on to this market, so we would be pleased to assist when the opportunity rises.
I think the three biggest markets in the end are the three largest economies, namely the UK, France and Germany. Then there are some other markets that need to grow in the sector, such as Italy and Spain, which are not represented at all, and we are working hard with EPRA to try to change this.
Are you active in the CEE markets? There are some very decent companies in the CEE region, but they don’t have the necessary scale yet. Of course it also depends on the real estate segment, there are more logistics or industrial companies that have presence there; however, we are not that focused on specific asset transactions, we are much more focused on assisting the larger companies that are seeking a strategic partner. We don’t see the scale that we need in order to get involved in CEE; Russia is different, we have been very active there and will continue to be in the future.

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