Gilles Bonnier, Gecina

Gecina owns, manages and develops property holdings worth €11.6 billion at June 30, 2012, 86% of which are located in the Paris region. The company’s business is built around an economic division, including France's largest office portfolio, and a demographic division, with residential assets, student residences and healthcare facilities. Chief Financial Officer Gilles Bonnier, spoke to Real Estate Publishers at EPRA about Gecina’s background and strategy.

Who is Gecina?

Gecina is one of the top five REITs in Europe that invests only in France and predominantly in Paris. Gecina is the largest REIT in office in France with diversification in what we call our demographic business, which comprises the traditional residential, student housing and healthcare assets – nursing homes and private hospitals.

We are listed in the French market and have a market capitalization of €5.4 billion and a net asset value of €6 billion. There are about 400 employees working at Gecina, with headquarters in the center of Paris.

Our strategy is very simple; our goal is to continue being the leading firm in France in the office segment, concentrated in Paris and the Paris region. In the future, we aim to have 70% of our business in office and the balance in student housing and healthcare. We want to be a pure French player; we like this market because we know it very well and we have no interest in diverting to other locations. We want to continue our diversification in the future, in businesses we like and we know pretty well. We have about €300 million of recurring cash flow and €600 million of rents in our business.

Which part of healthcare are you in?

Originally we penetrated this business six-seven years ago with private hospitals; our tenants are the leading firms in France in the sector of private hospitals; Générale de Santé, Vivalto, Domus Vi, Medica, Medi-Partenaires, Korian, Orpéa. Over the last couple of years, we diversified our business with nursing homes, which is a very strong and developing business, through various transactions.

Today about 60% of our business is exposed to nursing homes. Our exposure is not just in Paris, because we are located where people live and need to be cured. Today we are dealing with the top three to four operators of the key locations across France.

Are you also growing in cities like Montpellier and younger areas?

Yes, actually the population is not growing only in Paris, but also other cities in France – we have several locations in an area that starts in the north and ends up in the south west and south east. So, obviously we have developed our business and exposure in locations that attract population.

What is your key interest in attending events like EPRA? Is it to attract additional investors or to look for opportunities to invest into?

I think it’s always interesting to take a step back in our business because we also rely on the macro-economic trends and not only on the French economy. We are based in France, but economies are clearly linked to each other and some of our tenants have international businesses, for example Alstom, Carrefour or LVMH. So, we have exposure to international markets as well. It is always good to look at what other people think and not just focus on the people we meet everyday.

In addition to that, we meet investors and analysts and have the opportunity to explain them our business and the evolution of our company. It’s a good opportunity to meet many people in a very short period of time.

You mentioned Carrefour. Are you also active in the retail segment?

No, we own their headquarters in Boulogne, close to Paris. We have a series of headquarters of large corporations in France like Alstom, Carrefour and Roche Laboratory. That’s one of the main aspects of our strategy; we want to have very good tenants and some of them are very large international corporations.

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