Never trust a real estate agent who says he – has anyone ever heard a woman say it? – wants to be the best, not the biggest.
Size does matter in the property brokerage arena – and increasingly so. Agents with a global presence who are active in several key disciplines are able to capitalise on the growing globalisation of the real estate industry where capital knows no borders. Worldwide, CBRE is by far the biggest of the bunch, but in Europe its position is less clear-cut – at least according to PropertyEU’s latest ranking of the leading players.
The good news for the European team headed by Michael Strong and Martin Samworth is that CBRE bagged the biggest deal in our overview for 2013 after acting as adviser to China Investment Corporation on its acquisition of Chiswick Park in London from US private equity giant Blackstone. The bad news is that its perennial rival JLL dominated the following four places in the ranking of biggest deals in 2013 as adviser on transactions in Moscow, Paris and London. Moreover, JLL emerged as the leading broker overall in Europe in 2013.
The London-based brokerage firm headed by Christian Ulbrich advised on investment transactions valued at €31.4 bn in Europe over the year, marking a rise of 36% compared to 2012. CBRE likewise posted a rise of over 30%, but just failed to make the top spot with a total of €29 bn for Europe. Their closest rival – at some distance – is Cushman & Wakefield – with €12.6 bn. This figure is double its figure for 2012, but still far removed from the heady days of the boom years.
Brokers regain lost ground
JLL and CBRE likewise saw their investment volumes decimated in the wake of the global financial crisis but are now steadily regaining ground. The pair have been vying for the top spot in Europe for the past few years, but JLL has gained an edge since its takeover of King Sturge in 2011. Nevertheless, CBRE remains a force to be reckoned with. According to the data submitted by the leading players and verified by our research team, CBRE ranks number 1 in a string of markets in terms of investment transaction advisory including the UK, Spain, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands. It is also the leading adviser in Industrial real estate. Meanwhile JLL dominates France, Russia, Poland, the Czech Republic and Sweden, and was the biggest last year in offices and retail.
Cushman & Wakefield is a solid number 3 in our ranking in terms of geographic spread, but has no dominant position overall and ceded its hegemony in the retail sector last year to both of its two larger rivals. However, the firm headed by Carlo Barel di Sant’Albano ranks second in Spain, Italy, Russia, Belgium and Denmark and third in the Netherlands and Sweden. According to unverified data submitted by BNP Paribas Real Estate, the Paris-based agent is the leading player in Germany, the biggest market in mainland Europe. Our verified figures put JLL and CBRE at a very close nr 2 and 3 respectively, followed by Cushman & Wakefield. BNP Paribas also ranks in the top 3 in its home market France.
Debut in London
All players in our ranking booked significant growth in the important UK market last year with Stockholm-based Catella making an appearance for the first time in the second tier of leading agents thanks to its partnership with Strutt & Parker. Another player deserving more than an honourable mention this year is Colliers International: under the leadership of Tony Horrell, the firm has made huge strides in the UK where it saw the investment volume on which it advised last year treble to just over €2 bn. The firm also has a strong position in Poland.
All in all, it is fair to say that European real estate agents are finding themselves on much firmer ground again after several years of turbulent conditions. Some are also rediscovering their voice: the number of press releases jubilantly crowing that pre-boom sentiment is returning to the market has grown in leaps and bounds in the past few months. By all accounts, the investment market is not just getting bigger, it is also getting better. But be wary of the broker who says things are different this time round.