Ritratto ( con intervista  esclusiva)  a Carmen Hui, Senior Vice President of Acquisitions – Europe , di Host Hotels and Resorts (1 marzo 2013)

di Paola G. Lunghini.


Carmen Hui
Carmen Hui

Ha appena vinto – l’annuncio è stato dato alcuni giorni orsono- un premio prestigioso :  “Young Leader Award 2013” di IHIFInternational Hotel Investment Forum  , che le verrà consegnato la prossima settimana a Berlino, nel corso del convegno annuale di IHIF :  incontro che rappresenta l’ appuntamento top dell’ hotellerie mondiale.
Questa la sua stringata biografia ufficiale :
«Carmen Hui is the Senior Vice President of Acquisitions – Europe for Host Hotels and Resorts, Inc.  Carmen is responsible for European hotel investments on behalf of Host and its joint venture partners in Europe, GIC RE and APG.  Since joining Host in 2004, Carmen has been involved with hotel real estate transactions totaling over US$6 billion of transaction value, including Host’s 28-hotel portfolio acquisition from Starwood Hotels & Resorts in 2006. She was also involved with establishing Host’s European joint venture in 2006 with €540 million of equity capital, helped open Host’s London office that same year and drove the subsequent European hotel acquisitions for the joint venture.  Carmen also led efforts on closing Host’s 2nd European fund in 2011, capitalized with €450 million of equity, with the same partners.  The European portfolio currently comprises 19 hotels with approximately 6,100 rooms across 8 countries.  Host acts as the general managing partner and asset manager for the partnership. Prior to joining Host, Carmen worked for Morgan Stanley in their Mergers & Acquisitions and Real Estate teams in both New York and Hong Kong.  She graduated with honour from Yale University with a Bachelor of Arts degree having double majored in Economics & Mathematics and International Studies.    
Host Hotels & Resorts, Inc. is an S&P 500 and Fortune 500 company and is the largest lodging real estate investment trust and one of the largest owners of luxury and upper upscale hotels.  Host’s wholly-owned portfolio consists of 118 multi-branded hotels with 62,500 rooms located primarily in downtown, suburban, airport and resort areas».
Appena ho ricevuto la sua foto, ho cercato di costruire la persona, e non solo un’ intervista . Questo è il mio “ Ritratto” di lei :
La improvvisa popolarità che l’ Award le ha dato la vede orgogliosa e più che onorata ( «I feel very special having not only been nominated internally by my own team but recognised and ultimately selected by external industry leaders. Certainly my email inbox has never felt more popular the days after the announcement was made!»).
Nata a Hong Kong nel dicembre 1979,  si chiama Carmen ( un  nome che cinese proprio non è )  perché  i suoi genitori vollero per lei un  “ nome  all’ inglese” che suonasse simile al suo  nome originale  : che sarebbe Ka – Man.
Sposata e con una bimba di un anno, vive a Londra.. Niente pets.  Adora  ballare ( «Love to dance – did competitive ballroom/latin dancing when I was younger and performance salsa/rueda dancing until I moved to London »). Viaggia parecchio, e ha visitato ben bene i tre alberghi  che la sua Società possiede in Italia ( il Westin Palace a Milano, l’ Europa&Regina a Venezia e lo Sheraton Hotel&Conference Center  a Roma ) . Ma non solo questi, anche tanti altri, nel nostro Paese, per lavoro e leasure.  E’ molto golosa  e così – mi ha confidato – sceglie la destinazione delle sue vacanze in base alla qualità del cibo. Superfluo aggiungere che in questo l’ Italia  è al top della lista!  ( «I am a big foodie so generally pick my holiday destinations based on the quality of food. Needless to say, Italy is high up on the list») . Ama molto Firenze , che è  una delle sue tre “mete ripetute” in Europa ( «I will go there again and again») .
Carmen, dove ti vedi nel 2018? Ama il suo lavoro, la sua Società e il suo gruppo ( «so in 2018 I’d hope to still be in Europe with Host, having grown the portfolio to an ideal size and composition, and implementing the next phase of our business strategy»).
Q.Amongst the deals  you were involved in, which was  the most important for you?
A.The “Quintet” deal, for which I was nominated, was really a great learning experience. It took many shapes and forms over the past 4+ years and presented numerous challenges, but one learns a lot from resolving challenges and I must say it has finally culminated after all these years as a great investment for our European fund.
Q.Lodging industry : difficult or not , being a woman – and very  young  too?
A.As with any real estate sector, lodging is still male-dominated, only slightly less relative to other asset classes given there is a good retail/branding element to lodging. We are definitely seeing more women in the industry though. I have never really felt challenged being a woman in the industry; on the contrary, many a times I feel that being a woman helps. I also think age hasn’t really been an issue either as long as you prove yourself; it’s really one’s capability and experience that matters.
Q.How many people  are there in the London office:  % of women amongs the directors (  glass ceiling or not?)
A.The team I lead in London consists of 4 people besides myself, 2 of them women. And there is definitely no glass ceiling there.
Q.Your European portfolio comprises 18 hotels : are  you eyeing some new  locations  ?
A.Yes, we want to invest in prime markets in Germany and more in London.
Q.The market: your review of 2012 ( in terms of investment market)
A.According to a JLL survey, transaction activity in EMEA 2012 totalled about €8.2 billion, slightly down from 2011, and it was dominated by signs of distress.  In the midst of all this, for Host it was a very successful year of acquisitions where we completed nearly half a billion euros of investments in Europe including the largest deal for our Company during this cycle (the Quintet portfolio transaction).  We were able to acquire some great assets in prime locations at attractive values and discounts to replacement cost.
Q.2013 : still opportunities  for growth, and where ? Which are the determinants of success, in your opinion?
A.Yes, we still believe there are good buying opportunities out there. If we are able to acquire hotels in primary European cities with high barriers to entry at good discounts to replacement costs, that would be a successful investment.
Q.2013 : trends and issues ?
A.It looks like transaction activity in EMEA in 2013 will still be dominated by distress.  However, distress for some means opportunities for others.
Q.The highest yieldings in 2013 ? ( according to some recent research, it is still a “ fight” amongst  Paris, Geneva and London…)
A.Paris and London have historically battled each other for top spot in terms of ADR.  For 2013 I might lean towards Paris, not because I’m hoping for the best because we just bought a portfolio with four hotels in Paris, but because London will be facing the post-Olympic supply overhang (with new supply continuing to open) and the airshow will be in Paris this year.
Q.ADR and RevPar, etc  : still correct models to evaluate the worth  of a hotel?
A.For us, valuation is all about bottom line (NOI) and cash flow, given we are IRR-driven investors.  Of course, ADR and RevPar are important components that feed into the bottom line.  However, we are also very focused on discount to replacement cost, value-enhancing opportunities and exit flexibility.