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Atenor emphasises 'political will and means'

Atenor has just published its results for the 2017 financial year, and outlined the current state of its business and its projects. Where the results are concerned, operating result amounted to 35.38 million Euros, largely due to the sale of 3 buildings of the Vaci Greens project in Budapest and to the delivery of the office portion of the Port du Bon Dieu in Namur. The sale of apartments in Brussels and Mons also contributed to the results. CEO Stéphan Sonneville was keen to point out that the strategy of diversification of funding sources and of due dates, along with the fact that borrowings are at fixed rates, means that Atenor cannot be too greatly shaken by market movements. Additionally, there is still around one hundred million Euros available for buying land. Atenor is not working at the maximum of its capacities, and it takes care not to be financially overheating.

Geographical expansion

In terms of the location of projects, Stéphan Sonneville confirmed that this is a Belgian company, with a high degree of activity in its home market. However, the stability and security of Atenor cannot be jeopardized by any sort of emotionally-inspired over-activity in Belgium, and projects are now increasing in other markets (Hungary, Romania, Poland, France, Luxembourg). And in particular, if Belgium is occupying a decreasing proportion of activities, this remains partly because of the extremely long periods of time taken to obtain permits. As examples of this phenomenon – about which Stéphan Sonneville has always been vociferous – he said that the eight years taken to receive permits for Victor (south Station), are ‘scandalous. By contrast, a permit for the ‘Bords de Seine’ project in the Paris region, was granted in three months, for a 34,000 m² project.

Atenor’s strategy is therefore to look at cities which have a political vision and the means to put this into operation. Paris, Bucharest and Budapest are seen as good examples, although Brussels, Stéphan Sonneville conceded, is beginning to improve. Remaining in Belgium, Atenor is active in Wallonia, but finds Flanders to be, in general, extremely local in outlook, and an opaque market.

In terms of the strategy for entering a new city, Atenor always begins with office construction, and then looks at the potential for residential accommodation. It also looks at the typical occupants of the city in question.

Moving back to the projects portfolio, Atenor currently has 18 projects spread across 11 cities in 6 countries, and totalling some 800,00 m² of space. Around 70% of this is in offices, 27% in residential and 3% in retail. Those projects underway in Belgium are The One, Realex, City Dox and Victor in Brussels, and les Berges de l’Argentine, Nysdam (now 95% let!), Au Fil des Grands Prés and La Sucrerie in Wallonia. Brussels and Wallonia represent half of all current activity, with Budapest and Bucharest accounting for a further third.
Tim Harrup

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