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Atenor remains diversified and profitable

Com’Unity is ATENOR' s  first mixed use project in the Paris region
Com’Unity is ATENOR' s first mixed use project in the Paris region

At its press conference to present its half yearly figures yesterday, Atenor gave considerable insight into its current strategy and how this translates into its portfolio and development decisions.

Firstly, a word about the figures: the consolidated net result for the first half of 2020 amounted to 19.6 million Euros, compared to 6.3 million during the same period in 2019. CEO Stéphan Sonneville was totally confident that the full year would again enable a dividend of € 2.31 to be paid to shareholders at the end of the year, which equates to a return of 3.80%, vastly superior to bank interest and most other types of investment… The company’s growth strategy is to see a doubling of the margin, and this is set to be achieved over the coming years not by aggressively seeking out new projects, but by seizing the right opportunities when they present themselves in the geographical areas in which Atenor is active.

Diversification

Where the strategy is concerned, the words used most frequently by Stéphan Sonneville and CFO Sidney Bens were ‘diversification’ and internationalization’ – both referring to a spreading of activities and therefore of risk. Where the geographical aspect is concerned, a first project in the Netherlands – Verheeskade, a 58,000 m² residential project in The Hague – brings the number of countries in which Atenor is active to nine. Another recent addition to the development portfolio is an office scheme in the most strategic location of Düsseldorf, Germany. Atenor now has 29 projects under development totaling 1.27 million square meters. The other countries, outside of Belgium which accounts for a third of all activities, are Luxembourg, France, Portugal, Poland, Hungary and Romania.

The other main facets of diversification are in a mix of offices and residential, and on the financial side, a broad mix of funding sources.

Political indecision

Taking a closer look at the ‘home’ market of Belgium, Stéphan Sonneville was again passionate in stating what needs to be done in Brussels. He does not hesitate to tell the various authorities (there are doubtless too many to list here…) that putting a halt to construction, especially of offices, in Brussels, is a huge mistake. “We have 13 million square meters of offices in Brussels for a population of 1.1 million”, he explains, “which is a demonstration of just how much the Region lives from its office sector”. The Realex project in the European district illustrates just how important this tertiary sector is. The amended programme includes the infamous conference centre, and this alone will act as a magnet for the development of the rest of the Rue de la Loi and the district as a whole. Bringing office development to a halt merely drives the constructions out to the Flemish periphery, to the detriment of the Brussels Capital Region.

‘Victor’, Atenor’s project to rehabilitate the dilapidated area around the South Station, now no fewer than ten years in germination (lack of political decision-making) is a prime example of how failure to decide is the worst enemy of progress.

Stéphan Sonneville is also at pains to point out, however, that the company’s philosophy is ‘Acting for Cities’ which means creating a mixture of residential and working space, always with quality for the end user as a final goal. Indeed, all of the company’s activities are in or very close to major cities, not rural areas. The residential development market is, it was pointed out, very competitive. Small developers can still build highly qualitative projects, whereas they can’t build 30,000 m² for the European Union…

Stéphan Sonneville and his board have prudent and pragmatic views on the post-covid future of the market, and these will be covered in a further article on this website.
Tim Harrup
04-09-2020
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