Post-covid: evolution not revolution

Tim Harrup

During its half-yearly press conference at which it outlined its strategy, developer Atenor also explained what its views are on the potential impact on the market of covid-19. The first point, says CEO Stéphan Sonneville, is that it is not time to make any real conclusions yet. He was at pains to point out that prudence is required because ‘it is important to state that nobody knows what will happen’.

Teleworking is of course a major factor for the real estate domain, and Atenor starts by reminding that this was already in existence before covid, and so what we are seeing now is more of an evolution than a revolution. But it also believes that teleworking is creating a sort of psychological crisis as people have to adapt the way they work. What will not change, and this favours the continuance of physical offices, is that it is in these offices that collective performance is generated and where corporate culture is expressed. But what will change is the interior layout of offices, in other words a change in quality, not in quantity.

In terms of how all this is going to affect its own performance, Atenor says that while there are not likely to be any direct material costs, there will be (further) delays in the permit granting procedures and a net slowdown in renting office space. Some of the company’s revenues originally scheduled for 2020 could slip into next year.

One of the impacts of crises is that they are also sources of opportunity for business. Offices and residential accommodation – in both of which domains Atenor is active – will evolve, but people will always remain social animals, requiring and wanting physical interaction. The other ongoing trend is for sustainability, and as this makes increasing numbers of buildings obsolescent earlier than in previous eras, this is also a factor which underpins the real estate domain.

Finally, and noting its own geographical diversification, Atenor believes that there should be a coordinated European response to emerging from the crisis.