2016 was always going to be a year of transition for IMMOBEL with all attention being devoted to the issue of the merger.
850,000 m2 of projects under development
The priority was to create a dynamic for several projects that have dragged on for years, tying up capital, and to lease and sell fully finished office buildings.
The exceptional qualities of the combined teams and our new colleagues have led to an unprecedented dynamism and results.
Our other strategic objectives were to consolidate our position in our various markets: (i) keep residential up to date, (ii) strengthen landbanking and provide it with added value, (iii) continue with our successes in Luxembourg, (iv) monitor Poland for its qualities and results, strengthen the division and set up a residential department.
Leased office buildings that had already been for sale for years were sold (Westside Village in Luxembourg, Okraglak in Poland). Black Pearl was leased to the European Commission and sold. RAC 2, an office building that had been completed since June 2015, was leased to the Brussels Capital Region and sold at a record price. Gateway, at Brussels Airport, leased to Deloitte, was completed and definitively sold to Befimmo.
The situation improved in terms of from difficult projects from urban development and economic points of view (Parc Seny, Chien Vert, Îlot Saint-Roch, ...). Work on the large Universalis Park project consisting of more than 100,000 m² begun with a very successful start of sales. The construction permit for the equally ambitious O’Sea project in Ostend was obtained and the construction contract was assigned (for a first phase). Chambon - winner of Best Refurbished Building at MIPIM Awards 2017 - (former ASLK site in the centre of Brussels) and the first phase of Ernest (former Solvay headquarters in Ixelles) were finished and are almost sold out.
You cannot sell the same property twice. The fact that we are already ahead of our five-year business plan will result in 2017 being a year with less profit, where more can be sown than harvested.
The start of several major projects: Ernest phase 2, O’Sea in Ostend, Infinity at Kirchberg (in Luxembourg) and the Polvermillen site in the centre of Luxembourg, etc…
The completion and letting of the headquarters of ING Luxembourg (Galerie Kons) with its sale to AXA were finalized end of March.
Despite its superb location in Warsaw, the Cedet project needs special attention. The complex work on this listed building will exceed the planned overall budget. Contrary to our initial business plan, completion is currently scheduled for the first half of 2018 instead of 2017. The margin on this project should meet expectations. CBD One, which is one of the best located office buildings in Warsaw is also experiencing a delay. All permits have been obtained but a third party is formulating privatisation claims on the street alongside the project. The intention is now to commence work in 2018.
The 60,000 m² mixed-use project in Gdansk is going extremely well with a provisional pre-sale (subject to conditions) of a hotel and the selling of many apartments.
2017 year where more can be sown than harvested
The Polish team is being drastically reorganised. The Belgian senior team is now travelling biweekly to provide assistance and supervision.
Luxembourg is going extremely well. The team has been doubled to 15 people and will continue to grow given the major and lucrative projects that we have there.
2018 AND BEYOND
The years 2018, 2019 and 2020 should be peak years which will represent the culminating point of our existing pipelines and the strategies developed. Greenhill Park, two projects in Knokke-Heist, first and second phase of O’Sea, Infinity, Polvermillen, Centre Etoile, Cedet, CBD One, Granary Island, Ernest, Universalis Park, RAC 4 and Parc Seny should all be in various advanced stages of completion or sales. Construction works on the iconic 40,000 m² building in the Sablon district of Brussels and the 50,000 m² site at the Place de Brouckère should have started. The Allianz headquarters should have been delivered, close to Brussels North station.
The proposed gross dividend for financial year 2016 is 2 EUR per share, an amount that will increase by 4 till 10% a year subject to the absence of any currently unforeseen exceptional events.
The Board of Directors has confirmed its intention to propose a recurring and increasing dividend to Shareholders. The outlook makes this possible.
It will propose to the General Meeting to grant for financial year 2016 a gross dividend of EUR 2 per share to the Shareholders, an amount that will increase by 4% to 10% a year subject to the absence of any currently unforeseen exceptional events.
Own shares, capital structure and strategy
The group has relatively high equity capital as a result of the merger. The Board of Directors has looked at all the alternatives regarding the appropriation of own shares and it has been decided that these will be retained as own shares without voting or dividend rights until additional capital needs would arise. The planned strategy consists of growth in Poland and the penetration of a fourth market. In addition, we will maintain our present scale in Belgium and Luxembourg, given our already relatively dominant position and the fact that we are interested only in projects above a certain scale.
We repaid a bond issue of 40 MEUR in 2016 and some lines of credit were also paid off. A study has shown that our best course is to issue a new bond of up to 100 MEUR. Interest rates are at a historic low point and the bond will give us an ideal balance between our various financial instruments. It will also help to reduce our cost of capital and make us more competitive. Our debt ratio will remain at a healthy level.
Much work is being done to strengthen the checks and balances in the company.
The Board of Directors has been reinforced, and now comprises nine directors, five of whom are independent and four of whom are women; the directors are of three different nationalities. Specific attention has been paid to the need for thorough professionalism, a good overall perspective with profound expertise in the necessary fields, and independence of thought in the interests of the company and of all its shareholders and stakeholders.
The intensity of reporting has been substantially increased in the company. A control department has been established, tasked with monitoring the company’s operations closely. All this information is processed by the CFO and the CEO, who report to the Executive Committee, the Audit Committee and ultimately the Board of Directors.
Europe and the world are enjoying economic growth yet find themselves in uncharted waters, with social and economic risks unseen since the Second World War. The group will take these macro factors fully into account in its decision-making policy. The skills, capital, capital markets and motivation are in place for our group to experience steady and significant growth in the decades to come, with an ROE vision of at least 15%. Our ambitions should not get out of hand though. We must always consider the world we live in and act accordingly. The long-term vision set out by IMMOBEL over 150 years ago must remain the guiding thread in our policy.
Finally, it is the Board’s wish to continue ALLFIN’s charity policy and to allocate a small portion of our net profits to charitable causes. These relate to three categories: health care, culture, and above all, how we can contribute to greater social cohesion and inclusion in our society. We are currently looking into specific projects and we will post details of the fine initiatives that we are able support on our website so that every shareholder can read with pride about the good causes to which he or she is contributing.
Having arrived at IMMOBEL in order to breathe some fresh air into it, Alexander Hodac was given the mission of communicating his dynamism to his teams with a strong philosophy: to always listen to them in order to help them to advance and surpass themselves.
“Having been named Managing Director of IMMOBEL in December 2015 at the age of 34, I knew from the outset that this mission would be quite a challenge! Since then, the Group has gone through some major changes, including the merger with ALLFIN in June 2016 – which gave us a certain degree of recognition but which also highlighted what was really at stake.
My role today is that of the conductor of a committed orchestra. I wish to make IMMOBEL grow and become a company with a long term portfolio and an international reach. Last year, 2016, was a year of revelation rather than transition. A year during which Marnix Galle and myself were able to bring our ideas about the world and the real estate market together in concrete terms, and put them into practice. The first results of this work as a duo speak for themselves. We have surpassed the objectives we set ourselves.
But we didn’t do this all alone. IMMOBEL has also set itself a human objective, of which I am trying to be the first ambassador: to listen to the men ands women who work here, bring all of our teams together towards the same goal and the same common vision.
IMMOBEL had been seen as something of an old lady and yet all of the members of staff – all generations together – possess exceptional skills and are ready to innovate. I think that this deep-rooted transformation is already making itself felt on the market, but also in the choice of challenges we have the intention to take up. In particular, that of developing innovative and profitable projects”.