Rapleys are pleased to confirm a number of promotions across the business this month:

Senior Associate

Guy Davies – Building Consultancy Group, London
Rebecca Harper – Investment, London

Associate

Josie Hayes – Building Consultancy Group, Birmingham
Chloe Ballantine – Town Planning, London

Senior Planner

Conor Healy – Town Planning, London

Senior Surveyor

Charles Alexander – Development Services Group, London

Robert Clarke, Senior Partner, adds: ‘It is a great pleasure to announce these promotions. They are well-deserved. I look forward to their ongoing contribution to the business and, more particularly, our valued client base.’

 

As featured in various publications. CoStar – click here.Commercial News – click here.

Commercial property and planning consultancy Rapleys has advised Lookers PLC on the development of its new £10m dealership located on York Road, Battersea.

The 90,000 sq ft Volskwagen dealership forms part of a multi-million pound mixed-use joint venture between Lookers and Linden Homes. The state of the art dealership comprises the first three floors of the development, including significant amenity and customer experience space as well as a state-of-the-art automotive services department.

The multi discipline Rapleys team, led by partner Angus Irvine, brought together experts from across the firm’s Development, Planning, Investment and Building Consultancy practices to work with Lookers to maximise the significant land value of the site.

Principally this included a full planning and feasibility study, resulting in the unlocking of air rights to facilitate a multi-storey, mixed-use development comprising both the car dealership and a residential scheme. Rapleys identified and secured Linden Homes as the joint venture partner for the project, subsequently securing planning permission for the full commercial and residential scheme, to include 174 one, two and three-bedroom apartments, both private and affordable, across the fifteen storey, four tower development.

Rapleys also advised Lookers on relocating the existing dealership to an alternative site while works were being undertaken, to minimise any disruption to the day-to-day business.

Angus Irvine, Partner and head of Development, commented: “As competition for land, particularly in urban conurbations, increases, it is critical that investors and developers have a creative approach to maximising the value of their assets. Frequently this means changing or expanding uses and more often than not, building up rather than out. Lookers’ new dealership is a terrific example of this; maintaining and enhancing commercial operations while delivering much needed private and affordable housing in the heart of London courtesy of JV partner Linden Homes.”

Property and planning consultancy Rapleys announces the launch of a new office in Cambridge. The new office is Rapleys’ second in Cambridgeshire, with the firm being founded in Huntingdon and maintaining a strong presence and heritage in region since 1951.

The Cambridge office consists of both professional advisory and transactional teams from across Rapleys’ service lines, delivering a joined-up, multi-disciplinary offering to clients in the region. Each team consists of professionals who live and work in the city, with strong established relationships across Cambridge’s range of complementary consultancy services.

Stuart Harris has been appointed Head of the Cambridge office, and joins Rapleys with more than 30 years’ experience working in the industry and region, including roles with Strutt & Parker and Carter Jonas.

Stuart, alongside the existing partnership, will be responsible for promoting and coordinating the delivery of the firm’s core property consultancy and town planning services in the city, including: Town Planning, Building Consultancy, Development, Affordable Housing & Viability, Commercial Agency, Landlord & Tenant and Investment.

Robert Clarke, Senior Partner at Rapleys, commented: “Our new Cambridge office, alongside the appointment of Stuart, represents a key further stage in Rapleys’ evolution, which builds on our long-established heritage, presence and reputation in the region going back to the founding of the firm in Huntingdon in 1951. We saw a real opportunity in Cambridge, which is undergoing substantial growth, and a market opening where we can bring in services – such as Affordable Housing and Viability, Strategic Land, Building Consultancy and Town Planning – which are currently underrepresented in the region or are subject to increasing demand. At the same time, our expanded footprint and capacity in the region further complements our national expansion programme – providing clients access to partner-led teams with both local expertise and UK-wide reach.”

Stuart Harris, Head of the Cambridge Office at Rapleys, added: “Principally I am delighted to join Rapleys at this exciting juncture. There are significant opportunities in Cambridge, which is rapidly increasing in commercial importance and is one of the fastest growing cities in the UK. This looks set to continue – not least driven by the wider strategic plan for the region including the Cambridge-Oxford arc and expressway – and we are seeing an increasing demand particularly for planning and consulting services from businesses seeking to capitalise on this growth. I look forward to working with the wider Rapleys team to help clients seize these opportunities.”

Rapleys’ Cambridge team can be contacted at 20 Station Road, Cambridge CB1 2JD / 0370 777 6292.

Rebecca joined the investment agency team at Rapleys in early 2014 and works with a variety of different clients throughout the UK. Advising on the acquisition and disposal of individual properties and portfolios, Rebecca primarily identifies opportunities, highlights asset management potential and provides valuation and rental advice to clients, principally focusing on the out-of-town retail, automotive and hotel sectors.

Prior to joining Rapleys, Rebecca worked for Edward Symmons where she spent three years in the hospitality and leisure team. She specialised in the hotel sector, valuing a large variety of hotels nationwide, predominantly for secured lending purposes. She qualified as a Chartered Surveyor in Spring 2013 having gained a detailed knowledge and understanding in the sector and wider property industry.

 

Martin has over 25 years experience in the investment market. He has acted for many of the larger fund management houses, pension funds and property companies, and also advises a number of private trusts and property syndicates in the sale, purchase and funding of commercial investment property.

Martin advises clients on portfolio strategy and asset management initiatives. He acts for a number of key developer clients in the arrangement of development funding via Joint Venture partners, banks and institutional purchasers, varying from mixed-use schemes to food and non-food retail schemes and dealerships. He has also advised retailers on sale and leaseback disposals and purchasing fund clients in the food sector.

Martin joined Rapleys in 1989 and was elected as a partner in 1998.

With Q1 2018 drawing in, Rapleys’ Investment team are pleased to be reporting a number of significant investment transactions. Whilst all sectors show growth and strength, it is the automotive investments that have risen to prominence for Rapleys.

Download the newsletter to view some of the deals secured and ongoing work in this area.

Jonny’s role is to advise pension funds, financial institutions, property companies and private individuals on the sale, purchase and funding of income producing UK commercial property.

Although the majority of work is transactional, Jonny’s role is to advise UK and overseas clients on their property portfolios. Advice typically constitutes guiding property values, highlighting asset management potential and analysing properties for purchase and exit strategies.

Clients include: AXA Real Estate Investment Managers, Palmer Capital Partners, RREEF (now Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management), Threadneedle Property Investments,TH Real Estate, Moorfield Group, Palace Capital plc, CCLA Investment Management, Siemens Real Estate, Wm Morrison plc, Central England Co-Op, Disney Inc, Malthurst Group, Mercedes Benz, Sytner Group, Lookers plc, Johnston Press plc, Milton Keynes Parks Trust, John Lewis Partnership, Pendragon plc, Bolling Investments, Marshall Motor Group, Musgrave Retail Partners (now Tesco), C2 Capital, Private Investors and Chubb Common Investment Fund (in-house fund).

Jonny specialises in working with private equity groups, property companies and HNWI’s on value added deals which typically involve repositioning of assets by active asset management, refurbishment and redevelopment angles. Experience also extends to large mixed-use developments, especially where anchored by PRS.

Jonny joined Rapleys in 2006 and became an associate in 2010. He was promoted to partner in 2015. Thus far, Jonny has acted on in excess of £1bn of transactions.

 

 

The UK’s food retail sector has seen a significant shake-up in recent years. Challenges caused by e-commerce, changing consumer habits and the rise of challengers such as Lidl and Aldi has seen many operators reassess their property portfolios and requirements.

Richard Curry, partner in Rapleys’ Retail & Leisure Group, recently spoke to Property Investor News about the food retail property investment market.

He states that there is now “an environment where food retailers are being far more selective in terms of their store requirements as they streamline product offering. Investors must therefore be similarly selective over their acquisition strategy.

Fundamentally investors should, like food and retail occupiers, prepare to take affirmative action to ensure efficient and profitable portfolio performance in what is an increasingly dynamic and changing market.”

Click the link to the right to read the full article published in Property Investor News and find out more about the factors influencing the market, the changes in optimum store size and the challenges and opportunities for the sector.

For more information, please contact Richard.

Brexit: an event that, at the time, felt a little as if the world was about to end. We are nearly 5 months on from 25 June 2016 and whilst turmoil in foreign exchange continues with the pound predicted by some to reach parity with the Euro over the next few months, the FTSE has reached a record high.

However, so far there appears to have been little effect in the automotive sector with both corporate and property deals continuing with some high profile (and costly) examples including:

  • Kia opening Europe’s largest dealership in Brentford
  • Dick Lovett opening a 25 car Aston Martin showroom in Bristol
  • Peter Vardy opening a new Jaguar Land Rover dealership in Aberdeen
  • Arnold Clark opening the UK’s largest Hyundai dealership in Glasgow

Of course these deals will have been planned and financed well in advance of the Brexit date but during the preceding period of uncertainty, the strength of the UK economy appears to have vindicated those approving these high profile deals. Indeed further significant developments are continuing to be announced post-Brexit including:

  • JCT obtaining planning consent for a new Mercedes-Benz dealership in Harrogate
  • Swansway announcing plans for a new Jaguar dealership in Crewe
  • Arnold Clark planning a new Motorstore in Nottingham
  • Inchcape announcing plans for a new Audi dealership in Bolton

Furthermore, since our last automotive update, the sector has seen the largest corporate acquisition for 10 years with Marshall Motor Holdings acquiring Ridgeway for £106.9m to become the 7th largest group in the UK; an acquisition where Rapleys was appointed to advise on the property elements of the acquisition.  There have also been a number of others, both pre and post Brexit, including:

  • Lookers acquire Drayton Group for £55.4m (July)
  • Lookers acquire Knights Group for £27.2m (August)
  • Jardine Motors acquire Colliers Motor Group (June)
  • Vertu acquires Gordon Lamb for £18.7m (June)

It remains to be seen what impact Brexit will have as Article 50 has yet to be exercised and, given recent court rulings, there is uncertainty as to whether the Government can make this decision without the support of Parliament. Many groups are yet to report their half year results although market sentiment has, so far, generally been positive. It seems as if most in the sector remain confident about the state of the UK economy and that confidence has translated into investment in the sector at a time when the temptation might have been to “sit tight”. It is, however, widely anticipated that Article 50 will be exercised in the first half of 2017 and, if this is the case, we will be in for another round of uncertainty next year.

 

 

The UK commercial property market has seen a significant drop in confidence and investor demand following the Brexit vote. That was the conclusion of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors commercial property market survey carried out after the Referendum on 23 June.

It said both the investment and occupier sides of the market had been impacted and rent and capital value expectations were now in negative territory.

That’s the UK picture. But what does Brexit mean for dealer property values? For the past few years the market has been buoyant, particularly for large, in-demand roadside sites.

Alisdair James, a partner at Rapleys, believes it is too early to say how much dealership property will be hit.

“The first indicator will be consumer confidence and the car sales figures over the next few months and particularly the September plate-change.

“If the uncertainty caused by Brexit impacts on consumer confidence and car sales decline significantly then we can expect a knock-on effect in the property market and for site values. For the time being however it seems to be business as usual.

“Where dealer groups remain under pressure from their manufacturer partners to upgrade or relocate their facilities they are continuing with their plans as before. A softening in the market could even present new opportunities for cash-rich dealer groups, particularly if competition for prime sites from alternate uses declines.

“In the short term, we have not seen a drop-off in enquiry levels for dealership property, and Brexit’s shadow has not deterred a number of recent corporate transactions, which have completed since the referendum vote. Others completed pre-June 23, despite the uncertainty. We expect this activity to continue,” he said.

Paul Taylor, a senior director with Bilfinger GVAs also believes it is too close to call on the Brexit impact.

“Logic points towards there ultimately being an adverse knock-on effect arising as a consequence of the worsening economic conditions that are likely to prevail.

“If customers are more reticent to commit to new car purchases and particularly if list prices were to rise due in part to the exchange rate deterioration, then one could anticipate a slowdown in the market.

“In reality, this may have been anticipated in any event regardless of the outcome of the referendum given the last four years of sustained headline growth.”

He also pointed out that it is difficult to get valuation data on much dealer property.

“In reality, relatively little prime dealership property is traded on the open market. The bulk of manufacturer-compliant property is transferred as part of business transactions, and the associated valuations are rarely published or totally reliable,” he said.

We also asked some of the experts what impact Brexit has or will have on institutional investors and dealership property?

At the wider level UK property funds managing billions of property assets have marked down their value of the building they own by 5%. These were mostly carried out by funds that are open to retail investors who can demand their money back at short notice.

Martin Carey, head of Investment at Rapleys said: “Brexit has undoubtedly caused something of a shockwave. The motor trade sector is unlikely to see the full extent of the referendum result for some while yet.

“While the automotive manufacturing industry has been vocal in its concerns, the mood amongst dealership operators is slightly more nuanced and this is being reflected in an investment market which hasn’t lost its appetite.

“For prime assets we anticipate that the market will remain stable and we are seeing a degree of confidence in the sector with dealership investment opportunities coming to market with little movement on asking terms and anticipated realisation figures.”

Carey argued that funds were still in the market for dealership opportunities which have strong covenants with long term rental growth prospects.

“Dealerships which have long-term, index linked income streams are still at the top of the shopping list with early indications that for the right asset, transactions are at pre-Brexit levels,” he said.

“Dealership property is still seen as a relatively safe investment, with Brexit not yet, altering the market fundamentals for occupiers and consumers.

“Dealership networks are continuing to expand fueling a steady stream of investment opportunities coming to market. While the Brexit tremors will continue to cause uncertainty, the automotive property market might just be better placed than most to weather the storm.”

Taylor at Bilfinger GVA said it was early days. “Logically demand will be thinner, at least in the short term, as many of the recent buyers of prime real estate in the sector have been the retail funds.

“In theory, with fewer buyers for prime stock, values could cool, although there is an argument that the very best investments will hold their value or even improve marginally given demand in the wider market is predominantly for long dated secure income,” he said.

APC property market review

In June Automotive Property Consultancy (APC) identified just over 1.5 million square feet of motor retail property which was available on the market. Over 70% of this was in the Midlands and the North with the West Midlands alone providing a quarter of the total. But demand for property is lagging behind.

“Requirements, by comparison are well down on the levels seen over the past two years. Geographically, half the current requirements have been targeting Greater London or the South East, the area that only represents 12% of the vacancy,” said Bill Bexson, managing director of APC.

“Typically, the requirements are for between one and four acres of land with between 10,000 and 20,000 square feet of premises. Physical presence on main roads remains the primary conduit to market,” he said.

Bexson said there was demand for bigger and fewer outlets with extensive parking.

“This has created a more clearly segmented market than before, exacerbated by continuing market consolidation, establishing distinctive value brands. “This places those controlling the best properties at the apex of the opportunity curve to secure the best franchises and generate the best returns.”