Week of September 18, 2000
  Editor's Choice Web Pick
   of the Week

Epra.com Aims to Create a
Single European Public Market

A  symbol, even one in cyberspace, can suggest a far larger idea that's not yet fully formed. (On the other hand, Sigmund Freud once observed, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." But we digress . . . )

This week's Web site - that of the European Public Real Estate Assn. (EPRA at www.epra.com) - is just that sort of symbol. Specifically, it symbolizes some promising goings-on in the European real estate market that aren't yet completely shaped - and that's one of the site's strengths.

The recently established EPRA is made up of a group of European Union-based institutional investors, investment bankers and commercial real estate companies. In essence, it's an Amsterdam-based continental cousin to the Washington, D.C.-based National Assn. of Real Estate Investment Trusts NAREIT (www.nareit.com).


EPRA's cyberspace arrival comes at a time when such a site is needed. The timing is ripe for public investment in European real estate, as continental restructuring dumps a wealth of square footage onto the market. But is the European market right? Making that market more user-friendly to outside investors is EPRA's focus.

"If we are going to absorb the bulge of assets coming onto the European market, it's going to have to be better understood by the investment community, and that's where EPRA comes in," EPRA Deputy Chief Executive Quinton Hill-Lines recently told Site Selection European correspondent Michael Sullivan. (For more on related changes in European property management, watch for Sullivan's "World Reports" in the upcoming November issue of Site Selection).

Epra.com is similarly direct in addressing the problems that EPRA is addressing: "Many investors regard the sector as too small, too fragmented and too opaque," it says. "Each local real estate sector has its stable, long-term investors, but mainstream international institutions tend to be deterred by illiquidity and a lack of access to information."

As Patrick Sumner, Henderson Investors divisional director of European property, told Site Selection. "The European quoted real estate market is fragmented and lacking in transparency. We have to forge a single European quoted sector out of 15 national markets. We need harmonization and transparency, and we need to destroy barriers to cross-border investment.

"EPRA provides a forum where companies and investors can cooperate to the benefit of everybody."

A Good Start, If a Bit Content-Thin

EPRA's Web site represents a good start towards attaining those goals.

Epra.com provides a solid explanation of just what the association is and what it's trying to do, including a helpful FAQ section. In addition, the site has an online membership application, plus membership criteria and association contact information.

Epra.com also has a link to an online registration form for the association's inaugural conference. That conference however, has already transpired, having been held this past May 25th and 26th in Barcelona. You'll also find a press release section (under "About EPRA"). But that section contains only one release, a 48-word announcement of EPRA's launch, which occurred more than nine months ago.

Compared to NAREIT's content, Epra.com's looks rather thin. NAREIT's site has an ongoing stream of press releases, plus information-rich links for "governmental regulations," "accounting issues," and "research and statistics."

An Unfair Comparison?

That comparison, however, is perhaps unfair.

NAREIT, after all, functions in a market with common standards - and one in which REITs controls $325 billion in assets.

EPRA, on the other hand, is working in a far smaller market in which it's trying to create similarly uniform standards. And however comparatively small, the quoted European real estate market is already considerable. U.S. opportunity funds, for example, invested $40 billion of equity capital in European real estate between 1991 and 1999, according to the Financial Times (www.ft.com).

Clearly, the quoted European market is soon going to get bigger. And standards are always welcome in a worldwide real estate industry that remains far too fragmented.

True, this site needs to make its content more in depth and more up to date. Nonetheless, for investors and association members alike, epra.com's goals are worthy ones.



©2000 Conway Data, Inc. All rights reserved. Data is from many sources and is not warranted to be accurate or current.