Gulf's presence grows at property expo in Cannes

Gulf developers represented in greater numbers than last year at annual MIPIM conference, when the industry was reeling from the collapse in house prices.

Property professionals visiting the south of France this week for the annual MIPIM conference will find Gulf developers represented in greater numbers than last year, when the industry was reeling from the collapse in house prices. The sharp decline in building activity in the Emirates has prompted a rising number of local developers to attend the annual property exposition in Cannes, despite a significant decline in overall international attendance.

"I think the reality is that the market here is pretty slow in terms of capital raising. The banks are obviously not lending in a significant way," said Andrew Charlesworth, the head of capital markets for the regional office of the property consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle. "The natural thing for these developers is to expand their horizons and push out internationally to find more investors or other sources of capital."

After staying home last year, Emaar Properties led a local contingent that included Dubai Pearl, Jumeirah Group and Mubadala Development. The companies join regular attendees such as Aldar Properties. Qatari Diar has a giant poster on the front of the exhibition centre in Cannes, where delegates began arriving yesterday for three days of networking and deal-making. This year, 46 companies from the GCC countries are represented at the conference, only a slight increase from last year when there were 42 companies. But the mix includes a 150 per cent increase in the number of developers.

The larger developer presence comes as companies from the Gulf, particularly from the Emirates, push for more international funds and developers to invest in the region as prices begin to stabilise. The conference is also a chance to gauge the international market. Organisers of MIPIM, which stands for Marché International des Professionnels d'Immobilier, were expecting as many as 18,000 participants from 80 countries.

Judging from the reports on Twitter yesterday, the scene on the first day suggested renewed optimism for the industry. Damian Wild, the editor of Estates Gazette, a property journal based in London, wrote: "Just saw someone chomping a cigar, ambling along the Croisette. Not everything has changed." Paddythedaddy, a public relations consultant, wrote on the social network site: "Conversation with developer: 'I'm not here for funding. I'm just here to headhunt. I'm looking for staff.' - That's a good sign."

Other sightings inside the conference hall included a live horse at one stand, Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, and copious trays of croissants.