25 March 2010

Mipim’d in Cannes

It’s the annual Mipim property conference in Cannes.

What does ‘Mipim’ stand for? I have absolutely no idea. I’ve looked and looked and can’t find an explanation anywhere – couldn’t even find one on the Mipim homepage. Still, it’s probably not important – what is important is that our poor beleaguered UK bankers and estate agents can all come down to the South of France and have a jolly good time whilst trying to drum up some more lousy business which will come home to roost in about 5 years time.

Now I don’t like Cannes very much. Like virtually every other French city, it’s almost impossible to park and when the Cannes Conference Centre (actually called ‘Le Palais des Festivals’- pictured) has a major exhibition on, not only can’t you park, every restaurant is full and moving around the Croisette is a nightmare with thousands of delegates wandering around with their plastic carrier bags full of brochures and other marketing material which will be dumped into their hotel waste paper bins as soon as they reach the sanctity of their rooms.

But for the delegates it must be wonderful. All winter long the banking and property sectors have been hammered. Bankers are the most hated species since Estate Agents topped the charts a few years ago and the poor property magnates have lost a fortune as the value of their shopping centres and buy-to-lets have plummeted. So a bit of spring sun, a fancy hotel and a chance to wine and dine with the best of them is just what they need to recharge their batteries before getting home this week and finding out that the Chancellor has shafted them – again! Of course the Brits amongst them might find that they have to stay down here a few more days given the BA strike, not that that will worry them unduly.

What drew my attention to Mipim this year was a report that the Royal Bank of Scotland (84% owned by the taxpayer) and Lloyds bank (47% owned by us) have both rented magnificent ‘hillside villa retreats’ in which to entertain their prospective ‘Mipim’ clients.

Maybe I should have dragged one of my few remaining business suits out of retirement and wandered down to Le Palais and shown some interest in a £1 billion set of London office blocks they were selling (called White Tower if you’re interested). I would then have wangled an invite to one of these fancy villas to discuss my finance requirements over dinner with some people from RBS and Lloyds.

If that had failed I might have shown interest in a £200m collection of shops and offices on offer and located on Oxford Street in London.

If truth be known I’d simply have been happy to just get into one of those villas and watch deals going down over dinner. Sitting there at the end of the table sipping exquisite white wine listening to bankers and their clients discussing whether they needed £900 million or did they need to stretch it to the magical £1 billion? But then I would have remembered that the bankers were being overly enthusiastic with my money and then the wine would have tasted sour.

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