predicted earlier in the year, ended up being geared towards existing operators rather than encouraging new business. Role of Christie + Co recognised During 2011 we were delighted to receive two accolades from Estates Gazette Group — first, as the UK’s most active agents in Leisure and Hotels and latterly as Property Adviser of the Year in Leisure. This is fantastic recognition of the strength in depth we have in our 300 people across 25 offices throughout the UK, Europe and the Middle East. However, success on the agency side only tells half the story as our advisory and valuation services teams provided a higher proportion of our business activity than ever before. Our Bank Support and Business Recovery team not only provided continuity with our agency business, but also worked with banks to provide distressed businesses with the advice and knowledge they needed to inform their turnaround and recovery decision-making processes. This work is symptomatic of the contribution all our teams make to the wider business community. And that’s also not to forget our sister companies. With businesses concentrating on maximising margins from operating activities at a time when like-for-like sales are hard- won, the likes of Venners and Orridge, which operate in the licensed and retail stocktaking sectors respectively, are noticing, and fulfilling, strong demand for their services. Lively times ahead Looking ahead, we can expect a good supply of business offerings early in the year, especially as the banks and their customers will remain committed to disposing of assets in order to reduce gearing. Increasingly we will see the sale of some ‘ trophy’ assets, where the value is viewed as disproportionate to the commercial return.
Also of great encouragement has been the return to the market — principally in the leisure and hospitality sectors, but also in care and education — of some entrepreneurs who had exited the scene at record prices in 2006 and 2007. Many returned in order to buy back businesses they had previously owned — one only has to see the new ownership structures for the likes of Luminar Leisure to understand how experienced operators see the value in familiar businesses. For many, returning to previously owned businesses is the safest investment they can make and, in many cases, avoids the need to undertake arduous due diligence. New lending vehicles offer hope Both for those who are making a return to owning businesses and those already entrenched, there have been heartening signs of the emergence of new lending platforms, even though traditional high street lenders have been, understandably, reluctant to expand their existing overall exposure to our sectors. One such is the Shawbrook Bank, led by the former Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive Sir George Mathewson, which aims to lend £250 million to small businesses in its first year and recently provided funding to the private buyer of Callow Hall, a former von Essen Hotel in Derbyshire. Other vehicles, such as regional development funds and online loan/ exchange facilitators, are also beginning to play their part. And we await with interest to see if the new owners of Northern Rock will engage in commercial lending. The slight concern is that all the new facilities are chiefly aimed at small businesses which, while heartening for this market, could leave a drought of debt finance for larger transactions. The other potential losers could be start-ups which in 2011 were not encouraged by the anticipated boost from the Government’s Project Merlin funding which, as David Grant, Head of UK Business Mortgages for Christie Finance
Already, in the public house sector, Enterprise Inns has outlined its strategy to offload the ‘ best 100’ pubs in its estate this year. The availability of high quality and trophy assets will present a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for niche investors — particularly those with cash. We may also see new investors emerging amongst graduates who face the fiercest competition for employment we’ve seen for some time. Funded by the ‘bank of mum and dad’, these new investors may use the opportunities, and the filial funding, to both create and purchase businesses and develop them with innovation and flair to appeal to their own generation of connected customers. As a bonus, family and friends should be able to retain attractive tax reliefs through the recently announced Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme. Emerging investors, fresh ideas and new businesses should be encouraged more than ever as we continue to face up to the economic uncertainty.
Movement in average prices across our sectors in 2011
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