ShowtimeNovember means MIPIM Asia and a dissection of the property industry

You know a show is a big deal when home office is the vaunted Palais des Festivals et des Congres in Cannes — home of the ultimate festival in any industry. For three days in mid-November, the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre will play host to MIPIM Asia, touted as the region’s premiere property event. There are very few professionals that don’t put MIPIM on their calendar, but budding property developers and entrepreneurs should take note as well. But even still, all things considered, is an event like MIPIM Asia of any value? In this financial climate, what does it really hope to accomplish?

Property fairs are a regular occurrence in property-mad Hong Kong, but the primary goal of those is sales. Developers with product to move descend on (usually) the HKCEC and woo buyers with early-bird specials and rates. MIPIM, conversely, is also about the industry. One of its most notable hallmarks is the event’s emphasis on market trends — something everyone, professional or lay, with an interest in real estate wants information on.

This fall’s MIPIM Asia breaks down into sectors that constantly make news, foremost among them the state of China and finance and investment, both obvious choices given the international rush to the Mainland and shaky global economics. Conference addresses will cover topics as diverse as investing in China, foreign investment in Vietnam, eco-friendly infrastructure, retail brands in China and smart cities. This year’s speakers hail from Japan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, France, Singapore, China, the UK and Australia among others and include Taichung mayor Jason Hu, BNP Paribas Real Estate CEO David Aubin, Cheung Kong Holdings executive director Justin Chiu and Deloitte & Touche partner Rohit Shah. To cap it off, the industry’s heaviest hitters will be on the floor, including Bank of America Merrill Lynch, UBS, Knight Frank, DTZ and Foster + Partners. So who gains from having so much property wisdom in one room?

According to Julien Sausset, MIPIM Asia’s sales director, investors are among those who respond—and respond well—to shows like MIPIM, even in the current climate. “Positively, precisely when we fulfil the networking (business opportunities) and learning [aspects]. Investors are equally challenged to find the right new projects and partners to invest in as new projects are challenged to meet financing and assemble the right teams together.” With property development on both large and small scales such a critical industry in Hong Kong, trade shows offer a competitive edge, more so that sitting down with one’s lawyer or browsing websites, even those of large international agencies. “I would say that our competitive advantage lays in the ‘critical mass’ that we offer,” begins Sausset. The aforementioned list is a drop in the bucket. “1700 senior professionals under one roof during three days is not something an agent/lawyer can offer. However we do not pretend to be able to act as a substitute to consultants in general. We don’t have their level of expertise nor ability to act as a dedicated specialist. Our role is to aggregate professionals from the real estate community and to act as their annual meeting point in the region,” he says. In other words, it’s a good starting point for serious investors and beyond.

How much actual revenue and business a trade fair of any kind generates is a figure that can fluctuate widely when it’s revealed at all. Exhibitors and visitors each come with certain expectations and those are, very simply, either met or not. In a good year with a lot of good product — be it boats, films, wedding gowns, or real estate services — results can often be felt months or years down the road. But in a financial environment like the current one, goals tend to shift. MIPIM Asia is no different. “In a difficult climate like the one we are currently going through, the role of a conference/exhibition does actually grow,” Sausset begins.” Being under pressure, market players are seeking extra business opportunities and new leads and we do offer an alternative channel/business booster platform. Another prominent role in a turbulent times is the learning aspect of our show.” And that’s the key. Do you buy now? In Hong Kong or in Singapore? Are emerging markets the way to go? Is the stability provided by markets like London and product like resort villas the wiser option? Sausset theorises that answers to questions are more important to clients in times of uncertainty. “It is up to us to line up master speakers to lead the way and provide content to our industry.”