How are you dealing with increased technological requirements in today’s real estate market?
Financial services businesses in particular have this requirement. The majority of our customers are looking for highly efficient and extremely flexible floor space at an optimal price. People – that is to say businesses and their needs – change. We respond to that.
What do you mean by that?
Well, today there are more and more «millennials» among our customers. The way this generation sees their workplace and operates within it is different from what we have been used to. These customers want to have living spaces all around their place of work, where they can shop, access services, enjoy culture and even live right next door. We also deal with businesses that need a lot of freedom to evolve. That includes flexibility when it comes to floor space and the terms of leases. Not to mention the fact that services you can access almost at the press of a button are becoming more and more important.
You have two major projects, in Zurich-Albisrieden and Schlieren, that focus on this. What can you tell us about them?
We are currently constructing the YOND project on the former Siemens site in Zurich. This is a unique property that takes precisely this need for flexibility into account. It is being created in an up-and-coming district, and it will be possible to customise the floor spaces at short notice to suit individual needs. A real ecosystem for service providers, start-ups and the knowledge industry is being created in the form of the JED in Schlieren. This property comes very close to the idea of the «community building». We are very much aware of the need for such areas.
You have continued to optimise the portfolio and adjusted the stock by means of acquisitions and divestments. What were the reasons for this?
We seize opportunities as they come onto the market. As the largest listed real estate company in Switzerland, we are in a position to do so. This year, we bought a property on Beethovenstrasse in Zurich, a stone’s throw from Paradeplatz and the lake, which is a perfect match for our portfolio. Not only is it in a unique location, but it is also fully leased on a long-term basis. What’s more, it is very flexible in its layout. This location is a one-off, and the property is not only valuable, but should continue to become even more so. The second important transaction involved Sihlcity in Zurich. For historical reasons, we were only a co-owner there, holding around 24%. However, our goal is to hold at least a majority stake in a property. The asset swap with Credit Suisse was a unique opportunity to obtain three buildings – three very good ones in fact – in return for that minority share. Of course we seized the opportunity.
You have also bought and sold projects. What were the reasons in those cases?
There are around 20 major projects in our development pipeline with a volume of over CHF 2 billion. Our «Weltpost Park» project in Berne was the only one where we would have created residential space rather than office space. But the residential market is not part of our focus. While we developed the project, it was always with the ultimate objective of selling it to a suitable owner when a good opportunity presented itself. And then we found a suitable owner in the form of Allianz Versicherung. At the same time, we are using resources freed up in this way to invest in new projects. Last year we sold a part of the «Espace Tourbillon» project, and reinvested in the major construction project «Alto Pont-Rouge», also in Geneva. This year, we used that momentum to buy the pioneering «West-Log» project with the proceeds.