The FINANCIAL -- “Over the next couple of years Tbilisi will be in a better position to accommodate a large-scale roll out of international brands and retail groups,” Steve Brown, Chief Operating Officer of Cushman & Wakefield | Veritas Brown, told The FINANCIAL.
Cushman & Wakefield | Veritas Brown received the Golden Brand award for Favourite Brand - Real Estate Advisory. Cushman & Wakefield | Veritas Brown provides an extensive range of commercial real estate services to suit all their clients’ needs, such as Leasing, Capital Markets, Consultancy Services, Valuation & Advisory, Research, Property Management and Serviced & Virtual Offices. The company has been established to service the growing need for expert and professional advice in the Central Asia and Caucasus property markets and has continued to go from strength to strength throughout the region.
Veritas Brown is aligned with Cushman & Wakefield, the largest privately owned real estate services company in the world. Being part of the Cushman & Wakefield global network enables Veritas Brown to access the global expertise of 16,000 professionals in 250 offices in 60 countries throughout the world.
Q. How would you evaluate the year 2013 for the company?
A. 2013 was a year of growth and expansion for the Tbilisi office. Head count increased from nine to seventeen and turnover for the Group went up by approximately 50%. Globally Cushman & Wakefield had a very good year with record revenue of USD 2.5 billion, firmly placing them in the top three commercial real estate consultancies worldwide.
Q. What is the market share of the company?
A. Our share of business within the Georgian market is difficult to gauge. We were the first internationally recognized commercial property consultancy with a current permanent presence in Georgia, having established an office here in August 2012. Our aim is not to be the biggest, but the “preferred” real estate advisor across the Caucasus and CIS regions.
Q. How would you evaluate the Georgian real estate market?
A. The commercial real estate market in Georgia is characterised by a mix of wealthy individuals/companies from Georgia and the CIS as well as some prominent international operators from the Middle East, Europe and Asia. Generally Georgia is a good place to do business highlighted by the country being ranked 8th highest out of 189 economies in the World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business” index. In terms of the future, we believe that attracting foreign direct investment to the levels seen in recent years is vital to the growth of the economy.
Q. What can you tell us about the projects in Batumi?
A. We are working on a number of large-scale projects in Batumi, including the Hilton Hotel development, which our development consultancy team supported. This is a landmark mixed-use project with a retail podium, which is attracting well-established brands through our retail team. We are supporting other, similar, projects in respect of development advisory and investment finance.
Q. Which new brands entered Tbilisi Mall this year, and which new brands are going to enter Tbilisi Mall by the end of the year?
A. Koton, the popular fashion brand from Turkey, recently signed a new lease to take a 1,000 Sqm store and a family entertainment centre agreed to take 1,200 Sqm in the Mall. We are also in dialogue with the major retail brands both regionally and through our network of offices across the region. Brands need multiple locations and over the next couple of years Tbilisi will be in a better position to accommodate a large-scale roll out of international brands and retail groups. We are also working with many international F&B brands looking to enter the market and seeking investment support.
Q. What will be the main challenge for the Georgian real estate market this year?
A. Attracting foreign direct investment to the levels seen in recent years rather than relying on domestic sovereign wealth funds, such as the Georgian Co-Investment Fund.
Q. What needs to be improved in Georgia to attract more tourists?
A. Hospitality provision should be improved - standards of customer service are important for all tourists and having a range of accommodation options that cover all demographics of visitors from backpackers and students to business people and government delegates. Infrastructure is also important to ensure visitors have the ability to visit all 4 corners of the country. We are also talking to a number of family entertainment centre operators, Tbilisi suffers from a lack of such operators and we are hoping to bring key players to improve the leisure and entertainment market.
Q. What are the main mistakes made by local retail representatives, what advice would you give to them?
A. The more successful brand expansions are undertaken viewing Georgia as part of a broader regional territory throughout the Caucasus and Central Asia. Cushman & Wakefield are the number one retail brokers globally having completed 8,500 retail leasing and sale transactions with an aggregate value of USD 21.4 billion in 2013. We have access to their extensive client base and understand the requirements for such brands. We find that brands start their regional roll out in Kazakhstan, supported by our office there, and then move west to the Caucasus region.
Q. What will be the main challenge in 2014?
A. Ensuring we remain the leading international property consultant in the region and improving the high standards of service we have already set to the benefit of our clients, both existing and new. We have direct access to Kazakh and Middle East investment through our Almaty office Capital Markets team. Bringing these investors to Georgia will be a challenge, but ultimately rewarding for all concerned.
Q. What should we expect from you in 2014?
A. We recently won the Golden Brand Awards for best real estate advisory firm 2013 and we hope to build on this success. We believe we have built a team capable of delivering, and maintaining, a high level of advisory support to all our clients. Our vision is to be the preferred real estate advisor in the region. This vision drives all that we do and our values guide our behaviour in all of our business dealings. Our clients, our core competencies, and the ability of our people to deliver those core competencies make up our brand, and we approach business with a discipline, consistency, simplicity and transparency that is unique and is what differentiates us from our competitors.