If it's March, it must be MIPIM, the Marche International des Professionnelsde l'immobilier (The International Property Market). For the past eightyears, MIPIM has been Europe's cornerstone of the familiar real estatemeet-and-greet, one big party that spans four mostly sunny days in Cannes inthe South of France. This year, the conference's ninth, further proved thesuccess of Europe's property markets in recent times, as a record attendanceof some 8,300 crowded into the Palais des Festivals convention center andinto the numerous bistros and sidewalk cafes. That's a 22% increase over lastyear, and all to talk about real estate and that activity that is near anddear to most of our own American hearts - development.

In all, 3,486 firms from 55 countries were represented there, a 26% increaseover the 1997 event. An interesting trend was the increased number ofinvestors (up 25% from 1997) who attended, no doubt scouting foropportunities to place their monies. In addition to more U.S. investors thanin years past, there was also a growing contingent of Euro-investors (German,Dutch and English), encouraged by attractive prices and the removal ofexchange risks in the European Union due to the introduction of the Euro(more on this later).

The attendance of international property end-users also increased by nearly60%, thanks in no small part to partnerships with large-scale internationalassociations like the International Association of Corporate Real EstateExecutives (NACORE) and International Development Research Council (IDRC). Infact, the IDRC/Europe organized its world congress around this year's MIPIM event.

For the first time, Germany was the leading exhibitor country with 205 firmspromoting their projects and achievements, followed by the United Kingdomwith 199 exhibitors, France (142), the Russian Federation (84), the UnitedStates (70), Belgium (44), Poland (43), the Czech Republic (42) andSwitzerland (41).

Eastern Europe continued its growth schedule, with more than double its previous exhibitor presence.

Major international cities such as Berlin, London, Paris, Warsaw, St. Petersburg and Moscow were among a growing group of attendees that were accompanied by their professional real estate partners.

This year, three international real estate personalities were honored as"Real Estate Makers" (a departure from the rather chauvinistic andtraditional "Man of the Year" celebration) for their keycontributions to the development of real estate at both national andinternational levels. They were Englishman Ronald Spinney, CEO of Hammersonplc, Spaniard Martin Eyries, president of Vallehermoso, and Frenchman LeonBressler, president of Unibail.

Perhaps the primary overriding theme of this year's gathering was the pendingcreation of a single European currency known as the Euro. Only now is thisphenomenon being discussed in the business mass media in the States, but inEurope, the discussion (debate actually) has been raging for years. Finally,however, the Euro will officially debut on Jan. 1, 1999. (For more on thedebate about the Euro, please see the March 1998 NREI, pp. 6-8.)

In theory at least, if not yet in practice, the new Euro will unite thecurrencies of Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy,Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. So far, Britain, Sweden andDenmark have chosen to remain out of the European Union.

The ultimate impact of this single European currency is still unclear, and itmay take several years before the European property markets indeed feel anyaffect. The thinking in many quarters is that certainly it may makeinvestments in more fringe-European markets such as Portugal and Spain moreattractive than ever before. And it may forge mega-mergers of large propertyfirms, creating so-called "Pan-European" companies that willconsolidate properties across European borders.

Ultimately, though, the Euro process should provide for broader, deeper andmore liquid markets in financial instruments of all kinds. While the UK willnot officially participate in the Euro currency, the Bank of England ispreparing for its introduction. That seems only natural, since many ofEurope's largest financial powerhouses are based in London proper. In short,London has become "the major interface with the rest of the world in theEuropean time-zone," says the Bank.

One low point of the conference was the pending demise of the LondonDocklands Development Corp. (LDDC). As of March 31, 1998, the LDDC's charterexpired and thus only the decades of LDDC-driven improvements are leftbehind. For years a key exhibitor at MIPIM, this year's exhibit space, or "stand," gave way to more emphasis on specific developmentsoccurring within the huge Docklands development, including Canary Wharf andthe Royals Business Park. The latter is the site of a brand-new University ofEast London Millennium campus as well as the new Thames Gateway Technology Centre. There is also a new speculative tower under construction in CanaryWharf, a 175,000 sq. ft. building called 17 Columbus Courtyard designed byGensler & Associates and due for completion in summer 1999.

Of course, everywhere you look around London, the Millennium figures ratherprominently, since there are more than 30 special real estate-relatedprojects now under wayto mark the special occasion.

Another interesting phenomenon was the proliferation of call centers anddevelopment companies working on these projects. Northern Ireland has becomethe unofficial call center capital of the world these days, with itsaffordable, computer-literate labor market, low cost of operations anddevelopment-friendly posture. The area is attracting both United Kingdom andinternational interest. An organization known as the Industrial DevelopmentBoard for Northern Ireland (IDB), in conjunction with selected developers,has created a new Call Center Property Initiative to increase call centerdevelopment throughout the country.

While we in the States know a thing or two about mergers and acquisitions,the trend is only now taking hold Over There. One recent example was themerger of Savills, one of the UK's foremost property consultancy firms, withFirst Pacific Davies (FPD), one of the leading commercial and residentialproperty agency, management and consultancy businesses in the Asia PacificRegion. FPD acquired a 20% stake in Savills plc and the two embarked on ajoint strategy to go global. One of their highest-profile assignments is theleasing for the new Jim Mao Building, an 88-story edifice (and thethird-tallest office building in the world) designed by Skidmore Owings & Merrill in Shanghai, China.

Not to leave out Germany, as in years past, many of Germany's premier regionswere represented at MIPIM. A huge topographic model showed all of Berlin, forexample, including the scope of recent office developments there. As Berlinbecomes more of a center for European financial operations, builders are developing sites for major organizational moves. For example, the centralorganizations of German industry - the Association of German Chambers ofCommerce and Industry, the Confederation of German Industry and theConfederation of German Employers' Associations - will be housed in a new270,000 sq. ft. building now under construction by German developerGroth+Graalfs, which is expected to be completed in September 1999.

Groth+Graalfs is also building the new headquarters for the ChristianDemocratic Union (CDU) which is mounting a serious challenge to GermanChancellor Helmut Koll's campaign bid this year. The 7-story building wasdesigned by Petzinka Pink und Partner, which created a building surrounded bya winter garden.

For the first time, MIPIM organizers at Reed Midem Organisation, based inParis, recognized the growing influence of the Latin American real estatemarkets. MIPIM featured a prominent panel discussion among major developersand real estate leaders in several Latin American countries. All of which is aprecursor to a new MIPIM Americas conference scheduled for November 22-24,1998, at the Miami Beach Convention Center in Miami, Florida. For moreinformation about MIPIM Americas, call Didier Choukroun at DCL InvestmentCorp. in Miami at 305-371-9287.

Reed Midem's next real estate event is MAPIC, the International market for Retail Real Estate, which will be held in Cannes Nov. 12-14, 1998.

One of the Carlson Cos.' business brought more into focus at the conference was Carlson Real Estate Co.

Early in Carlson history, the company was oriented around selling Goldstamps, and the capital being made from those stamps was then invested inhard assets like real estate, but the real estate organization didn't formuntil 1984, when Curtis Carlson decided to manage his real estate activitydifferently. Dean A. Reisen, president and CEO of the group, explains thatthe group then did a leveraged buyout from the company and family and createda partnership that is primarily - but not entirely - owned by the Carlsonfamily.

Today, Carlson Real Estate's owned and managed portfolio represents 4.7million sq. ft. of various cominvestments in Minneapolis, Phoenix and Dallas."Our basic mission is to be a high-performance long-term real estateinestment company," Reisen says.

* In the brokerage feature that begins on page 62 of the April issue of NREI, the Dietz Organization is incorrectly identified as being based in Cleveland. The Dietz Organization is based in Bloomfield, Mich.

* Also in the brokerage story, the first reference to Steve Morgan was inadvertently omitted. He is vice president for Richard Bowers & Co. in Atlanta.

* In the Top Property Manager Survey beginning on page 82 of NREI's March issue, the correct name for the company ranking No. 20 should be Duke Realty Investments.