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Coronavirus Fears Cause Blackstone, C&W And Other Global Firms To Pull Out Of Huge CRE Conference

Emergency measures implemented at Bologna airport in Italy to screen for arrivals who potentially have the coronavirus.

A number of major real estate firms and financial institutions have cancelled their attendance at the upcoming MIPIM property conferences in Cannes, France, due to the growing number of coronavirus cases in Europe. 

Late Wednesday evening, Cushman & Wakefield said it would not be sending staff to the annual event, hosted in the same location as the famous Cannes film festival. The event’s organiser had said it was expecting 27,000 commercial real estate professionals from across the world to attend the event. 

“The health and safety of our employees and our clients is our priority,” Cushman said in a statement. “With the rapidly increasing number of cases of coronavirus in Europe and the elevated industry-wide concern around attendance at large multi-national events, we have decided to withdraw from Mipim.”

Other companies confirmed they would not be attending on Thursday. As of press time, BlackstoneSavillsKnight Frank, PGIM Real Estate, EY, Lloyds Banking Group, Legal & General, property companies Grosvenor, Landsec, Greycoat, CTP and London & Scottish, architect HOK and planning consultancy Urbana had all confirmed they would not be sending staff to the event. Bisnow will update this article if and when other companies confirm they will not be sending staff. 

The organiser, Reed Midem, released a statement after the first cancellations, early morning Eastern time, saying that the event would still go ahead. 

“Mipim will open for business on 10 March,” the statement said. “We understand and respect the concerns of clients who have decided to cancel their attendance. In the rapidly evolving environment, we are monitoring developments continually. The health and safety of our clients and staff is our priority.”

UPDATE, FEB. 28, 6.05 A.M. ET. Since we first published this story, JLL, CBRE, Avison Young, Colliers International, Commerzreal and the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors have all said they will not be sending staff to MIPIM. The event organiser said the event would still go ahead, with 90% of those who had booked tickets still saying they would attend. 

Cannes, France, the sight of the annual MIPIM real estate conference.

A spike in cases in Italy caused property companies to review their attendance at the conference. As of Thursday morning, there were 401 confirmed cases in Italy and 12 deaths, according to data from Agence France-Presse via the Guardian. Cannes is about an hour’s drive away from the Italian border. France has 18 cases and no deaths. 

China remains the country with by far the highest number of cases, more than 78,000. The second highest concentration is in South Korea, a key source of recent global real estate investment, where there are almost 1,300 confirmed cases of the pathogen. 

Big firms pulling out of a major conference highlights how the spread of coronavirus could have a chilling effect on commercial real estate investment volumes, particularly with capital coming out of Asia.

“I said it two or three weeks ago, and now I really believe it, that the coronavirus could be the black swan that we’ve all been wondering about,” Hines European Chief Executive Lars Huber said at Bisnow’s London Investment Agenda event Tuesday morning. “Stock markets have reacted dramatically ... So yes, something will trigger a correction, we all know that, and this could be it.

“The first thing we’ll see is if MIPIM happens, that’s in two weeks, and right now all bets are off,” he said. “I don’t know yet if we’ll go. We’ll decide Friday.”