EPRA Seeking Wider Audience

Philip Charls, chief executive officer of the European Public Real Estate Association (EPRA), says his organization is focusing on promoting the listed real estate industry beyond specialized investors.

In a video interview with REIT.com at EPRA's 2011 annual conference in London, Charls said his organization's members are already well established with segments of specialized investors. Now, EPRA is trying to reach out to a more general audience, including journalists and government regulators.

"This group needs to better understand our business," Charls said. "It's really important that we improve our visibility within Europe."

In the last year, Charls noted that EPRA has "completely" refined its best practice recommendations for financial reporting for its members, 70 percent of which now uses those standards. More recently, EPRA announced a similar initiative in the area of environmental sustainability, identifying key sustainability performance indicators for member companies.

Charls also said EPRA is pushing for more German real estate companies to list themselves on a stock exchange. He decried the German market, which is the largest in Europe, as "complicated," noting that whereas 6 percent of real estate around the world belongs to listed companies, approximately 1.5 percent of German real estate lies in the hands of listed companies.

Charls said the goal of having more listed real estate in Germany would open the industry up to a larger number of investors, including institutional investors such as pension funds.

"Institutional investors do like to have access to the biggest and most successful economy in Europe," he said.

Looking ahead, Charls admitted that the ongoing economic turmoil in Europe could affect the performance of listed real estate. However, listed real estate survived the financial crisis and emerged from "a difficult period on very solid footing," according to Charls.

"Having said that, I think there is concern in Europe about the economy," Charls said. "But based on the solid basis that they have, I think companies are very well positioned for whatever will happen and for whatever opportunity arises to grasp those opportunities."