03 Oct David Harrison Australia’s most powerful property titan in 2019
Fears of a trade war, globally low rates and the shock signal of the yield curve inversion sent money rushing for the safety of real assets. That’s been a boon for commercial property landlords and fund managers, but residential and retail owners have suffered.
It seems the property wheel spun faster than ever in 2019. Knowing how to keep your balance, spread your influence and create wealth amid the turmoil has become more testing than ever.
1. David Harrison
Charter Hall, the funds management platform of which Harrison is managing director, is in a purple patch and has been for some time, leading its listed peers with a near 90 per cent return in the 12 months to the end of August.
Its capital-light model is perfectly pitched for the times, co-investing alongside the billions in mandates it collects from domestic and global institutions with whom Harrison has forged deep relations.
Charter Hall has become a key conduit for offshore capital into this market. In one six-week period in the middle of the year, it swept the board with a $4 billion buying spree, culminating with it taking control of Sydney landmark Chifley Tower. All that activity gets Harrison in on almost every major transaction going and considerable sway over setting investment prices.
2. Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz
What a difference seven years makes. The appointment of Lloyd-Hurwitz to head Mirvac caught many by surprise in 2012 as the first woman to lead one of Australia’s biggest real estate investment trusts.
Her stature has grown as she steered Mirvac’s diversified platform through the residential downturn while ramping up its commercial property endeavours. This year, investors jumped when she launched a $750 million equity raising to fund a round of opportunities. Among them were build-to-rent projects, a new asset class and potential residential market game-changer that Lloyd-Hurwitz, among others, is pioneering.
3. Tim Church
As yield-seeking cash flowed into property, the listed real estate investment trust sector experienced some of its biggest individual raisings since the GFC. Mirvac was one, Dexus raised $900 million, GPT collected $800 million. It was salad days for property bankers who steer those equity issuances, especially UBS head of real estate Tim Church.
Church is a veteran operator whose outfit played a big role in this year’s raisings. A well-known figure in property circles, Church’s influence spreads well beyond the equity capital markets. He wields considerable sway in the C-suites and boardrooms as they mull M&A activity and brokering complex divestments, such as Telstra’s recent sale of a $700 million stake in a trust holding its exchange properties.
Church and his team are not without challenge though, as rival bank JPMorgan laid claim to a large slice of the equity issuance action this year
4. Harry Triguboff
Does time in the market beat timing the market? Ask the country’s third-richest person, who knows better than most the vicissitudes of the residential development market. The Triguboff model is perfectly attuned to riding those swings and roundabouts.
As the owner of Meriton, one of the country’s largest serviced apartment operations, Triguboff can lean his business towards build-and-hold during the slowdowns and when the market’s buying again, develop and sell those units like hot cakes. That’s why he’s got $13.5 billion to his name.
A downturn is a good time for Triguboff as he picks up sites cheaply for his landbank. And his empire relentlessly expands; this year he made his first foray into the Canberra and Melbourne markets.
Still at the top of his game, the 86-year-old is not afraid of speaking his mind on issues such as planning red tape, taxation, and lending practices. When Triguboff speaks, governments listen.
The billionaire doesn’t win every battle, though. In August, a Meriton group company called off a lawsuit it was running against the NSW government over a stalled high-rise apartment project in Sydney’s Macquarie Park.
5. Stephen Conry
JLL is one of the largest commercial agencies in Australia, and consequently chief executive Conry is across most of the major deals and trends that are shaping the market. Another hat was added to his pile this year with his appointment as president of the Property Council of Australia, the sector’s voice to Canberra.
In a cut-throat industry, Conry became the first leader from a commercial agency to take on the PCA role in more than three decades, since JLL’s Frank Charnock was in the chair in the mid-1980s.
The genial Queenslander is already well acquainted with the corridors of power, having forged strong connections with the nation’s political class. It’s been Conry’s year. He was made a Member of the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for significant service to the commercial property sector and to the community.
Already a dealmaker, it’s his prowess as a mover and shaker that has been as much in demand this year as the property sector looks for the best it can get from the politicians.