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Miguel Braga da Cruz
CEO
Diligentparallel

10 March 2022

Diligentparallel is an engineering consulting company based in Portugal, which specializes in project management, having experience in logistics and residential projects.  

Diligentparallel is a fairly new brand in the Portuguese market, can you briefly introduce the company and its contribution to the real estate sector?

Although Diligentparallel is a recent name on the Portuguese real estate market, its roots are much older than that — in 2018 we acquired an already established brand (Cinclus) with all its associated knowledge so we drew significant market expertize from there. Our core activity consists in construction management and construction site supervision, both in the private  and public sectors (buildings & infrastructure: railway, metro, environmental). 

What makes Portugal attractive for a company like yours?

On one hand, there is a big gap between the acquisition and selling prices, and there is also a considerable difference between the average selling price in Portugal compared to other European countries. 

 

Portugal has been seen as one of the best destinations for holidays for many years now - Porto for instance has occupied the top spot in the past four years. The business environment is in a similar position: we have good infrastructure, a stable legal framework, it's a safe country and has one of the best healthcare systems in the world (it was ranked 12th by the World Health Organization). The latter is also reflected in the high rate of vaccination, one of the highest in Europe currently.

 

Your work stretches across various real estate segments — what areas are you seeing most demand from at the moment?

Two areas have been growing and likely will continue to grow. Firstly the housing area, which for a while was pushed forward by foreign investment but now there's a good chunk of local investment also involved. Another sector that is seeing significant development is the logistics one, in particular last-mile logistics. The pandemic context sped up the digitalization of the economy and changed shopping behavior — we are doing a lot more from home and some products even have become available exclusively online. This means that the supply chain is different and will continue to change to cope with these new habits.

In a similar manner, as we spent more time at home our needs and expectations became different — a greater emphasis is placed on larger areas, balconies, gardens, playgrounds for children or rooms for parties. People are looking at housing projects in a very different way.

With these new priorities in mind, what are some recent projects that you have worked on?

Just now we are finalizing an affordable housing project initiated by the municipality of Lisbon and comprising of 128 apartments. It is a pilot project and the first of this size, and includes small details that make people's life easier, such as parking for bikes or common laundry areas. The units themselves are small but very smartly designed. 

In the logistics sector we are now finishing a big project in the northern part of the country, a 9,000 square meters building on a land plot of 20,000 square meters for a Portuguese logistics company that produces wooden panels and doors.

You are in the business of fixing people's problems, but what are some of the main challenges you yourself came across in Portugal?

One of the most common challenges, that I'm sure many colleagues have already mentioned, is the relationship with municipal authorities. Licensing procedures are not very straightforward and can be the root of frustration in many cases. Sometimes projects that we build in 18 months take more than two years to be licensed, so the timeline is highly disproportionate. The situation varies across cities but the bottom line is that these are time consuming processes that should be seen as an integral part of the investment plan.

Another problem is that between 2008-2015, so during the crisis, Portugal lost quite a significant piece of its installed capacity because many construction companies closed or migrated to new markets (out of 15 big construction companies only three are left). Demand increased in the meantime but the installed capacity couldn't keep up with it, so prices went up. What will happen next, due to public investment that is under preparation and will reach the market shortly, is that we will witness a situation which is very rare in our history: the public and private sector will both expand at the same time. This kind of dynamic, without the capacity to cope with it, will create a difficult situation for market participants. My suggestion to newcomers is to plan ahead their investments and seek out advice from companies that are already very experienced in the local market.

What are the most important goals you want to achieve in the coming two to three years?

It's difficult to predict the future but our intention is to continue growing. Last year we grew by 25%, as we close this year we will have grown 50% and next year we will be growing almost 100% with the contracts that we already have in our hands. Portugal will remain the market of focus - I had my time of working abroad but now there is plenty to do here so it makes sense to take advantage of that.

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