BESIX RED is the subsidiary of the BESIX Group responsible for real estate development. The company covers three lines of activities: Offices, Residential and Mixed-use & Retail (including hotels & services). For over 30 years, BESIX RED has been developing major urban projects in a growing number of pan-European cities. They entered the Portuguese market at the end of 2017.
BESIX RED has a well anchored international presence, where does the Portugal portfolio come in and what is the ambition here?
BESIX RED is a 30+ year old development company that started in Belgium, where its mother company, BESIX Group, has its headquarters. During the last decade, we expanded to a growing number of pan-European cities across Luxembourg, the Netherlands, France, most recently Portugal. Today, we are present in 18 cities, all characterized by their socio-economic dynamism, and a certain willingness of the public authorities to act. I would say that every one of these cities has also a little something special and flair – cities very much like Lisbon, or Porto, in fact.
In addition to being geographical, our diversification strategy is also sectorial. Very active in the residential and offices segments, we also seize opportunities in the retail and services – such as hotels - segments. In Portugal, we plan to continue our work in the residential and mixed-use segments, and so far, are making significant progress with our product DUUO, our first residential development in Portugal, strategically located between Praca de Espanha and the University of Lisbon.
What was the main trigger that brought you to the Portuguese market?
I think there’s a whole. First, because we strongly believe in Portugal. The quality of life, the stability of the social climate, the telecommunications infrastructure, the potential for productivity increase and the strong transport and logistics infrastructure.
More importantly, from the authorities and government side, there is a true commitment to always make the country stronger and more attractive. Mobility, sustainability and innovation have already been on the political agenda for years, and the country has been positioning itself as an emerging technology and innovation leader in Europe. Portuguese people are qualified, with a very good level of English and hard working. The way the country overcame the financial crisis in 2011- 2014 has even become a success story in Europe, and we are witnessing the same with the current pandemic.
From a real estate development perspective, and especially since the financial crisis, the city has been lacking new and quality housing that would be affordable for Portuguese people.
We arrived at a time when Lisbon’s city center was becoming a hotspot for luxury products, but we preferred to shift our attention towards the city ring where we could find opportunities to develop projects for the middle to upper-middle domestic market.
With that philosophy and strategy in mind, we acquired a piece of land near Praca de Espanha in 2019 to develop our premium residential project DUUO, together with our partner Compagnie Du Bois Sauvage, an investment holding company.
What design features did you focus on, based on what you felt the market was lacking, or demanding more of?
DUUO goes way beyond a residential development, it is a true living experience with the wellbeing of our clients at its heart. We developed DUUO as a place to live and most of the clients who bought units in DUUO are Portuguese people who plan to live there.
DUUO offers extensive outside spaces to allow residents to enjoy Portugal's nice weather, as well as large balconies serving as the extension of the living space. Additional amenities and services available at DUUO include a gym, a polyvalent room where the residents can work and organise private events, a smart delivery box service and cycle storage. Underground parking spaces equipped with electric charging stations and retail spaces in both properties complement the offering.
Apart from all the opportunities that can be found on the Portuguese market, what you would say are some of the main challenges that an international investor faces here?
The lack of skilled labor and the increase in the costs of construction are our biggest challenges right now. These challenges are not only affecting Portugal but the whole of Europe.
In my opinion, the risk in Portugal is not coming from the market but from the rigid processes (urban planning). Things are going in the right direction , but slowly. If I had to give one piece of advice to give in order to retain international investors, that would be to give them more visibility and long-term overview of the fiscal and political agenda.
Looking at the coming two-three years, what are the main goals you want to achieve on the Portuguese market?
First, we will focus on successfully delivering the DUUO project for our clients, and make significant progress with another 43,000 square meter mixed development that we are currently developing in Lisbon.
My team and I are continuously keeping an eye out for new opportunities, be they residential, offices or mixed-use, in greater Lisbon or Porto. We believe that our growth and success in Portugal will come through partnerships and collaborations with local and institutional partners.
Do you have a final message for investors eyeing the Portuguese property market?
Portugal is a dynamic market, where people are willing to go the extra mile in order to do successful business together. Indicators show there's still great opportunity out there, a lot of multinationals planning to set up departments or research centers. Portugal went from a manufacturing to a services country in 20 years' time, with high quality human capital playing a central part.
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