What has been the main impact of the pandemic for CBRE, and, overall, what is your perspective of Morocco’s real estate sector?
As CBRE has multiple types of services, each area has seen a different impact from this crisis. During this period, developers only focused on urgent matters. Feasibility studies for new developments or investments were no longer a priority. As per sales and transactions, the closing of sales centers clearly impacted the activity. In term of office transactions, we saw a significant drop of 50% in 2020 for Casablanca, when compared to 2019. During this period, most of our assignments were, however, related to tenant representation for lease renegotiation. As per our investment advisory division, however, we were able to maintain most of the transactions that we were working on with our clients. We made some large investment transactions in 2020 in the industrial sector.
What is your assessment of your sector’s ability to bounce back?
Travel and tourism sector are one of the most impacted in the economy. These sectors, which counted for 7% of Morocco’s GDP and 5% of Moroccan jobs in 2019, have seen a decrease of more than 65% of revenues. It should be noted that, despite the reopening of borders, international tourism activity remains low as mobility is still limited. As per real estate, the impact depends on the asset class. For commercial real estate—mainly lease transactions—we saw a pickup in 1Q2021; however, figures still do not match pre-pandemic levels. We hope 2022 will see an increase of international corporate demand, which is our core business. Regarding residential real estate—mainly sale transactions—the COVID-19 impact added further complications to the initial picture. In fact, even before COVID-19, demand was already not growing at the same pace as supply. Supply had increased strongly over the past five years with the change of urban planning regulations of several areas and the arrival of new generation of developers. Finally, if we look at investment in income generating properties, it is the other way around, as demand continues to exceed supply. This was the case before the pandemic and continues to be so. When we have a yield-generating investment product to sell, there is still demand. There are still institutional investors, insurance companies, looking for yield-generating properties. They have the liquidity and want to invest in secure income-generating properties.
What are the goals and expectations of CBRE for 2022?
After this wave, we all have the same vision: to start growth again. Everyone’s focus in 2020 was to reduce the impact of COVID-19, so cost management in light of reduced revenues in the overall economy was a priority. Now, we have to adjust our forecast to be more conservative during this uncertain times, while also planning a mid-term pick up. Our vision is to focus on our core strength to develop our business in order to continue growing. We want to reach new markets and regions. To do that, first we need to consolidate our base and focus on our core businesses. We want to continue to focus on regional growth. Most of our activity is also related to international corporate clients. We have global agreements with international companies, so they often call us when they want to enter Morocco or Africa in general. Once the global market pickup these corporate clients will redevelop their presence in the region. The company is positive about the future in the region. Africa is still an emerging market with projections of being a growth, and not a steady, market. Africa has become a key area for our growth, and our objective is to be leader in the continent.