Interview: Deirdre Foley from D2 Private
by James Renoux-Wood Wed 18th December 2013, 12:22 pm
Sitematch catches up with Deirdre Foley, chief executive of property and development company D2 Private, to discuss recent investments, legislation and events.
When was D2 Private founded and how did it start?
I founded D2 Private in 2004 and have run the company since then.
Can you tell us a little more about what the company does?
We’re a property investment and development company. I have just disposed of the last central London asset which we managed – the Marks and Spencer headquarters commercial office building in Paddington – to a Hong Kong and Korean consortium for about £200 million.
We won development of the year for 23 Savile Row, an iconic commercial office building of 100,000sq ft in the West End and have broken records for achievement of rents in two West End cycles, achieving commercial office rents as high as £140 per sq ft at 11/12 St James’s Square, an asset which I sold to a Malaysian Pension fund.
What other contact do you have with foreign investors?
Given the calibre of commercial assets that we owned, co-owned and managed, I have dealt with a huge range of international buyers looking to acquire in London over the last three years.
As a result of our various sales of assets we have dealt with Malaysian, Angolan, Canadian, American, Hong Kong, Korean and Middle Eastern investors and my fundraising efforts have also led to much greater contact with international investors.
In addition, in Ireland we have managed assets, ranging from procuring residential planning to investment to development to retail investment.
What are the plans for the company moving into the new year?
As chief executive and owner, my challenge for 2014 is to develop the business and that includes a strong focus on regeneration of areas in London, development and working with government and councils to the help with the acquisition of sites for development.
This applies to both residential – given the demand for affordable housing in London either via the private rented sector or otherwise – and commercial development. I am also raising new equity funds to buy in London and have secured initial support for doing so, in addition to bank senior and mezzanine debt support for specific types of projects.
We are also developing skills in the loan book sale area which allows us an opportunity to work with existing developers who no longer have the capital they need to run their business as a result of over-leverage, but who have the skill set to do so.
What do you think about the government’s autumn statement announcement to increase CGT tax paid by overseas investors on UK property?
On the one hand everyone should pay some tax but as long as its not a precursor for the introduction of a more penal tax regime for non-residents.
What do you think about proposals to introduce "Right to Contest" legislation for members of the public to challenge the release of public land?
The right is already in place to challenge but this will create a greater focus and there will inevitably be parties who will say 'not in my back yard' and 'why should developers make money from public land?'
On the plus side, it certainly makes the process of dealing in and disposing of public land more open to even greater scrutiny and the process should become more transparent. You would hope this would result in better returns to the public purse.
What did you take from last month’s Sitematch UK event and did it live up to your expectations?
It was a great introduction to various government departments and organisations and an eye-opener in terms of the positive response to developers and the parties present to work with them.
Sometimes the difficulty is knowing who to speak to and this event provided access to a wide range of people who were also willing to make introductions to other councils and organisations.
It was fascinating in terms of giving me a greater understanding of what is available and what land the government has. Being introduced to a number of housing associations and charities was also enlightening and hugely educational for me.
What was your most memorable meeting on the day?
The Ministry of Defence meeting – and another one with the Greater London Authority were particularly memorable.
Which people have had the biggest influence on your life?
My parents, because of their insistence on ensuring that I got a great education.