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It was reported in The Times on 5th March that a Stradivarius violin worth £1.2 million – stolen two years ago from virtuoso violinist, Min-Jin Kym in Prêt A Manger, a London sandwich bar – may have been recovered.
Prêt A Manger was founded in 1985 by Julian Metcalfe and Sinclair Beecham. The idea came to them after they had become frustrated by a dearth of sandwich bars when they were real estate undergraduates at Central London Polytechnic. In 2001 they controversially sold a third of their shareholding to the fast food chain, McDonald’s, which in turn sold on its slice in 2008 to private equity group, Bridgepoint, for £350 million. Of Prêt A Manger’s 250 sandwich bars in the UK, almost all trade out of leased premises. Their freehold landlords range from major institutional investors and REITs, (Real Estate Investment Trusts) to Network Rail and a range of private investors. In the main these investors will be content with their properties let to Prêt (Bridgepoint): the combined benefit of a tenant of sound financial status and sandwich bars situated in good trading locations.
But these investors have other reasons to be content as, incidentally, investment property has many of the excellent characteristics of a Stradivarius, and more: each property is unique; it is in demand; and over time it rises in value. Investment property is of course easier to take care of, less easy to mislay. An investor in property may sleep better at night than if their funds were tied up with priceless violins, rare paintings or gold; real estate cannot be lost or stolen… If the buildings are destroyed the land remains. Further, it usually provides a secure and inflation-resistant income. If tenants less reliable than Pret A Manger go bust, investors retain the freehold with the prospect of re-letting. And if the investor chooses instead to plough its funds into the retailer within the commercial property rather than into the property itself, and the retailer fails, then the investor’s shareholding is worthless.
This sentiment is reflected in The Investment Property Forum’s first quarter 2013 Consensus Forecast Survey, with institutional investors and their advisors predicting average annual returns for UK property of 7.4% for 2013-17. Both property and, it would appear, Stradivarius, are safe.
Morgan Pryce is a specialist tenant acquisition agent with offices in Oxford Circus and the City. Morgan Pryce specialises in search, negotiation and project management and works exclusively for tenants.