Life & Culture

Who's buying into Germany?


An increasing number of Jewish investors are putting their faith - and cash - into Germany.

According to David Kaye, commercial director at leading investment-banking group Shore Capital plc, which reported a pre-tax profit of £4.3 million for the first half of the year, Israelis in particular are playing a more prominent role when it comes to investing in Germany.

Shore, which has £1.33 billion worth of assets under management, looks after around £558 million (€650 million) worth across Germany, mainly property.

Manchester-born Mr Kaye, 33, says: "We are certainly not unique in our willingness to go over there. We have seen an increasing number of British Jews looking at the German residential market and there is definitely activity from Israel. There are quite a few big entities operating there."

More recently Shore has turned its attention to German telecoms where Mr Kaye says there is real opportunity.

The company has joined forces with a team of Israeli entrepreneurs to form Spectrum Investments and buy a 58 per cent stake in German telecoms business Deutsche Broadband Dienste GmbH (DBD).

"The requirement for data capacity for telecoms operators is growing exponentially. One in every two mobile phones sold in Germany is a smartphone. If you can provide cost effective ways for companies to provide their services then there is real opportunity there, and there is a real expertise in Israel in terms of telecom equipment. We think it's a really exciting area."

Despite Germany being a member of the Eurozone, which is in a mighty mess amid the financial crisis, Mr Kaye believes there is still a strong case to be made for investing there. "It is certainly the strong man in Europe.

"It has proved to be very resilient. It has a very diversified economy, a strong export sector and has been very conservative, managing its finances in a more responsible way than the other European countries."

He acknowledges there are similarities between the German and Israeli economies and their approach to business. "They are both quite conservative and are very good at high-end manufacturing and technology with high levels of investment in intellectual property. "

Mr Kaye joined Shore Capital in 2006. Prior to this the Oxford graduate spent five years as a barrister focusing on financial investments and property. It is the latter he cites as a German hot spot.

"It's a really interesting time to be investing in German residential and we think Berlin is an anomaly compared to other major cities in Europe. The entry price is low." What's more, there has been a long-standing culture of renting - rental proportion is 90 per cent. "A vast majority of middle-class professionals don't own their own house but we think this is changing. People have hoarded cash and are looking at it in their bank accounts thinking: 'Well, inflation is increasing and I'm not getting much by way of interest rates so what shall I do with it?'. They now want to invest in property. Plus they can get financing.

"Demand is increasing and because there hasn't been this demand in the past, the prices are nothing like you would expect for a major cosmopolitan city."

Quite. Shore's investment vehicle Puma Brandenburg has been buying up property in Germany since 2006, including a five-star Hyatt hotel, 45 Lidl supermarkets and 3,000 apartments.

Yet surely there is still a risk as a country so economically tied to the Eurozone? Besides, how long can it continue to grow at its present pace, particularly if exports start to fall? "I doubt the German economy would unravel in the same way it has for Greece and other countries. There is a risk but Germany has quite a diversified economy. If export demand weakens I don't think it will be a disaster. There is quite a strong demand for their own services."

The German economy has been also been helped by its emphasis on exports to China, a real growth area.

Mr Kaye notes there are challenges of doing business in Germany. "It is a completely different legal system. You have to spend time learning it and appointing the right local advisers. Finding the right people on the ground can be hard. There is also the stereotype that it's all rules and procedures and there is some of that. You need to understand the bureaucracy and how local politics works.

A father-of-two, Mr Kaye lives in north London but continues to follow football club, Manchester United. A keen fund-raiser, he is chairman of the annual ball for Macmillan Cancer Support and a trustee and former president of B'nai B'ith Youth Organisation (BBYO).

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