Indotek has grown to become a significant player in the local market in the last 20 years, but the company was uncomfortably aware it had all its real estate eggs in one Hungarian basket. Following recent acquisitions in Spain, Portugal and Croatia, in September it closed its first deal in Romania.
Five years ago, when I came on board, it was already on the table that we wanted to look for opportunities outside Hungary,” explains transaction director Krisztián Hornok, MRICS.
The company looked for locations where its current investment strategy would work, mainly to the south of Hungary, but within the EU: Greece, Cyprus, Croatia, Slovenia. Two years ago it found an asset in Romania, the Promenada Targu Mures mall. It was part of a two-property deal, and Hornok is wary of naming the other party involved on the buyer side, but it has been widely reported that it was one of the top investment banks.
“The first opportunity we found was this shopping center, which was brought to us by a partner with whom we had done investments before. That was a good start. The product itself also made sense to us; we could see some value add we could bring, some ideas for how we could make it perform better.” Promenada Targu Mures effectively ticked all the boxes Indotek was looking at.
Although the deal was completed this September, it actually took two years to complete. “It is one of the longest transactions I have ever been involved in,” Hornok recalls. “Whenever you step into another jurisdiction, it is a learning curve. It seemed that every possible issue that could come up did come up, but nothing was disastrous and we were able to handle everything, so it has also been a great learning opportunity for us.”
Romania was at the right point in its development cycle when Indotek was considering its investment, with the economy improving rapidly. “The country generally is very interesting, and the market quite different from Hungary,” Hornok says. “It is bigger, the population is over 20 million, the distances are further apart, so it is a very different country to what we are used to – particularly if you consider its past in political, legal and economic terms.”
Having stepped out across the border, does Indotek plan more foreign acquisitions in the near future?
“We are interested in investing in the wider region; we are still actively assessing opportunities and looking for more,” the transaction director says.
“We are fairly opportunistic as a company. If we are offered a product where we see a future, see how we can make it work and how we can make the money invested into it work well, we will go ahead. The next investment may not be in Romania, but perhaps the one after that is going to be. We are in discussions over assets in several countries, including Romania. We will make an announcement hopefully in this year, but definitely in the next half year.”
But nobody should think the company has turned its back on Hungary, Hornok insists.
“We are still active in Hungary; if you read the Hungarian press that much should be clear. We have bought hotels, several shopping centers, we recently bought a non-performing loan portfolio which is the largest in this market thus far. We are absolutely active in Hungary, that has not changed; indeed, our numbers in Hungary will be much larger than before,” he says.
“Generally, we hope to have some bases outside Hungary soon. We have close to 300 people here now; we are not going to have that number in any other country, but we hope to be a regional player. We hope to have our first colleagues abroad next year, perhaps one or two per country, and grow from there. It is a very exciting time in our story.”
The Indotek Group is a group of investment management companies owned by American and Hungarian shareholders. According to its website (indotek.hu/en), it uses the assets entrusted to its care principally to purchase real estate and loans, and its portfolios place it among the most important market players in both fields in Hungary. “The key to our activity is calculated risk-taking and professional risk management, which enable us to achieve outstanding returns.[…] We achieve above-average financial returns by investing in situations that require special knowledge and resources to profit by. Our property investment volume is unmatched in Hungary, especially in class B and C properties, which offer excellent opportunities to create value,” the website says.