Founded almost 25 years ago by owners and managers of the former TriGranit Group, Granit Polus recently announced its intention to launch a major mixed-used development in the centre of Budapest. Owner Sándor Demján and CEO Gyula Ágházi shared the company’s new strategy with Property Forum.
How did you build up the new Granit Polus after the split from TriGranit?
Our separation from TriGranit, which happened in 2015, was a huge shock to our organisation which had been operating in the same form for 15 years at the time. We needed to rethink our strategy and business model, which was a significant challenge, but in the end we managed to create a company with a really solid organisational and financial background.
Our ownership consolidation program, which we started two years ago, continued. Peter Munk, a Canadian businessman, was bought out of Granit Polus. In the new ownership structure, Sándor Demján and his direct management are the majority owners of the group of companies. Sándor Csányi remained as minority owner. Owing to this transaction, the company structure had become simpler, decision making processes are accelerating and all obstacles had been overcome towards large-scale developments.
As part of our transformation we also consolidated our portfolio buy selling certain properties abroad in order to be able to concentrate our knowledge and financial resources on Hungary. We are proud that over the course of one year Granit Polus has secured €400 million of financing (85 percent of which is refinancing). This shows that banks believe in our products and in our management.
What are your plans for the future?
We believe that the emphasis in property management should be put on services. Tomorrow’s shopper is looking for a completely different experience than the shopping centre visitor of today. We are determined to find out what kind of improvements are needed and to find the solutions to the challenges of the future in time.
In the case of WestEnd City Center could this result in a multi-million-euro facelift?
I believe that we are talking about more than a refurbishment. We need to change the shopping experience, we need to make visitors make more comfortable in shopping centres and provide them with personalised services. We aim to learn more about the habits of our visitors and communicate with them in a more interactive way. Besides property management, we also want to focus on new developments. Our owners have given the green light to prepare the largest commercial development project in the region on the most valuable plot of land in Budapest. We plan to launch a major (300,000+ sqm) mixed-use city centre development on the plot behind WestEnd City Center, which we believe will become the most attractive working and living environment in Budapest. We are preparing a smart city concept that can open new dimensions both in terms of architecture and development.
Could this new project kick off in 2018?
Preparing the concept, settling on the details and getting the necessary permits is a time consuming process, but is not impossible that the cornerstone laying ceremony could take place in the last quarter of 2018.
Is this the only new development you’re preparing?
No, we are looking into other development opportunities both here in Hungary and in the region. We have prepared the concept for three or four office and residential projects. In Q1 2018 we will decide whether to move forward with them.
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