You assumed leadership at EPP in Poland just as the pandemic was beginning. What were your initial thoughts?

Joining at the pandemic’s onset was quite an unexpected challenge. I made the decision to join before the pandemic hit with Wuhan news just a distant concern. However, my official start in mid-March coincided with border closures and lockdowns across Europe. It was a dynamic start, prompting the need for short-term solutions while considering long-term benefits for the company.

How did you stabilize the business in the short term during the pandemic’s upheaval?

In 2020, Poland implemented a law relieving retail tenants from rent if forced to close without compensation to landlords. Despite this, we offered additional discounts to tenants needing support, negotiating lease extensions in return. We accepted financial impacts while keeping a strategic, long-term view.

Considering the current circumstances, what’s the vision you propose for EPP’s future?

My vision is for EPP to maintain a retail focus, leveraging specialized skills in marketing, community interaction, and customer-centric approaches. Yet, we’re open to diversifying our investment into other asset classes like offices and residential projects within our portfolio’s opportunities.

Can you share more about your development project in Warsaw?

We initially planned a large shopping center but shifted toward a mixed-use project including offices and residential spaces. This aligns better with current market demands and offers phased financing advantages, contrasting with a single-block shopping center.

EPP is listed in South Africa. What’s the opportunity you see there?

We noticed significant interest from South African funds in CEE investments due to diversification opportunities and better returns compared to Western Europe. EPP’s structure attracted South African pension funds, diversifying our investor base.

Poland doesn’t have REITs despite efforts toward this. What’s appealing to you about this model?

The REIT legislation process in Poland has been ongoing. We’re keenly observing this for a potential second listing in Warsaw, allowing investment through the local stock exchange, in addition to our primary listing in Johannesburg.

What are your primary objectives for the future, and where do you foresee growth?

We see potential in shopping centers offering leisure elements. They might take time to recover, but I believe in a social bounce back toward restaurants, cinemas, and theaters once people feel safe. Managing these centers well will be crucial.

How optimistic are you about the market’s evolution in the next 2-3 years?

Poland’s economy offers good recovery prospects, especially in manufacturing and global business service sectors. While rents might face short-term pressure, I believe in strong fundamentals, expecting gradual recovery over a few years. Patience will be key.

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