You’ve been an integral part of the Iulius Group for over two decades. How has your role evolved within the company, especially as you transitioned to CEO?

Indeed, my journey with the company spans more than 20 years. I started as a financial analyst, progressed to the role of CFO, and now helm the group as CEO. My current responsibilities predominantly revolve around managing all our investment projects. Our vision, unwavering over these two decades, remains centered on conceptualizing and executing urban regeneration projects, bolstering infrastructure, and ultimately enhancing the overall quality of life in the cities where we operate.

How do the different segments you operate in contribute to the overall business strategy?

Our primary stronghold lies within the office sector, with ownership of 13 buildings spread across Romania, offering a total rentable area of 152,000 m². These buildings, primarily located in key Romanian cities like Iasi, Timisoara, and Cluj-Napoca, cater to IT and financial companies. In retail, our portfolio comprises over 300,000 m² across five projects, attracting more than 68 million visitors annually.

However, what truly sets us apart is our specialization in the urban revitalization mixed-use concept. Projects like Palas Iasi and Iulius Town Timisoara stand out as the only developments of their kind in Romania. These projects have not only propelled our business growth but have also significantly enhanced the investment appeal of their respective regions. They’ve facilitated multinational companies’ entry into the country, fostered job opportunities, and substantially improved the overall quality of life.

Why have your efforts focused on major cities of Romania rather than the capital?

Our focus on cities where we have established a presence stems from their relevance as financial and educational hubs. These cities offer an optimal environment for successful investments and boast immense growth potential, particularly in the office sector. For instance, Palas Campus in Iasi stands as our most extensive project and the largest office center in Romania. This ambitious endeavor aims to rejuvenate an underdeveloped central area of Iasi, projected to generate approximately five thousand new employment opportunities.

The project integrates office and retail spaces along with essential amenities and urban green spaces, aligning with our standard approach. Our commitment extends beyond mere construction; we’re investing in road infrastructure to enhance connectivity and accessibility, including a substantial subterranean parking center. The project’s value exceeds 120 million EUR, and it’s expected to conclude by the end of 2022.

Securing significant financing for such a substantial project must have been a considerable task. How did you manage that aspect?

Collaborating closely with our banking partners significantly facilitated the financing process. While securing funds for such a monumental project presents complexities, our specialized team works in tandem with our bank to address and fulfill the financial requirements.

How did the global pandemic impact your operations, especially considering your presence in the office and retail segments?

Undoubtedly, the pandemic affected our operations. However, open discussions with our partners and tenants allowed us to navigate through the challenges collectively. We supported our tenants by reducing taxes, offering essential marketing materials during the crisis, and minimizing running costs.

Remarkably, despite the challenging circumstances, we achieved an extraordinary 1% vacancy rate across our five projects in 2020. Signing over 50 new contracts during the pandemic signifies the trust our tenants place in our services. Additionally, our public gardens evolved into primary social hubs within urban settings during this period, validating our approach to project development.

What are your objectives for the next 2-3 years? Do you have any plans for international expansion?

Our focus currently lies on our new Family Market projects, a specialized retail concept for rapidly growing communities. We’ve already commenced construction for the first two Family Market projects in Iasi County, scheduled for completion by the end of 2021. While international expansion isn’t on our immediate horizon, the burgeoning Romanian market offers ample opportunities for continued growth.

What message would you like to convey to potential investors eyeing the Romanian real estate market?

For international investors exploring opportunities in the European market, Romania is a definite contender. The market potential is remarkably high, and it continues to burgeon. I remain optimistic about the future, given the ongoing growth and potential within the market.

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