Colliers Expands in U.K. Retail Sector with Acquisition of London’s Briant Champion Long

Colliers International, the third-largest commercial real estate services company in the world, has expanded its presence in the U.K.'s retail real estate arena with the acquisition of Briant Champion Long.
John Friedrichsen, FirstService Corp.

John Friedrichsen, FirstService Corp.

Colliers International, the third-largest commercial real estate services company in the world, has expanded its presence in the U.K.’s retail real estate arena with the acquisition of Briant Champion Long. The announcement was made by FirstService Corp., parent company of Colliers.

The acquisition of BCL comes two years after FirstService acquired the Colliers UK and Ireland operations for $22 million, making the divisions a cohesive part of Colliers International. The purchase of BCL, one of the top independent retail property firms in the U.K., increases Colliers’ foothold in London and further strengthens its presence in Europe.

“There are many companies that we deal with in other parts of the world that have operations either in the U.K. or in Europe and are looking for services in those markets and we want to be in a position where we can provide services in those markets, and this is certainly one way to do that,” John Friedrichsen, senior vice president & CFO, FirstService, told Commercial Property Executive.

BCL, which advises retailers, landlords and investors, has developed a respected reputation since its founding in 1987. In 2013, the firm closed in excess of 800 transactions and generated revenue totaling approximately 9 million.

“They are excellent at what they do,” Friedrichsen added. “They know [the retail] market inside and out, have an excellent client base and we really think that this helps diversify our London  operation, which had a very, very small retail services operation. This is going to increase it sizably.” The 30 professionals that comprise BCL will be integrated into the Colliers platform.

It’s all about timing, and the timing appears to be just right. According to a trends report by PwC and the Urban Land Institute, with the European economy growing–2 percent GDP growth is forecasted for both the U.K. and Ireland, for example–and political uncertainty diminishing, the real estate industry has high expectations for Europe in 2014.

“We see Europe, and the U.K. in particular, as offering really excellent growth potential as those economies improve and recover from the financial crisis of 2008, 2009, and we’re intent on certainly being in a position to participate as that economy recovers,” said Friedrichsen.

The Colliers-BCL merger, however, is indicative of a trend that goes deeper than projected economic improvement in Europe. It is reflective of a larger change in the global commercial real estate world: consolidation. “That’s the phenomenon that’s taking place in the industry and has for some years,” Friedrichsen added. “Mid- to large-size clients in particular are looking for, in many cases, single service providers or reducing they’re service providers from local providers to more regional and national providers, so one of the ways to accomplish that is through acquisition. Consolidation is occurring across the industry.”

But the benefits of consolidation, Friedrichsen concluded, go beyond centralization of services. “From our perspective it also gives us the ability to make more sizeable investments in technology and productivity tools to help our people, to train our people and ultimately provide a higher level of service to our national and global clients, as well as those clients that have local, more regional requirements. So it’s going to continue to take place, we believe, for the foreseeable future and we want to be a major participant in helping consolidate this industry.”