A new species of Diaphana from bathyal depths in the Weddell Sea, Antarctica and first record of Diaphana inflata (Strebel, 1908) in the high Antarctic (Gastropoda: Opisthobranchia)

first_imgDiaphana haini n.sp. is described from Antarctica. With a depth range from about 400 to 2100 m, D. haini is the second Antarctic species of this genus to extend into the deep sea, the other being D. inflata (Strebel, 1908). Phylogenetic analysis has allowed D. haini to be incorporated within Schiotte’s (1998) cladogram for this genus and, thereby clarify its historical zoogeography. A record of D. inflata from the Weddell Sea extends its known distribution range. The recorded geographic distribution now ranges from South Georgia to the Antarctic continent, and the depth range is extended considerably, from 252-310 m to 1645 m.last_img

Significant warming of the Antarctic winter troposphere

first_imgWe report an undocumented major warming of the Antarctic winter troposphere that is larger than any previously identified regional tropospheric warming on Earth. This result has come to light through an analysis of recently digitized and rigorously quality controlled Antarctic radiosonde observations. The data show that regional midtropospheric temperatures have increased at a statistically significant rate of 0.5° to 0.7°Celsius per decade over the past 30 years. Analysis of the time series of radiosonde temperatures indicates that the data are temporally homogeneous. The available data do not allow us to unambiguously assign a cause to the tropospheric warming at this stage.last_img

Fair offers hot tips for bakers

first_imgVisitors to the Bakers’ Fair in Manchester will learn survival tips and ways to reduce salt in products.Presentations at the fair include NAMB chairman Mike Holling talking about how craft bakers can survive on the high street during the credit crunch, while NAMB director Anthony Kindred will discuss salt reduction. Software company Red Black will illustrate the benefits of implementing software in bakery.The free show is from 9.30am to 4pm on Sunday 4 October at the Armitage Centre. For tickets, call 01792 365902 or register online at www.bakersfair.co.uk.last_img

News story: Construction of new Royal Liverpool Hospital to restart

first_imgConstruction work on the state-of-the-art Royal Liverpool Hospital will restart, following work coming to a halt after the collapse of construction firm Carillion earlier this year.The government has backed the local trust’s proposal to end the private finance initiative (PFI) deal and continue work on the hospital with public sector funding. This will minimise the delay in opening the hospital to patients across Merseyside.Construction work had begun on the new hospital, part of The Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals Trust NHS Trust, under the PFI deal. However, work stopped when the firm carrying out the work, Carillion, went into liquidation.Since then, the trust and the government have worked closely to find a solution that puts patients first. Despite constructive engagement from the lenders who have funded the project to date, they have concluded they will be unable to complete and operate the hospital under the original terms. The government has announced its support for proposals to complete construction work within the public sector as quickly as possible, and open the hospital to patients in 2020.The hospital will have 646 beds on 23 wards, including a state-of-the-art critical care unit and a large clinical research facility. It will have 18 operating theatres and the emergency department will be one of the biggest in the North West.Health Minister Steve Barclay said: We would also like to thank all those locally who have supported us throughout this challenging period, including local politicians, in particular our local MP, Louise Ellman, our staff, and our patients. The trust intends to continue working with the existing construction contractors involved, so that the construction finishes as soon as possible, maximising the value for money of the taxpayers’ investment in the hospital We welcome the statement from Health Minister Steve Barclay. We would like to thank our government colleagues, The Hospital Company and funders EIB and Legal and General for all their hard work over the last 9 months. We have all strived to maintain the existing project agreement, but it has become clear to us that this will no longer be possible. Our board has now agreed that the existing project agreement should be terminated, and that the trust should complete the project.center_img When I visited the new Royal Liverpool Hospital in May, I made clear the government’s commitment to ensuring the construction of this state-of-the-art hospital was finished. I am pleased to today confirm that the government will step in and publicly fund the remaining work so that the hospital is completed, as it has also done with the Midland Metropolitan Hospital in Birmingham. It is a central purpose of PFI that construction risk sits with the funders. This has also been at the heart of the time it has taken since January when Carillion went into liquidation, as the lenders commissioned detailed expert assessments of the previous construction work. The trust’s board agreed yesterday that the PFI agreement should be terminated after the 30 September 2018, which under the contract is the latest acceptable date for the hospital to be completed. The government has made clear it supports the trust’s decision. Aidan Kehoe, Chief Executive at Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals, said:last_img read more

Hub away from home

first_imgThis is the fourth in a series of stories about Harvard’s engagement in Latin America.SÃO PAULO, Brazil — At 6 feet 4 inches, Jason Dyett cuts an imposing figure as he navigates the chaos that is São Paulo traffic.“We need to be a little bit careful, but also aggressive,” said Dyett, guiding visitors through a hectic crosswalk in Brazil’s largest city, population 11 million, toward the local office of Harvard’s David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies (DRCLAS), a regional hub that supports faculty and students in research, teaching, and learning throughout the country.Harvard students, an alumnus from the Harvard Kennedy School, and a lecturer at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design gathered in the DRCLAS office in São Paulo to offer practical suggestions to two Brazilian scholars bound for Harvard this fall.Dyett’s rush-hour calm also characterizes his approach on the job. With a mix of determination and diplomacy, Dyett, the office’s longtime program director, helps link Harvard faculty and students to resources and collaborators in Brazil, while simultaneously facilitating connections across Harvard.“Harvard can help bring together different parts of Brazil,” he said. “At the same time, we have a big focus in terms of trying to bridge opportunities wherever possible at Harvard. We are a University-wide office, which creates tremendous opportunities because there are important overlaps that exist between and within different disciplines.”In the late afternoon, Harvard students and staff gathered to discuss their work and research in the office’s conference room, a fusion of bright wood and windows on the 17th floor of a high-rise in the city’s downtown. Efforts in public health and early childhood development were among the topics, as was the importance of the opportunity to branch out beyond Cambridge.Soundbytes: Shahil MehtaHarvard College senior Shahil Mehta is working at the University of São Paulo on prenatal nutrition.The Brazil Studies Program at Harvard and the DRCLAS Brazil office, both established in 2006, together support a wide range of programs and student and faculty research in Cambridge and Brazil. Among their initiatives: annual collaborative field courses that unite students and faculty from Harvard and Brazil around issues in public health and environmental engineering, and ongoing research collaborations between the Harvard School of Public Health, the Universidade de São Paulo Medical School, the Santa Casa de São Paulo Medical School, and other institutions.Harvard senior Shahil Mehta, an organismic and evolutionary biology concentrator on a pre-med track, described his work with a nutrition professor at the University of São Paulo, a mentor he connected with through the help of DRCLAS and a fellowship at the Harvard Global Health Institute (HGHI). Mehta and fellow senior Jenny Zhang spent the summer exploring how a lipid-based supplement could impact preterm birth rates in the Amazon.As important as their work in the lab, they agreed, were their connections with Brazilian students, professors, and locals. During their two-month stay the undergraduates shadowed Brazilian medical students, becoming familiar with the practices and policies associated with the country’s health care system. They also witnessed a piece of history as hundreds of thousands of Brazilians flooded the streets in June to demand the government spend more money on education and health care, and less on the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.Soundbytes: Miranda Mckinley RaviczHarvard College senior Miranda Mckinley Ravicz is working in Brazil as part of the David Rockefeller Center’s early childhood development initiative.“It’s been really important to see the protests, the way health care is practiced here, to talk to students here to see … what their motivations are to go into health care,” said Mehta. “It puts my motivations … into a grander perspective. To be able to understand someone across the world, in an entirely different environment, with an entirely different medical philosophy — to see the similarities and differences helps me understand why I want to be a doctor.”As afternoon faded to evening, the conversation in the conference room shifted to counsel. An alumnus of Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) and a lecturer at the Graduate School of Design (GSD) offered practical suggestions to two Brazilian scholars bound for Harvard this fall, including valuable advice about how best to connect with people, programs, and initiatives at the University.Sam Downing, who received a master’s degree in public policy and urban planning from HKS and now works in the U.S. Consulate in São Paulo, encouraged businessman-turned-social activist Oded Grajew to scout out the School’s Roy and Lila Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. “That’s a great place to get started, and I think you have a lot of similar interests. … The Center for Business and Government would be another logical place.” He also urged Grajew to share his own intimate knowledge about Brazil with the Harvard community.“There is a huge appetite, both at Harvard and broadly in the U.S. right now in figuring out what has happened to Brazil over the past 20 years, what has happened over the past two weeks. What did the protests mean? … What kind of connections are there between Brazilian NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] and U.S. NGOs?Soundbytes: Jenny ZhangHarvard College senior Jenny Zhang is working at the University of São Paulo School of Public Health, studying the effects of lipid-based nutrient supplements on preterm birth rates in the Amazon.“All of us in some way are trying to make the U.S. understanding of Brazil more nuanced, and I would encourage you to do that and seek out opportunities to talk about what’s going on here.”Gareth Doherty, a GSD lecturer studying Brazilian favelas for the summer, provided some advice on time management. Visiting scholars he’s known, he said, have  “realized that if they went to every lecture and every event that interested them, that it actually becomes more than a full-time job. … Make sure you have time for yourself, to carve out that space.”Along with making introductions, Dyett and his team have developed a hyperconnected virtual world. Past a wall filled with photographs of students and faculty who have worked in the office, and a picture of Harvard President Drew Faust from her visit to São Paulo in 2011, sits Dyett’s desk. There he proudly displayed the product of several years of work: a comprehensive database that resembles a 6 degrees of separation computer game.Soundbytes: Isamar VegaIsamar Vega ’13 is working at the University of São Paulo on various initiatives to connect students and faculty at Harvard with students and faculty in Brazil.Names, pictures, and biographical and contact information flashed on his screen. With the tap of a button, a small subset of the thousands of the Brazilian and Harvard contacts in his system appeared, arranged in a circle and connected by interests and fields of study.“This is everything we have done since 2006, by categories and disciplines which map to Harvard,” said Dyett of the database, compiled by a group of local programmers who worked part time in the office and now run their own startups in Brazil. “It’s customized for what we need.”last_img read more

Turfgrass Research Field Day

first_imgWhether you’re a homeowner, new landscape company owner or a veteran golf course superintendent, you’ll find the latest research-based information on growing and maintaining turfgrass at the University of Georgia Turfgrass Research Field Day.Registration starts at 8 a.m. on Aug. 4 and tours begin at 9:15 a.m. and conclude at 2:30 p.m. The daylong event will be held rain or shine on the turfgrass research plots at the UGA campus in Griffin, Ga. Residential and commercial lawn topicsUGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences researchers and Extension specialists will present the latest information on how to care for residential lawns, commercial golf courses, athletic fields and any other space covered with turfgrass. Field day topics will include how to control weeds, insects and diseases, managing seed heads, heat and drought tolerance and an update on the UGA turfgrass breeding programs.Guided tours will be offered in Spanish for Spanish-speaking attendees.The field day is certified for private and commercial pesticide recertification credits in Georgia and neighboring states. A license number is required to receive the field day credits. A catered BBQ lunch will be followed by displays and demonstrations of the latest turfgrass industry equipment. The self-guided portion of the research tour begins at 1:15 p.m.Register early to save moneyRegistration for the field day is $80 ($30 for students) and covers the day’s program, a field day research guide and lunch. Groups of four or more can receive a 10 percent discount. To register, call (770) 229-3477 or go to the website www.GeorgiaTurf.com for program information and online registration.The UGA CAES, UGA Extension, the UGA Center for Urban Agriculture, the Georgia Golf Course Superintendents Association, the Georgia Urban Ag Council, the Georgia Turfgrass Foundation Trust, the Georgia Golf Environment Foundation, the Georgia Sports Turf Managers Association and the Georgia Recreation and Parks Association are partnering to present the field day. Follow the field day on Twitter at @GeorgiaTurf.last_img read more

6 ways financial marketers can improve their online reputation

first_img continue reading » The banking industry’s reputation got clobbered during the Great Recession. While financial services’ image rebounded somewhat, surveys now show that it is sliding again.Causes include data breaches, systems failures, and poor customer experiences. Indeed, social media makes it easy for unhappy consumers to share unfortunate in-branch and other experiences through online reviews and attacks that bring out more anger from fellow posters, with potentially massive reach.Star ratings have been dropping significantly among some well-known banking brands, according to industry data. Given such indications as Adweek’s finding that 93% of Millennials say they rely on blogs and customer reviews before making a purchase, low star ratings and poor online reviews about wait times, branch personnel competence, and parking and account-related fees clearly harm reputations of individual brands as well as the industry.How can financial marketers reverse this trend? And potentially get ahead? ShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblrlast_img read more

Predictive analytics in play at BCU

first_img continue reading » BCU ($4.0B, Vernon Hills, IL) is honing its skills in predictive modeling as the SEG-based cooperative tracks and acts on financial issues COVID-19 is posing among its far-flung membership.John Sahagian, BCU’s chief data officer, says the credit union currently is focused on getting ahead of an anticipated surge of delinquencies and defaults that would follow the expiration of deferrals, pay skips, and mortgage forbearances as well as the end of increased unemployment benefits paid out as part of the CARES Act.“We’re developing a model to show the likelihood of a loan to enter default,” Sahagian says. “We’re also working to strengthen predictive models we already have for early-stage delinquencies rolling to advanced collections and for recovery likelihood of charged-off loans. These efforts are still a work in progress, but we’re excited about their potential in allowing us to focus our finite resources where they can have the greatest impact.” ShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblrlast_img read more

A podcast is a tremendous tool for credit unions

first_imgPodcasts are all the rage and, as your members’ best financial partner, it certainly makes a lot of sense to consider making the investment to develop one that you can use to help serve them. A podcast is truly a multi-purpose tool that can be used across numerous platforms to build awareness, help members make better financial decisions, highlight programs and services, and bring in subject matter experts to educate and inform.There are many reasons to invest in a podcast for your credit union. Let’s explore just a few.Minimal investment, maximum return. The investment in equipment, time and other support (editing service, etc.) is relatively small for the amount of content and usefulness of your podcast product. The podcast itself is a tremendous marketing tool and can be promoted to your members, potential members, community partners and others as you build the audience. With simple editing, you can create clips for use across all social media platforms that will greatly increase your reach. Clips or segments can be embedded into things like electronic newsletters to highlight a particular product or service, thereby reaching even more people. Finally, with small and simple advertising efforts, you can promote the podcast with digital advertising to grow even more.Building awareness. Your current members know you and probably love you. But how can you grow your membership? The podcast, and its array of relevant and useful content is a great way to reach out to consumers in the market for a great financial partner. Members can be encouraged to share content that you provide, and simple digital advertising can get your message out to those who may be looking for what you have to offer.Captive audience. We all spend a lot of time in our vehicles – commuting, going to appointments, running to and from kids activities, etc. Podcasts are the hottest growing trend and people are looking for your content. As your members’ best financial partner, you are in the perfect position to be subject matter experts on a wide variety of financial subjects that are important to your members. From budgeting tips, to investment and financial advice, to planning for kids’ college, to getting a car loan or a mortgage, you and your employees are a tremendous resource for members. Providing this information in a podcast brings it right to where your members are, and they don’t have to seek it out elsewhere.Great tool for promotion and partners. As you build and grow your podcast, you can use it to feature events, rate specials, CD promotions and all the great community events your credit union is involved with. You can bring in guests to interview – such as event organizers, or financial experts in a specific area. When you do that, you open up to an even wider audience as the expert will likely have their own audience and want to share with them. The opportunities are really endless.And while it may seem like “everyone is doing it,” when it comes to podcasts, the sky really does seem to be the limit. Because of the nature of credit unions – the services, advice and support that we offer to our members – we really are poised for success in this arena. Our members trust us, and we can provide relevant information to improve their financial lives. It’s a win-win. ShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,Patti Hazlett As Director of Corporate Communications for the Mountain West Credit Union Association, Patti oversees all aspects of public affairs and communications for the Association and member credit unions. She is … Web: https://mwcua.com Detailslast_img read more

Preview 1999 – Tackling the crystal ball

first_imgDavid Tye, chairman of Rugby Estates, suggests an innovative way of improving the fortunes of small quoted companies.As if we were not aware of it, the past 12 months have conclusively shown the vagaries of the property sector on the quoted stage. The dramatic fall in property company values since September, following nothing more than a couple of broking houses issuing pessimistic views of the future, makes one wonder whether the existence of smaller property companies is justified. And even the larger companies – fewer in number – have been shown to be at best lacklustre, and at worst ailing.Quality of management, independence of valuations and attractiveness of stock appear to be of little or no relevance when weighed against the huge discounts to NAV that most property companies are having to suffer. How can it be convincingly argued, with interest rates falling and the outlook for the direct property sector resilient, that our share price should be 35% or more below our NAV of 205p and rising.Though small, a good number of quoted property companies do have a following and they could, or rather should, be encouraged by their institutional shareholders into forging links with these institutions’ direct property arms. These companies would be focused, well managed, probably niche players, operating at the sharp end of the market. They would be able, particularly with gearing, to show good returns, certainly when compared to the returns of the ungeared direct property funds and equities in general.Now is the time to distinguish between those companies that are run-of-the-mill and those that have more to offer. It seems so often that those making the equity investment decisions have little discussion with their counterparts on the direct property side. Surely the indirect property sector would be healthier if there was greater collusion within the institutions. It would surely lead to better performance from the property companies, and, therefore, the institutional shareholder would benefit.Institutional property stock could be transferred in some way into the invested company or placed under the accredited management of the quoted company.Isn’t it time for the investing institutions to overtly support the companies where they have a meaningful shareholding, by adopting this pro-active approach? Compared to direct property investment, it has all the advantages and very few disadvantages.Etienne Thoreau, head of property at Société Générale, has a sneaking suspicion that 1999 could be a good year for bankers. Two main trends will oppose each other in 1999: the historic low interest rate environment and economic slowdown – the combination of these trends will drive the property market.From a UK perspective, I believe that 1999 will be a reasonably active year, particularly during the first half, as interest rates continue to fall, while property yields stay stable or even rise. Investors’ hopes that the economic slowdown in 1999-2000 is less severe than some are forecasting will be balanced by an awareness of the risk of further worldwide financial turmoil.Interest rates nearly everywhere are at their lowest level. Over the past six months the UK five-year swap rate has fallen by 1.1% from 6.75% to 5.65%. This has enabled investors to acquire better-quality properties, as the gap between average property yields and finance rates widens, and to borrow at a higher loan-to-value and amortise a significant level of debt over the term of the loan. We have not seen such an attractive financing environment since late 1993, but this was shortlived as yields fell dramatically.With subdued rental growth and fears of a UK recession, yields are unlikely to fall.The sudden shock we have all experienced over the summer regarding worldwide financial turmoil and redundancies in the financial sector has brought people back to reality and made them realize that if things change, they can change extremely quickly. Economic growth is likely to slow down as a delayed mechanical consequence of the financial crisis between summer 1997 and summer 1998, but the risk of depression is low. Deflation is not depression.The complete about-turn in market sentiment has relaxed somewhat over the last few weeks, as stock markets have recovered and interest rates have fallen. However, in the back of my mind and probably many others, is whether another dip, more severe and longer standing, could occur in the new year, as many investors seek to offload positions in an improved market.From a banking perspective, the introduction of the euro will probably be the most important change. How this translates into a higher level of cross-border property investment is uncertain.On the financing side, however, I predict a good level of activity, as investors take advantage of this arbitrage position. Banks and investors, however, are likely to be cautious on tenant risk and may well steer towards a multi-let building (different tenants and different lease lengths) rather than a single lease to an average-quality – and possibly risky – tenant. Bankers will also be looking at recent retail failures of medium-size companies, such as Craftworld and Essex Furniture, to see whether leases were forfeited and they faced empty units, or the businesses were sold.Most investors are taking a long-term view, with few seeking a trading-type facility. The common strategy is to sit tight over the coming year or two on a property yielding a significant differential between finance costs, waiting for a possible yield shift in 2001/2002. Rental growth – unless the lease is due for a review within the next 6-9 months – does not seem to be high on investors’ agendas.Risk-conscious borrowers and attractive financing conditions – could this be a banker’s dream come true? Phillip Nelson, chairman of Nelson Bakewell, argues that there is a future for a medium-sized surveying firm not owned by a US conglomerate. I may make it a new year resolution not to chuckle when people say that globalisation and co-investment are the keys to future success in property consultancy. They are undoubtedly new dimensions to our business, but they are not surveying’s equivalent of the ‘Third Way’.Certainly property – like most business sectors – is becoming more global. As a firm, while remaining wholly independent, we have responded to this by becoming the UK representative of ONCOR – an international network of consultants that covers 45 countries. Yet globalisation in itself is not the Holy Grail.Since the end of the 1980s, there have been countless predictions about the death of the ‘medium-sized’ surveying firms such as Nelson Bakewell. This spurious focus on headcount rather than quality meant that the property press was filled with theories that in a few years there would only be mega-firms and small ’boutique’ advisers. It just hasn’t happened, and yet we’re getting the same prophecies now with the spin of globalisation and co-investment.While the globalisation of our business has to be acknowledged, I have reservations about co-investment. One of the prime drivers behind the case for co-investment is that it motivates consultants. But I am not convinced that an adviser who has more to gain – or lose – from a specific situation will perform better.High-quality property advice is a product of training, experience and market knowledge. A consultant does not become any more expert or experienced because they have a 5% or 10% stake in a project. If anything, it may make them less dispassionate and diminish the objectivity which lies at the core of all good property advice.However, identifying shortcomings in the business planning of others is not a charter for complacency for the rest of the business. Next year will bring a much tougher market. Investment dealing revenues will be down, and the air of economic uncertainty will continue to deaden activity across the property sector.Consultants can have only one approach to such a scenario: quality and efficiency. Surveying firms who came out of the last slump stronger, and went on to flourish, did so by becoming better at servicing their clients and more efficient in doing so. New ways of working together with a continuity of experience, have been the basis of our progress over the last decade. While I do not expect the current lull to be anything like as savage as the last slump, it will be a market which requires redoubled effort and ingenuity.For the vast majority of surveying firms whose core business is the UK market, 1999 will be the ‘year of efficiency and independence’. Efficiency will enable you to combat a less favourable market while independence will draw new business from those clients with reservations about the changed business focus of some leading firms of surveyors.Nigel Kempner, chief executive of central London investor Benchmark GroupThose people who believe that property values can only continue going up are likely to be disappointed. Those more sane in their approach, however, might be surprised at the likely resilience of the UK and London property market in 1999.Whatever the stance on a single currency, we are part of a European continental marketplace. The precise effect of remaining outside that market for the initial stages remains to be seen, but will become clearer in the first half of 1999.In our own portfolio in the West End of London, we have continued to see leasing interest for offices and retail property from American and European tenants, keen to enjoy all that London offers – English language, a convenient time zone for global trading, and professionalism in the service sector.The fact is that, whatever the size of requirement – and in the West End the unit size is getting smaller, while in the City it is becoming larger – the requirement is for modern, flexible, new space on the most flexible terms possible. Planners and property owners must respond accordingly to satisfy such demand.London is seen by many as the classy and trendy city to visit and work in, and that has been apparent despite a strong sterling rate. We should make sure that those people seeking to conduct their business in Europe see the property supply in central London in a similar light.In the West End there is currently a dramatic shortage of new or Grade A office space. Recent figures from Jones Lang Wootton show a vacancy level of 3.7% of overall supply and 0.7% of Grade A space. Indeed, there are no Grade A buildings over 10,000 sq m (107,640 sq ft) available and only four Grade A buildings between 5,000 and 9,999 sq m (53,820-107,629 sq ft).There was a good take-up of space in 1998 and there appears a strong tenant demand for well-located, modern offices, although I believe there will be a tendency to move towards shorter leases and greater flexibility of services. With the prospect of deflation, prime rents, which are currently in the mid-£50/sq ft area, will drift, over the foreseeable future, between £50 and £60/sq ft.The City office market will have a fragile 1999. It is inextricably linked to the fortunes, or otherwise, of financial services companies and professional firms. While there will, without doubt, be further consolidation, this may in itself lead to continuing medium- and longer-term requirements for large headquarters buildings which are not always readily available. Clearly there is a threat from Canary Wharf and London Bridge City to name but two alternative locations to the City core.The retail market in the major retail thoroughfares in the West End reached new peaks during 1998, although rents must soften in 1999, bearing in mind retail trading prospects. Certain streets off the major thoroughfares have become popular locations and this trend may well continue. The retail market in the City has remained strong, although it is very difficult to create additional retail space.I believe 1999 will be an active year for the property industry although not a dramatic year in terms of growth. Professionals from all sectors will need to be at their most nimble to react to changes, which many of us will not have seen before, in terms of inflation rates, interest rates, growth rates and global perspective.Robert Laurence, former head of Argent’s investment team, is relieved to be at the helm of a cash-rich private company, Resolution Property. No longer being involved in a listed property company, it is hard to imagine what my friends in the quoted sector have been going through this year. Stocks that were fashionable in 1997 now make cheesecloth shirts look modish – except that cheesecloth shirts are marginally more likely to stage a revival in 1999.Companies are unable to issue paper to carry out transactions. Management who are incentivised and judged by growth in share prices are miserable. The talented ones are already considering how to extricate themselves and their assets from the quagmire.This situation could have at least three outcomes: Major shareholders could give up waiting for a rise in share prices and sell to ‘privatisers’. The stock market may recognise that companies with good portfolios (and no debentures from hell) are underpinned by low gilt yields and move the share price higher. The stock market will be proven right by a major fall in property capital values.I think the third option is unlikely for reasons I set out below; the second is possible but not for the smaller-cap companies, where sentiment and lack of liquidity is against them. The longer the gap between NAV and share price remains open, the more likely it is that institutional investors will get fed up and allow private equity to step in.But even if this doesn’t happen, private equity will have good opportunities in 1999. Property with a good future will be available at yields which, with gearing beyond the levels possible for quoted companies, produces an IRR of 15-20% on running income. There will, therefore, be a keen appetite for decent property, yielding 7.5% and more.This will, of course, depend on gilt yields and, therefore, medium-term debt staying at low levels. Given the pressure on corporate earnings and the negligible risk of inflation, those with floating-rate debt will have a happier 1999 than those who fixed in the last few years.Interest rate decline will be accelerated by the government’s (silly me, I mean The Bank of England’s!) desire to move sterling interest rates in line with the euro. Euro rates should remain under downward pressure from the left-leaning German government.Following the negative impact of the high pound and high interest rates on the economy, the government may believe that voters would trade economic stability for economic sovereignty. Blair and Brown might, therefore, be tempted to call an election before the full five-year term, quickly followed by a referendum and entry into EMU. The Bank of England will be worried that interest rates, which overshot on the way up (to soften us up for EMU?), will overshoot on the way down, so that the economy becomes overheated at the start of the millennium.Float your borrowings by all means, but a prudently-applied cap should be worn at all times.I shall make a few property forecasts, in the hope that in January 2000, people will be too drunk to remember 1999 at all. Retail spending will stay depressed, leaving poor prospects for rental growth. Low-yielding, non-reversionary retail property will fall in value until it is caught by the low-gilt yield safety net. The IT threat to all retail property (not just banks, building societies and travel agents) will be more apparent.Out-of-town retail and office parks with good parking will benefit from the government’s aim to restrict parking in future consents.Office rental growth will be sluggish, particularly in the City, where there will be more lay-offs. But exceptions could be prime Thames Valley and emerging media locations like Clerkenwell and Camden. Yields for decent offices will settle at a level where a post-debt return of 12-15% a year is possible on existing cash flows.Central London residential will be hit by fall-out from difficulties in the City. Vacancy rates for industrial will increase slightly but yields will continue to fall for well-located large estates.Alex Watt, head of property at Standard Life Investments, There is one big bet for the UK property market next year: continental Europe! Whether the return on UK property is 6% or 12% in 1999 (the range between the most bearish and bullish fund managers in the recent IPF Consensus Forecast survey) is academic – continental Europe will be well ahead. The markets of Paris, Madrid and Barcelona look set to enjoy strong rental growth next year. Oh, and lest we forget, Dublin looks set to deliver another strong year after delivering over 40% total return in 1998.I take the view that major players in the property market, such as ourselves, should be positioning themselves for a more pan-European investment strategy in the years ahead, Around 300 million people now trade in euros and monetary policy has become a one-size-fits-all interest rate; the rule book is being entirely rewritten and, if the dynamics of the European economy are changing, you can bet the property market will change too. That is why Standard Life Investments is developing 3m sq ft on the Continent.Nonetheless, turning my attention back to the UK for a moment, we are clearly going ex-growth. There will, therefore, be two key factors which will deliver outperformance next year: firstly, income return, that is, the higher yielding the better; and secondly, scope for yield improvement. The biggest unknown – and always the most difficult part of the forecast to get right – is where yields will be in 12 months time. There has been much talk of a yield re-rating on the horizon, since gilt yields are now under 5%, and look set to stay there. In the circumstances, I do not think that this yield gap, which looks set to widen in the short term, is sensible. A re-rating is bound to occur during 1999 but, whether it happens early or late in the year, is difficult to call. For the record, I expect returns to be around the 8% mark for the year and, even if the yield re-rating happens a little sooner, it would be difficult to see UK returns getting into double digits for 1999.But that is a one-year view and, although we are all pressurised to obtain performance over what are shorter and shorter time horizons, property is of course a longer-term proposition. With this in mind, I see 1999 as a year of opportunity, low returns notwithstanding. Opportunistic buying, repositioning of portfolios and selective development should all be on the cards as we prepare for the next upturn. London – ever the barometer of the market – is pausing for breath at the moment, but is in pretty good shape nonetheless. Yes, rents are unlikely to move ahead in 1999 and yes, vacancy rates will increase, but the supply/demand balance is probably at its healthiest going into a downturn than at any other similar point in the last 30 years. Starting development next year may just be perfect timing, delivering new products to a market on the upturn in 2001. There are also other areas of the market where demand is holding up fairly well. M25 offices, for example, and, of course, devolution-inspired Edinburgh. In short, there are still opportunities around but it takes a little bravery and some solid groundwork to spot them. Stock selection is the key to successful fund management and, from this point of view, sound research is a cornerstone of strategy. This means not just understanding the macro picture, but getting to grips with local markets and understanding your tenants’ businesses as well.If this cycle (both economic and property) is to be shorter and shallower than previous downturns, 1999 should be the year when the brave start new developments, the opportunistic seek out deals in a quiet market and the strategists readjust the shape of their portfolios.The dynamic will be having lunch in Madrid. 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