Rolf Buch, CEO of Vonovia, passing on EPRA Chairmanship

Looking back to his ambitions when he took over the role in September 2018, Rolf Buch, CEO of Vonovia, tells us about the outcomes of his involvement as EPRA Chairman and shares some insights on the challenges ahead to be faced by his successor, Méka Brunel, CEO of Gecina.

Rolf Buch

Rolf Buch has been CEO of the Management Board of Vonovia SE since April 2013. He is a member of the executive board of the German Association of German Housing and Real Estate Companies (GdW), vice president of the German central real estate committee Zentraler Immobilien Ausschuss (ZIA) and the German Association for Housing, Urban and Spatial Development.

How will your Chairmanship of EPRA be remembered?
 The re-appraisal of the EPRA BPRs and, more specifically, the implementation of the new Net Reinstatement Value (NRV), Net Tangible Assets (NTA) and Net Disposal Value (NDV) must be one of the biggest highlights. This was the first major review for sixteen years, and the landscape of the listed real estate (LRE) had considerably changed in that time.
It took a lot of discussions and debates between the different stakeholders and countries, but we are confident that these new BPR guidelines are the right ones.
Also, the launching of the EPRA sBPR Database in September 2019 was a major step in the LRE companies’ environmental, social and governmental (ESG) disclosure. This first-ever ESG digital dataset for the listed sector provides consistent and reliable environmental information for the whole industry and also the investors.
Finally, the renewal of the index partnership with FTSE ensured this important relationship is secure for another five years and that the leading global benchmark is maintained.
So overall, I am sure the significant improvement in EPRA financial and non-financial reporting and greater transparency over these past two years will leave a mark.
Did you achieve all your objectives for EPRA?
One major achievement for the sector was definitely Solvency II. EPRA attaining the lowering of capital requirements from 39% to 22% for insurance companies investing in equities was a breakthrough, giving fresh incentive for them to invest in LRE. We were also very pleased to see the Portuguese Government introducing the REIT regime in early February 2019.
From a more EPRA-focused point of view, my main ambition was to achieve a better sense of cooperation and communication between the members and other market stakeholders. At the end of 2018, EPRA organised its first Corporate Access Event, which has, since then, become a bi-annual meeting for fifty or so investors and member property companies. In this regard, the membership survey conducted in 2019 highlighted how valuable our events are to our members, and that EPRA should keep focusing on networking activities.
Last but not least, EPRA has attracted no less than forty-five new members since September 2018. So, needless to say, the Association has gained in significance and visibility in recent years.
What is the most pressing issue currently facing EPRA?
The COVID-19 crisis is, for sure, the most challenging and urgent issue the sector is now facing with its negative effects on real estate valuations. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that we keep focusing on long-term and sustainability goals. So, EPRA must continue its efforts in favour of initiatives and actions in line with the European Green Deal and the financing of a green transition.
What is the best piece of advice for Méka  Brunel on the EPRA Chairmanship?
 I really enjoyed my time as EPRA Chairman, and I know Méka will too. I can’t think of any useful advice for her; she is a genuine expert in this industry, and she is well prepared to support EPRA in the upcoming challenges and to keep up the quest for cooperation, transparency and diversity.