60 second interview: Anthony Armstrong-Emery of EcoHouse
Monday 26th November 2012
What does it say on your business card? Anthony-Armstrong Emery, CEO, EcoHouse Group. I am a big believer in the power of business cards especially in the early years when you are growing the business and need to get the word out as much as possible! I am also very open to people contacting me directly to discuss ideas. I believe we can always learn and improve – it’s a key philosophy of mine and the company’s.
Where are you based? In the ‘City of the Sun’! That’s the local name given to Natal, the capital of Rio Grande do Norte, a state in the north-east of Brazil. It’s a beautiful city, bordered on the east by white sandy beaches, and a major tourism destination. It is the nearest of the country’s cities to Europe and next year will see the opening of an international airport which will further boost visitors to this area. However, it is not totally reliant on tourism. Rio Grande do Norte is the second largest oil-producing state in Brazil and has a strong fishing industry. It also receives huge foreign investments and is seen as having great wind energy potential.
What is your business? EcoHouse’s purpose as a business is to deliver strong investment yields and an
easily-defined exit for investors by satisfying a demand for real estate. Our current focus is Brazil where we have a large construction operation in the North East, which concentrates on building high standard social housing as part of the Government’s public–private housing initiative, Minha Casa Minha Vida (My House, My Life). This was launched in March 2009 to tackle the chronic housing shortage in the country. Our first projects sold out quickly and we are now paying investors and beginning our third project Bosque Residencial. EcoHouse also incorporates an expanding estate agency business and markets its properties through a range of real estate companies worldwide. We’re always happy to hear from interested companies.
How many people do you employ? We employ over 1,000 people. 900 of these work in our construction division and the rest at our five offices in the UK, Canada, Dubai, Singapore and of course Brazil. Our real ‘team’ is even larger though as we like to think of the organisations we sponsor and support – the local Alecrim football and rugby teams - as part of the family. The Alecrim rugby team made it to the Brazilian Cup Final this year – the first time in its history – so there was much team rejoicing!
What about buying trends? There is no doubt that EcoHouse has benefited from the recent difficult economic climate, in which investors have been more cautious about where and with whom they choose to invest, because it has offered a strong investment product which ticks all the boxes. Brazil and the social housing investment opportunity we are offering potential investors is a rare case where the facts and statistics stack up. Brazil’s demographic has seen a major transition over the past nine years with the middle class population rising to 85 million people. There is a seven million unit housing deficit in Brazil and a predicted 20 per cent rise in population expected over the next decade. This, and the fact that we met the strict risk assessment criteria and, as a result, are permitted to sell housing backed by MCMV mortgages from the Brazilian federal bank, CAIXA, has meant that there is huge investor confidence in our project. We have already sold out our first two projects with the third just launched and doing well.
How interested are you in property? Hugely! For the last 15 to 20 years I have been immersed in property in Spain and I was always fascinated to see what was happening in the other markets. But what I hadn’t realised was how different it is when you are building your own company. You simply live and breathe it and are constantly looking for new opportunities. Happily, in Brazil there are plenty!
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