Orlando, Florida (PressExposure) January 05, 2010 -- Well, the second decade of the new century is here already. The first one was undoubtedly one for the record-books with us all witnessing the very best and the very worst of what the global economy can produce.
2010 also marks the 10-year anniversary of MRI, and I am proud to have spent almost the entire decade within the company.
At the end of 2008 when I took over at the helm of MRI, I laid out the direction that we would be taking, and how I felt that 2009 was the year of opportunity. And so it turned out to be.
Let's review some of the highlights for MRI and its clients...
1. MRI's own developments.
These developments have all made fantastic progress. Aspen Golf, our first development, is now entering its second ski-season, and is quite simply a fantastically impressive development. I was recently there, giving a guided tour to an international banking syndicate (more about that later), and was thrilled to see their reaction. In fact, one of the group liked it so much he decided to take his wife and young son there on a holiday straight afterwards.
In a recent review, I saw that a journalist stayed at Aspen Golf, sampled the ski-slopes and loved them, sampled the golf course which is open to the public as we always maintained it would be, and captured the essence of why Bansko will continue to be an appealing place to holiday, or better still, own property.
The other developments, Aspen Heights, Suites and Valley all received their occupational licenses as planned, and they are following in the footsteps of Aspen Golf. Silver Mountain has progressed slower than planned and still requires the finishing touches to be done due to many purchasers not completing when they should have back in February last year.
Mortgage availability has been the biggest challenge this year for clients. For example, who could have guessed that all 13 lenders that were in the market in Bulgaria in 2008, would have decided to withdraw their facilities. It was unprecedented, but did give MRI the opportunity once again to demonstrate how we can support our clients. I referred to the guided tour to the Bank Syndicate earlier on, and the reason I did it was to obtain mortgage facilities for our clients.
This was successfully achieved meaning that hundreds of clients are now able to complete on their properties when the thought they had run out of options. It has been one of the successes of 2009 that has given me personally the most pleasure.
The latter half of 2008 and the early part of 2009 created a stream of furniture companies that fell victim to the global recession. Some went out of business through bad luck, others through bad management. However, it left MRI with a huge challenge as we had paid these companies millions of Euros collectively to supply clients with furniture. As the companies in question were spread through the world, we had very little chance of recovering the money. So we were faced with the unenviable task of finding other solutions so that every client that had paid for furniture and abided by their contract would get their delivery.
The biggest problem we faced was in Bulgaria, but there were also sizeable challenges in Morocco, Cape Verde, Turkey, Cyprus to name but a few.
We decided to handle the situation systematically and fix one country at a time. We resolved matters in Turkey, then in Spain, then in Portugal, and Germany. Solutions to the situation in Italy and Cyprus have been found and they will be completed in early 2010. The outstanding countries are being tackled gradually with an immediate concentration on Bulgaria. Everyday I get updates from the installation team in that country providing pictures of installers in action. Many of these images find their way onto our web-site for everyone to see.
This year, it is our aim to complete the installation for all other clients who qualify. Once Bulgaria is completed, we will turn our attention to the few remaining countries that need a solution. I am pleased to report that this problem has been reduced to a minor problem, with installations in the countries outside of Bulgaria now just down to a handful in each.
It's been a tough situation to manage with no easy answers, however, I believe it demonstrates our commitment to our clients that we did not simply buckle under the strain. We faced up to the challenge and we are 90% of the way through solving it having installed over 1000 furniture packs in 2009 alone. I would also like to thank our clients for the patience they have displayed whilst solutions were sought, and many have since written to us to thank us for coming to their aid when the chips were down. It is another of MRI's successes of the last 12 months that gives me great pride.
3. Help at Hand.
2009 provided challenges for all of us that came in many guises. One of the biggest was when developers did not live up to their responsibilities to complete their development as promised. Worse still, many of these developers did not even attempt to find mutually acceptable solutions, they just buried their heads in the sand and ignored the problem. Like many of the furniture suppliers I referred to earlier, some of these developers failure was down to bad luck, some was down to bad management, but the upshot was that clients needed assistance, and thankfully, MRI were on hand to offer some.
We met with many clients who had deposited funds via their solicitors to unsuccessful developers throughout the world, and we discussed the options open to them.
Most agreed that legal action against the developer was futile, and the option of just walking away from their deposit was just too painful to contemplate. So, in conjunction with our clients we developed a third option. Through our contacts in the industry, we were aware of some available properties in the market where the developer was willing to accept well below market-value, and so we negotiated a way that clients could obtain these properties at unbelievably low prices, with the developers making a huge discount to compensate for the funds the clients had paid to the previous developer. In some cases, the properties used were actually in MRI developments - and were actually from the personal portfolio of our Chairman. In other cases, they were properties that we had sought out from other respected developers around the world.
In either case, clients were offered (and many took advantage of) the opportunity to get an even better property than the one they originally signed up for, and most importantly, they avoided a potential financial loss.
When I look back at 2009, I can do so with an immense satisfaction that, despite one of the worst economies in living memory, MRI and its clients are able to showcase a number of significant achievements.
So what for 2010?
We are extremely privileged at MRI to have done business with many, many thousands of clients over the last decade. As we move in to the new decade, we will continue to provide support and advice to those clients, not to mention some brand new property offers. 2009 provided many opportunities and many clients were able to take advantage of them. However, most had to do this without the aid of mortgage facilities. 2010 promises to be different. The news from the USA is that the mortgage market is loosening up, and this is demonstrated by the return to the market of banks who will lend to foreign nationals. For markets like Florida, this is often the acid-test because in any questionable market, foreign national mortgages are the first to be cut. Now that they are coming back, the market is sure to stabilize itself again.
Furthermore, the success we had in Bulgaria in obtaining a mortgage facility for our clients shows that European Banks are also of a mind to expand their lending criteria, and overseas property loans are back on the map.
To complement this, MRI will be bringing to the market, and to our clients in particular, properties that are being sold at well below market value. It's almost like a time-machine allowing people to purchase at 2003 prices again!
Finally, I would like to express on behalf of myself, my colleagues and our many clients, our thanks to Darragh MacAnthony, the founder of our company, as he steps down as chairman after 10 years at the helm.
Darragh has left an enviable legacy behind him in MRI; a company that has brought the dream of owning an overseas property to within the grasp of thousands of people who would never have thought it possible.
He has also bred an ethos into those around him that no challenge is impossible so long as you pursue it with vigor and enthusiasm, and that has been most valuable in the last 12 months.
He will now concentrate his efforts on his other business ventures as was agreed upon a year ago when I was appointed CEO. I wish him continued success and thanks for all the help and support he has given me over the many years I have known him.
Last but not least, I would again like to thank our clients. It has been a great decade all-in-all, and I know that the vast majority are glad they took the plunge to own property overseas. Most of all, I am pleased we were there to help, and hope to continue to be for the duration of the next decade.
Dominic Pickering CEO