There is Something About Portugal - Interview to Tamea International CEO

Thu 9 Jul 2020

As a foreign investor in the Portuguese Real Estate market, Tariq El-Asad has seen the market change over the years. The founder of Tamea International has been in the country for six years and has no plans of leaving since the business has been growing exponentially and reaching both north (Porto) and south (Algarve). With the pandemic of COVID-19, there was the need to adjust the work, but the interest in the country did not go away, and it is back on track with investors from all over the world.
As things start to follow into a new normal, Tariq is optimistic about the future and has new areas of investment in the horizon.

What is it about Portugal?
Portugal has been under-appreciated for so long, but that seems to have changed over the last few years. The country is considered one of the safest in the world, the climate is excellent, and the natural beauty is exceptional. Combine that with good food and wine, a relatively low cost of living, and typically open and generous people, and it is easy to see why foreigners enjoy the country. Many of the opportunities which are attracting international investors to Portugal exist in less mature sectors because this is naturally where these high-risk/high-reward scenarios lie.

What motivates you to keep investing in Portugal?
At first, I was motivated by the undoubted potential in the country’s Real Estate market. It was undervalued compared to its European counterparts, and the potential for growth was obvious. The government has introduced several programs to encourage investment (Golden Visa, NHR, tourism, tech-hub/WebSummit) and these efforts give investors confidence that the decision-makers are trying to take the country in the right direction.
That seems a good deal. I still find excellent investment opportunities and will continue investing in Portugal as long as that’s the case. What has changed over the years is that I’m now approached with opportunities outside of Real Estate as well, and that diversification is an indication that multiple sectors within the economy have potential. From a personal point of view, Lisbon allows me to enjoy the lifestyle I was looking for after years of intense work in large cities like London and São Paulo.

How can these investors see the country as a leading destination? What is the next step?
I believe that for Portugal to establish itself as a leading destination for investment, we need to see significant improvements in banking services, a streamlined company incorporation protocol, more balanced employment laws, and a simplified tax regime. One crucial element that I think gives Portugal the edge over European alternatives is the population’s excellent language skills, particularly the proficiency of English and French.

Besides Real Estate, in what areas do you invest in? All a success or some downfalls in between?
In addition to Real Estate, I invest in Hospitality and Technology. I don’t think anybody hits the bullseye every time and, in my case, there have been downfalls too. I was co-founder of a fixed-fee property brokerage platform called Sherlock, which was performing very well but was unable to survive after investors pulled out and pipeline revenue disappeared both due to COVID and the enforced lockdown. It’s a shame because the project was very popular with consumers, and we were proud to be developing a Portuguese technology company with the potential to export internationally.

COVID-19 happened and changed everything. Do you see a recession happening this year?
For my main business, Tamea International, the way we do business inevitably had to change because demand evaporated almost overnight as investors paused their plans waiting to see what the outcome of the pandemic would be. Those still interested in investing could not reach Portugal so we had to adapt to more frequent use of video calls and virtual property visits. I think any country which experienced a lockdown like Portugal is likely to experience a technical recession (two quarters of negative growth). Still, I am optimistic we will bounce back quickly.

Tamea suffered from it but survived. How so?
Fortunately for Tamea International, we had a healthy pipeline of deals progressing to deed/scripture during the lockdown and the course of 2020, so this has kept the team active, and so we decided to maintain all the staff on full salaries. We’re already seeing demand coming back, especially for high-end city properties with space and amenities and country residences surrounded by nature, and I believe Portugal will benefit from having handled the pandemic relatively well. I believe international investors will gain comfort from Portugal's record and I’m optimistic that a wider variety of investors from more countries will be looking at Portugal. During lockdown, we activated our plan to expand our reach to Porto and the Algarve, source a new office on Avenida da Liberdade, bring in a new Business Development Manager and we’re currently looking to grow our team further by bringing in the best Sales Consultants.

What do you think are the main sectors for private investment in the country?
I believe there will be continued interest in traditional sectors such as Real Estate and Tourism, but I also think there will be significant opportunities in Technology, particularly “Software as a service”, Renewable Energy, and medical cannabis.

How do you see Portuguese as business partners?
Do we have a modern approach or more closed-minded and traditional?
As with all countries, there is a mix of people with different outlooks and business approaches. Many of Portugal’s industries are dominated by established family companies or corporations supported by or linked to the state - most of these tend to be quite traditional. However, over the last few years, we’ve witnessed the younger generation having to adapt after the great financial crisis which has brought out more modern, resourceful, and creative strategies.
Although investing in Portugal has its inefficiencies and frustration points, the welcoming nature and warmth of the Portuguese people have helped me build my businesses. I could live and do business almost anywhere in the world and I choose Portugal.

You offer Golden Visa opportunities. How has been the reaction of your clients about its possible cancellation?
A significant proportion of our clients come to us because we specialize in the Golden Visa program. When the proposed restrictions were announced at the start of 2020, the initial response from our clients - both developers and potential Golden Visa applicants - was one of concern and disappointment. However, there is still a window of opportunity, and since COVID lockdowns have begun lifting, we have seen significant Golden Visa demand from Asia, the Middle East, and even North America. Clients are now moving faster to make sure they don’t miss their opportunity.

So the situation is going back to “normal”.
While the Golden Visa program continues to allow Real Estate investment in Lisbon and Porto, Tamea International will continue sourcing suitable properties and helping clients achieve their residency and citizenship objectives. We continue to grow our international partnership network and recruit more sales consultants to handle the increased demand. We also have a significant portion of non-Golden Visa clients from Portugal and the rest of Europe and are, therefore, not solely reliant on Golden Visa demand.
However, if the program does ultimately change as was proposed in early 2020, we are prepared to recommend our industry-regulated partners who can advise Golden Visa clients on alternatives such as the €350k Investment Fund route.

You have travelled and worked abroad. How has been this journey around the globe?
Growing up, I had always had a keen interest in property and architecture. Although I studied Politics & International Relations at university, I worked part-time for Real Estate developers in London. This prepared me well for my first full-time job in 2006 working with a consultancy and brokerage firm serving international developers targeting the British buyers. In 2007, I was assigned my first Portuguese account, which was the residential component of Areias do Seixo in Santa Cruz. The project was a huge success, and it gave me
my first taste of working in Portugal. The following year I created my consultancy in London and advised my clients on other development projects in Portugal 2008/09. In 2010, I relocated to São Paulo, Brazil, and took on the challenge of identifying sites for luxury hotel projects throughout the country. I moved back to London in 2012 and managed the sales of several residential projects in the city until mid-2014 when I eventually decided to make Lisbon my focus. I began searching for Real Estate investment opportunities and recognized a gap in the market for a boutique consultancy and brokerage to help international buyers navigate the Portuguese market and I felt I had the necessary local and international experience to create that. At the end of 2014, I founded Tamea International and over the last six years, we have built an excellent team and partnership network that has allowed us to assist hundreds of international investors. Our clients range from individual holiday home and Golden Visa buyers to private and institutional investors as well as hotel chains, co-living/co-working providers, and everything in between.

Read the original article here.


Photo by Robin Alves on Unsplash

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