Atenor has clearly defined its mission: The company concentrates on large-scale urban projects – office buildings, mixeduse and residential complexes – and, through its projects, aims to contribute towards finding appropriate responses to constantly changing requirements of urban and professional life.
To reach this goal, Atenor relies on cooperation with selective partners and believes that innovative solutions can only be developed in trust-based dialogues. “Expertise and teamwork are cornerstones of our philosophy,” stresses Stéphan Sonneville. “Our real estate projects are a way to contribute to the atmosphere of a city and its quality of life. Therefore, we cooperate with all relevant stakeholders. We work together with municipalities, communities, local institutions and potential customers and involve their ideas when creating a kind of city within the city. We are talking about a veritable vision here, a vision that has nothing to do with profit maximization but with the realization of sustainable ideas.”
Turning visions into reality has been Atenor’s main driving force since its takeover of the British investment company Lonrho in 1997. The management buy-out was initiated by a group of Belgian investors, Stéphan Sonneville being among them.
Over time, the company has constantly broadened its horizons. “We first concentrated on real estate projects in Belgium,” states Mr. Sonneville. “Our success eventually encouraged us to enter foreign markets such as Luxembourg, followed by Hungary and Romania and now the Paris region. Today, we mainly focus on big European cities, often capital cities, where we buy existing properties or a block of land. We build new properties or revamp existing ones to sell them afterwards. We never keep properties in the long run. In general, our buildings have a size of 20,000 to 30,000 m² and cost roughly 20 to 60 million EUR.”
With a workforce of 60 employees, Atenor realized net results of 20 million EUR in 2016. “Currently, we deal with 18 different projects that correspond to a size of 750,000 m²,” explains Mr. Sonneville. “As we strive to increase our business in Europe’s most dynamic metropolitan cities, last year, we launched our first office project in Paris. It is a site of about 7,000 m² and the new building will have 32,500 m². The location at the edge of the Seine river is stunning as it is easily accessible by public transport and road.”
This project perfectly mirrors Atenor’s strategic approach. The company believes in the potential of the European market and is looking forward to new projects. “When working on a project we closely cooperate with external architects and building companies,” states Mr. Sonneville. “It is pivotal to be close to local architects; thanks to their knowledge we are able to consider specific cultural backgrounds. All parties involved share the same vision. We focus on sustainability and smart cities. Our projects ideally contribute to the positive development of a city.”
Atenor’s vision is what sets the company apart – in many ways. “We often compete with investors with a larger budget,” says Mr. Sonneville. “But at the end of the day, not everything is about money. Atenor is synonymous with credibility and this significantly contributes to our excellent reputation. We always put sustainability first and customers appreciate this approach. Risk evaluation is utterly important for us. Instead of focusing on economic profitability we try to reduce risks. This way we are in a position to realize projects that seem to be too risky for others. As we have always followed this strategy, today, we can depend on profound expertise and know-how and benefit from fast decisionmaking processes.”
Another company strength is the fact that all employees identify with Atenor’s philosophy – a fact that is underpinned by a low staff fluctuation. “Luckily, we can rely on very loyal employees,” underlines Mr. Sonneville. “Human values are deeply rooted in Atenor’s philosophy. In my view, profit is a result of specific efforts and not the main objective. Against this backdrop, we keep on motivating our employees to do their best and we deeply respect ever single individual.”
Atenor is optimistic that it can further strengthen its position on the European market. “We have grown significantly over recent years,” points out Mr. Sonneville. “Growing will not remain our first priorty in the future but will be a self-evident result of our strategy. The market still incorporates huge potential – despite increasing digitization. There is no doubt that there will always be physical spaces where people live and work. The challenge will be to establish the balance between physical and virtual aspects. We definitely accept change and we anticipate potential change.”