France’s Gecina Shows How to Lead During a Crisis



A few weeks back, Méka Brunel, CEO of Gecina, announced an unpredicented balance sheet considering France and the world are in the grip of a major recession. Gecina, for those unfamiliar, is the largest residential and commercial property owner in France, and the second biggest in Europe. Brunel’s company is a great example of how a massive business entity can be nimble and fast on its feet as well. 

Fifth Wall
Méka Brunel in a recent Fifth Wall interview (below)

The company showed a very solid first-quarter performance by generating rental income in excess of €168 million euros. Brunel attributed the positive figures to strategic decisions of the past. The two time Pierres d’Or Awards Professional of the Year Pierres d’Or honoree put it this way: 

“Gecina is demonstrating its resilience, thanks to the strategic choices made in the last few years to realign operations around the Paris Region’s most central sectors, as well as the affirmation of our ambition in the residential sector and the proactive and cautious management of our balance sheet.”

Ms. Brunel also made an announcement that one quarter’s rents would be canceled for small businesses hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, the Gecina CEO asked the board of directors to reduce her fixed compensation for 2020 by two months’ salary as a solidarity measure in the uncertainty of the pandemic. In addition, she donated an equivalent amount to the Gecina Foundation to support charities working to fight against Covid-19 consequences. In the interview with Fifth Wall Co-founder Co-Founder Brendan Wallace, Brunel discusses how Gecina prioritizes sustainability and innovation even in the most challenging times.

Gecina only recently changed board chairmen when Bernard Carayon stepped down so that Jérôme Brunel could assume the helm of the group. Just three weeks ago the group announced the creation of a dedicated residential subsidiary, along with a call for partners to invest in a new €3 billion euro Paris portfolio. Gecina’s current portfolio consists of more than 6,000 apartments made up of  409,000 sqm of space.  

The company specializes in Paris residential, and owns, manages and develops property holdings worth more than €20 billion euros. Gecina SA (GFC.PA) stocks are holding steady compared to many across Europe. Their ticker is climbing back after a big hit back in March when every company on the planet lost value. Last Summer, Simply Wall Street hinted that Gecina’s real share value was €151.42, and advised investors to hold off for a better deal on the extremely stable shares. Interestingly, the pandemic has caused shares to stabilize at €112. 

Starting today, France is lifting many of its lockdown restrictions imposed on account of the spread of COVID-19. France 24 reported yesterday that hospitalizations are continuing to fall and that there have been fewer than 100 deaths from the dreaded disease in recent days.

There’s still a lot of uncertainty over the economic picture in the world in the aftermath of the pandemic, but Brunel seems ready to make the proactive moves necessary to assist her company’s most exposed clients and this shows the whole industry what winning leadership looks like.