Real Estate

As HNW Individuals Seek Options, An Adriatic Resort Prepares

Tom Burroughes Group Editor London 26 June 2024

As HNW Individuals Seek Options, An Adriatic Resort Prepares

Luxury resorts based in low-tax jurisdictions have been around for decades; given the winds of change in certain countries when it comes to tax – such as the UK – places seeking to attract HNW individuals have incentives to keep showing off their advantages. We talk to the managers of a new development in the small Balkan country of Montenegro.

This publication occasionally writes about the world of luxury, and what the trends in the sector say about the state of the wealth management landscape. (See an example here about private aviation at Airbus, for example.) 

Few luxury areas are more important than property. High net worth and ultra-HNW individuals and families want to have places where they can relax, have fun and stay private. Feeding into this, governments in certain jurisdictions are trying to attract wealthy people through citizenship/residency-by-investment schemes. These programmes wax and wane, and can be shut or paused if they are seen as having achieved a goal of attracting a certain amount of capital. Sometimes they are closed if real estate prices become a political flashpoint, as in Canada for example, or as a result of sanctions on designated Russians, as in the UK in March 2022. On the other side, countries such as Italy and Spain maintain programmes to attract capital.

Whatever the motives, a raft of jurisdictions continue to market themselves to wealthy individuals. When one considers that some countries, such as the UK, are closing off certain tax advantages, it is not hard to see the motivation. 

Montenegro is putting itself on the list. The country ended its Citizens Investment Programme in 2022 but property owners can still apply for a residence permit, potentially leading to permanent residency after five years. 

This small country on the western side of the Balkans – part of Yugoslavia – emerged from Communist rule in the 1980s to be an independent place favoured by wealthy foreigners. (It did not hurt that it featured in scenes in the James Bond film, Casino Royale, starring Daniel Craig. You can always count on 007 to give a place a bit of stardust.)

A few weeks ago, the managers of what is called Porto Montenegro unveiled its third, newest and most avant-garde district, Synchro Yards. Slated for completion in 2026, this is set to be the centrepiece of a futuristic marina, complete with a beach club, a luxury hotel, performance and events spaces, restaurants, high-end shops, and year-round events. (The main picture shows the Regent Hotel – source: Porto Montenegro.)

The new phase of real estate development introduces two distinct residences designed by architectural firm Woods Bagot: AERIS and IVO with interiors by Bergman Design Haus. 

This news service sat down with Hugues Jannet, sales and marketing director for Porto Montenegro, to discuss the project.

WB: Porto Montenegro business was founded in 2006. What is the new offering, and when does it become live? 
Jannet: Porto Montenegro, founded in 2006, introduces Synchro Yards, its latest development set to be completed in 2026. This new neighbourhood features two luxury residences, AERIS and IVO, designed by Woods Bagot. AERIS offers 22 exclusive homes starting from €1.89 million, while IVO, managed by Rare Finds hotel, provides 25 residences starting from €1.0 million. Synchro Yards will also include a beach club, performance spaces, restaurants, and shops, enhancing Porto Montenegro's vibrant community.

WB: Who owns and is the main investor of Porto Montenegro? 
Jannet: Porto Montenegro is owned by the Investment Corporation of Dubai (ICD), the principal investment arm of the Government of Dubai. They acquired Porto Montenegro Marina and Resort from Montport Capital in 2016 as part of their strategy to add exceptional international assets in fast-growing markets to their impressive portfolio.

David Margason serves as the managing director, while Valentina McReynolds is the group chief finance officer. Michael Hardman is the development director and Tony Browne is the marina director. Desko Portic is operations director and Savo Djurovic is the legal director. Predrag Lekovic manages asset management and government affairs, and Angelo Zuccala is the general manager of Regent Porto Montenegro. 

During the summer season, Porto Montenegro directly or indirectly employs more than 1,000 people. This highlights its significant role as an employer in the region. The team is primarily based in Porto Montenegro, located in Tivat, Montenegro.

WB: How many developments are involved in the Porto Montenegro business and where are they located? 
: Porto Montenegro includes five distinctive developments:

1. South Village: This area provides classic and elegant waterfront living, fully developed and operational.
2. Boka Place: A collection of urban-inspired spaces focused on health and wellness, currently under construction.
3. Synchro Yards: In the Avante neighbourhood centred on creativity and self-enrichment, currently in development due to open in 2026. 
4. North Village: A laid-back lifestyle hub where active days blend into fun, relaxing nights – also in development.
5. Park Gardens: A resort-style oasis featuring lush gardens, swimmable pathways, and natural homes, currently in the master planning stage.

WB:  Please explain how the development will roll out.
Jannet: Our attention currently is on Synchro Yards, the avant-garde upcoming neighbourhood, which is due for completion in 2026. This phase of development includes two remarkable buildings: AERIS and IVO Residences, both architectural marvels by Woods Bagot and Bergman Interiors, strategically positioned to offer views of the marina. Synchro Yards (see below) will also feature a beach club with pools and lagoons, upscale dining options, and exclusive retail outlets. Moreover, the renovated shipyard building within Synchro Yards will serve as a versatile event space, hosting a variety of activities from arts workshops to musical events, honouring its industrial heritage.

Source: Porto Montenegro
Porto Montenegro is poised for expansive growth, with plans to develop into five distinct neighbourhoods, as outlined. Besides the upcoming Boka Place and Synchro Yards neighbourhoods, future developments, including North Village and Park Gardens, will increase our destination’s offering. North Village will transform the existing sports and tennis centre of the former naval dockyard and is planned as a tennis-centric village for sporting breaks. It will host small tournaments, delivering an active but informal and laid-back lifestyle hub with residences, retail, and eateries. Meanwhile, Park Gardens is planned as a resort-style oasis and a haven of tranquility with homes set amongst a dense jungle landscape and a winding network of swimmable waterways. 
Our vision is to ensure that Porto Montenegro is the premier boating and super yachting hub in the Mediterranean and to reinvent waterfront living.


Source: Porto Montenegro

WB: Some 60 per cent of PM’s clients so far are from Turkey, the Balkans, etc. What new markets does PM want to tap into? 
Jannet: Porto Montenegro is already established in the UK, Germany, France, China, and the US, but will soon focus on the UAE market as well.

The US is a key target market for Porto Montenegro due to a growing interest among Americans in luxurious waterfront living and investment opportunities. A large population with significant purchasing power and a strong desire among UHNW individuals to invest and spend time in Europe makes the US an attractive market. Additionally, the strength of the dollar is driving sustained interest in investing abroad, and UHNW individuals aim to be ahead of the trend curve by seeking Mediterranean locations. 

Germany is also one of the top countries for outbound tourism, presenting opportunities to attract more visitors. Furthermore, Germany is a top country for overseas property investment by high net worth individuals, and there are cultural ties with Montenegro, as German is still widely spoken in the country. The significant Montenegrin expat community in Germany also supports this market's potential.

France represents a wealthy market segment. The country's strong yachting industry and renowned film industry, including events like the Cannes Film Festival, provide additional avenues to attract potential customers interested in yacht ownership and film tourism. Additionally, the significant Montenegrin expat community in France further enhances the market's potential.

With increasing wealth and outbound tourism China presents an attractive market for Porto Montenegro. Additionally, China's wealthy individuals seek to escape regulatory scrutiny by relocating. The memorandum of understanding between Montenegro and China to build a new highway connecting Budva and Tivat has increased its accessibility and attractiveness for Chinese investors.

Recognising the affluent population and interest in luxury living in the UAE, Porto Montenegro plans to penetrate the UAE market further. The company sees substantial potential in attracting clients from this region and will make concerted efforts to appeal to the preferences and needs of UAE residents. With a nucleus of superyachts and luxury lifestyle living established in the UAE, there is a seasonal need to de-camp to the Mediterranean during the extreme summer weather. Porto Montenegro provides the perfect location and luxury lifestyle facilities for wealthy Arabs and non-Arabs who spend the entire summer (up to eight to nine weeks) in Europe.

WB: Are clients typically high net worth/UHNW individuals and families? What is the main reason why they want to be part of the PM offerings? 
Jannet: The main reasons clients choose to be part of Porto Montenegro's offerings include the investment freedom that Montenegro provides. Montenegro has no investment restrictions on foreign ownership, creating an attractive environment for international investors. Additionally, Porto Montenegro offers significant tax benefits, with minimal property taxes, stamp duties, and tax secrecy, presenting an appealing tax environment for investors.

Residency perks also play a crucial role in attracting clients. Montenegro's residency permits allow foreign nationals to obtain temporary residency through property ownership, which can lead to permanent residency after five years. This flexibility is particularly attractive to individuals seeking to establish a foothold in Europe. 

Furthermore, real estate growth in Montenegro, especially in coastal areas like Porto Montenegro, has been significant. The region has experienced substantial real estate appreciation, with rental yields averaging up to 5 per cent, making it an appealing investment destination.

Regarding the connection to Montenegro's "golden visa" programme, although Montenegro ended its Citizens Investment Programme (CIP) in 2022, property owners still have the option to apply for a residence permit, potentially leading to permanent residency after five years. Foreign individuals purchasing property or establishing companies in Montenegro can obtain temporary residence permits, allowing them and their immediate families to stay in Montenegro for 365 days per year. This programme serves as an incentive for investors seeking residency in a desirable European location.

EU nationals can stay in Montenegro for 90 days within a 180-day period without a visa or permit. Those seeking to establish long-term residency in Montenegro have the option to extend their stay or obtain residency permits beyond this period.

WB: How green and sustainable is this development? 
: Porto Montenegro is committed to environmental stewardship and sustainability, as evidenced by its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives and eco-friendly development practices. The sustainable design of Synchro Yards aligns with Porto Montenegro’s dedication to pioneering innovative solutions to environmental challenges. Aiming for LEED and WELL certifications, the facilities at Synchro Yards will incorporate environmentally friendly features and materials, achieving high levels of energy efficiency and reducing the project's carbon footprint. Porto Montenegro remains committed to becoming the most sustainable yachting development in the world.

In terms of community investment, Porto Montenegro has invested over €3.5 million ($3.7 million) in donations and sponsorships to various sports, educational, and cultural institutions. This "uplifting the community" initiative demonstrates a dedication to social responsibility and community wellbeing.

Regarding historic preservation, Porto Montenegro has undergone a remarkable transformation while preserving elements of its rich heritage as a former historic naval base. The redevelopment efforts prioritise retaining old structures, ensuring sustainable integration with the site's historical significance.

Porto Montenegro incorporates various eco-friendly features to promote sustainability across all its developments. The use of double-glazed windows and moisture-resistant painted walls enhance energy efficiency and durability, reducing environmental impact. Residences equipped with smart home and immersion technology optimise energy consumption and enhance overall efficiency. Dimmable LED lighting reduces energy consumption while providing optimal illumination. The inclusion of air purifiers ensures a clean and healthy indoor atmosphere, promoting occupant wellbeing. In Boka Bay, Porto Montenegro implements sustainable agricultural practices by harvesting fresh, hyper-local produce daily from rooftop kitchen gardens. This initiative reduces food miles, promotes biodiversity, and supports local agriculture, contributing to a more sustainable and resilient food system.

WB: What does success look like, commercially, for PM? 
Jannet: As of 2024, Porto Montenegro has consistently demonstrated success in its residential developments since its inception in 2009. The South Village and Boka Place neighbourhoods’ residences being sold out upon completion emphasise the high demand and success of Porto Montenegro's residential offerings. 

WB: How much of your business do you get via recommendation, word of mouth, banks, family offices, lawyers, accountants, and other channels?
Jannet: Our business comes from a wide range of investors, including family offices, HNW individuals and asset managers seeking attractive real estate investments with a Mediterranean lifestyle appeal. 

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