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Sub-prime crisis takes its toll on European markets

But stability can be expected if the US avoids recession: DTZ

(SINGAPORE) Shockwaves from the US sub-prime mortgage crisis a few months ago are reverberating through the real estate markets of the UK and Europe, with deals shelved or abandoned.

In its European Quarterly 2007 report, DTZ says the volume of transactions could fall at least 15-20 per cent in the third and fourth quarters this year, from record volumes of 48 billion euros (S$102.7 billion) and 53 billion euros in the first and second quarters respectively.

However, if the US avoids recession, stability can be expected.

DTZ group chief executive Mark Struckett says that in the UK other than central London, a price correction in commercial estate market has been underway since the second half of 2006, so the sub-prime fallout is less of a shock.

The current situation is also being ‘accepted by vendors’, he says.

DTZ says the effect so far is not so much the delaying of deals but renegotiation of price with the re-pricing of risk as providers of debt capital become much more risk-averse.

Given upward pressure on yields in many locations, DTZ believes property returns will be heavily dependent on sound occupier fundamentals and effective asset management.

Making a comparison between current market conditions and the period following the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, Mr Struckett says that unlike five years ago, ‘occupational demand still looks good’.

In general, DTZ does not expect rental prospects to be substantially undermined by recent developments, though there may be increased downside risk for areas such as London’s West End, where hedge funds and private equity firms are important players.

There could be wider adverse repercussions in the City of London and in Canary Wharf if reduced profitability affects the expansion plans of some banking sector firms.

Even so, Mr Struckett says a slowdown in new developments could lead to a supply shortage in 2010-2011, possibly curtailing any prolonged crisis.

So while debt-driven investors will find it more difficult to make deals add up, DTZ believes a correction in yields in some markets could present attractive opportunities for equity buyers such as life insurance and pension funds which to some extent may have been priced out of the market by highly leverage investors.

Quality assets in prime locations could benefit in a generally more risk-averse market.

DTZ believes a flight to quality is likely to put deals involving secondary locations or older stock most at risk, with investors increasingly willing to pay a premium for covenant strength and reliable rental income.


Source: Business Times 27 Nov 07

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