Will we now see a commercial real estate market collapse?
"There is a growing risk of defaults on loans on commercial property this year, in a trend that could spill over into tumbling values and create more jitters in the credit world, analysts and bankers warn.
US property companies that took out big short-term loans to finance acquisitions in the past couple of years at low-interest rates are now struggling to refinance this debt, as banks curb lending and commercial property prices fall.
In recent days, Harry Macklowe, the New York developer, has failed to refinance $5.8bn in short-term loans he used to buy seven Manhattan office towers from Equity Office Properties last February. Deutsche Bank, which provided the loan, has taken control of the buildings and will put them up for sale, a person familiar with the matter said.
Analysts warn of a pattern that could spread. US commercial property prices have fallen 10 per cent in some markets since August, after rising more than 90 per cent since 2001, according to Real Capital Analytics.
'For [recent] loans coming to maturity this year...it will be very difficult to acquire refinancing,' said Sam Chandan, chief economist at Reis, a property re-search company.
Signs of growing stress also exist in the UK commercial property sector. Tomorrow, UK group British Land is expected to announce a sharp writedown in the value of its commercial property. The Bank of England highlighted its unease in its recent quarterly bulletin, noting that 'commercial property prices fell sharply' in recent months, and 'returns on commercial property slowed significantly.'
Most analysts think the scale of problems building in the commercial property sector are far smaller than in the subprime loans market."