Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sam Zell: "Very Few CRE Financings In 2003-2007 Are Above Water"

Following up on the theme Zero Hedge discussed that the vast majority of commercial real estate backed loans have negative equity, real estate tycoon Sam Zell yesterday, in a presentation to the Milken Institute, said that "you have a scenario today where you have very few '03 to '07 financings that are above water. You have more debt than you have value." As owners of these properties have more debt than value, sales of properties over the next two to three years will be minimal as none of them would result in a deleveraging. Instead Sam Zell says "investors will buy distressed debt as these properties go into foreclosure."

Sam Zell's observation was in response to the disclosure by David Simon, CEO of SPG, that the REIT had attempted to purchase real estate from bankrupt rival General Growth Properties shortly before it filed for chapter 11. Per a Bloomberg article:
“They didn’t realize they were a distressed seller,” Simon said in a panel discussion at the Milken Institute Global Conference today in Beverly Hills, California. Few commercial real estate sales are being completed because sellers aren’t willing to take losses on their investments, Simon said.
This goes to the heart of the CRE problem: as no owners of negative equity properties are motivated to sell (why contribute equity to force a sale), existing properties will merely see continuing declining cash flows with no underlying property ownership exchanges, until either the loan defaults or the borrower (REIT xyz) files for bankruptcy as interest costs overwhelm cashflows. The last fact is the reason why Scott Minerd, CEO of Guggenheim partners said "Equity players have every reason to keep playing for time." That explains all the recent REIT dilution actions, who, together with any investors who "dollar cost average down" on their REIT positions, are merely hoping the U.S. government will be successful in reinflating the housing and rent bubbles yet again and property values rise above loan values, resulting in at least nominal equity value. For investors who like betting on those kinds of odds, Craps or even Black Jacks may be a better expression of risk appetite. Sphere: Related Content
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