Global Investing

from DealZone:

The Office: More tragedy than comedy for UK banks

Pedestrians walk in the financial district of Canary Wharf in London March 24 2009. With property markets stabilising and hopes that the worst of the financial crisis is behind us, Europe's banks are now looking to resolve their next biggest problem: 225 billion pounds of loans backed by UK commercial property.

As Sinead Cruise and I wrote earlier today, banks are now organising to sort through this massive debt pile, picking the good from the bad, foreclosing on properties and selling off what they can.

"Lenders have long turned a blind eye to breaches of covenants as long as they met interest demands by collecting rents. But they are now abandoning this softly-softly approach as the British economy worsens, planning foreclosures on a scale not yet seen in this cycle."

"Until now, banks have only repossessed as a last resort because they feared they would be unable to sell assets in the debt-starved investment market. But a flurry of fund launches and opportunistic rights issues has ratcheted up competition among buyers in the sector, stoking hopes for less costly exits."

Real-estate investors are lining up for a rush of deals in the third and fourth quarters of the year, as many banks are waiting for the fine details of the government's asset insurance scheme, due to be published in July, before they make final decisions on what to do with their loan books.

Dubai dream over for western investors

Real estate prices are in freefall. Billions of dollars worth of projects have been cancelled or put on hold and expats are leaving in droves as they lose their jobs. Once a playground for the rich and super-rich, the seaside emirate — home to palm tree shaped islands, mega malls and luxury sky-rise hotels — has lost its lustre. And bargain-basement assets are not yet cheap enough to tempt buyers back. 

European investors, who once clamoured to Dubai, reckon they can land better deals closer to home or elsewhere in the Gulf. Some analysts are predicting that the more stable markets in Abu Dhabi, Doha and Saudi Arabia to recover faster than Dubai.

 “Dubai is not one for us. I prefer long-term established locations with underlying intrinsic attractions or clear, sustainable competitive advantages,” Bill Hughes, managing director, Legal & General Property, told Reuters.

How to Spend It – for sovereign wealth funds

As dust settles and investor morale improves, sovereign wealth funds are slowly coming back to the market.


But they are not going to simply repeat what they’ve done in the past few years — hunting bargains in everything from property to banks. They are likely to carefully balance out the temptation for higher returns and the need to invest in strategic assets which benefit their own economies.

The so-called “south-south” trade is set to gather pace, providing much-needed capital inflows to emerging markets.

To spend, or not to spend?

A day after Britain unveiled a multi-billion-pound fiscal stimulus package to spend its way out of recession, market analysts have been busy figuring out what it all means, in the context of a sharply slowing economy.

Nick Parsons, head of market strategy at nabCapital, has come to this conclusion:

“People need to spend less, not more, and though little Johnny’s Xbox is indeed 4 quid cheaper, his Dad’s house is worth £3.97 less every hour,”he wrote in his daily note.