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Banking

The future's bright for real estate finance

The rapid pace of development in issuance and investment techniques means that the progression of real estate to become a global asset class in its own right is not far away. Clive Horwood reports.

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It's a sure sign of a red-hot market when private equity firms begin to invest in size. That is what is happening in real estate.

It began in March when a consortium of high profile firms, including Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Bain Capital, paid $8.2 billion for retailer Toys 'R' Us. They didn't commit over $1 billion of equity and over $5 billion of debt to profit from fads in children's merchandising. What these firms wanted was access to the retailer's extensive portfolio of prime commercial real estate.

In May, the phenomenon came to Europe when Terra Firma acquired Viterra, a portfolio of 150,000 flats in Germany, from the utility E.ON. Terra Firma is the investment vehicle of Guy Hands, the man credited with the leading the development of principal finance during the 1990s. When he takes a e7 billion position on a market, people sit up and take notice.

While these deals grab the headlines, so much more is happening. The traditional real estate development business is set to be transformed in Europe by the creation of real estate investment trusts and new mechanisms to allow companies and investors to exit positions or projects without incurring punitive capital gains tax.

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