Published May 20, 2008

World property markets frozen: Mack

Bid-ask price gaps are too wide, many are sitting on the sidelines

(NEW YORK) Global real estate markets are frozen because buyers and sellers remain far apart on price and aren't ready to concede values won't return to levels achieved in 2007, Apollo Real Estate Advisors LP senior partner William Mack said.

'The markets are kind of stuck,' said Mr Mack, who has helped raise almost US$6 billion for new real estate investments. 'The bid-ask spread is too wide. A lot of money and a lot of people are sitting on the sidelines trying to establish where the next move is.'

Mortgage-related losses have forced financial institutions to write down more than US$300 billion in assets and constrained lending for property acquisitions. In New York City, Manhattan office building sales fell in the first quarter to the lowest since 2005, according to data from Real Capital Analytics.

Recent signs of recovery in shares of real estate investment trusts are 'a bounce off the bottom', said Mr Mack, 68, in an interview last week. The Bloomberg Reit Index has risen 9.8 per cent this year, after falling 22 per cent in 2007, the steepest dive in the 14-year history of the measure.

'The sales market is very, very slow,' said Mr Mack. 'The leasing market has slowed down because there have been a lot of layoffs, and people are not as confident they need extra space and that's throughout the world.'

Confidence won't return to the market until 'everybody believes that the blood-letting and the writing down of assets is over, or near-over', said Mr Mack. 'We need a realisation that terms and conditions that existed a year ago are not going to come back in the near future.'

Property values have fallen and lenders are willing to lend only about 65 per cent of value, compared with 90 per cent in the past. 'Unless you have a good deal of equity, you're going to be out of the game,' Mr Mack said. 'That is the penalty for rolling the dice.' Apollo is waiting for the right moment to start making acquisitions and Mr Mack said he thinks the East and West coast property markets will offer some of the best opportunities.

The gap between sellers and buyers remains 'very large', said Mr Mack, who founded Apollo's real estate unit in 1993 as property markets were recovering from a recession.

The group's investments have included New York's Time Warner Center, the St Katherine Dock office/retail development in London, and the Pascal Tower in Paris.

Apollo Real Estate was founded in 1993 by Mr Mack and Apollo Management LP, a private equity firm. -- Bloomberg