City property debts could spark sell-off

Marion Dakers
CENTRAL London’s real estate market could be flooded by properties in the next three years as around £47bn of property-linked debt becomes due, a director at CB Richard Ellis suggested yesterday.

Mike Edwards, an executive director in central London capital markets, told CBRE clients yesterday that debt-laden landlords could be forced to sell off commercial property if the current sluggishness in the credit supply continues.

“We estimate that 15 to 20 per cent of all real estate supply [in the last 18 months] has been triggered by some sort of financial distress. We expect it to be much greater going forward,” he said at a briefing.

“Over the next 10 years there will be £94bn of debt maturing in central London, and half of that will be in the next three years.”

Edwards said more property owners in the capital might turn to joint ventures to stave off sales. He told City A.M. on the sidelines of the briefing: “Equity could be provided by equity rich investors, from overseas, sovereign wealth funds, UK funds and real estate investment trusts, for example.”

In a possible taste of things to come, the Maybourne hotel group is currently racing to refinance £610m of debt and avoid an asset sale, according to recent reports. The owner of the Claridge’s and Connaught hotels has until the end of the year to refinance.

However, CBRE thinks the slew of property sales will do little to affect the upward pressure on commercial rents.

Peter Damesick, chief economist for the EMEA region, said yesterday the move back to rental growth in London has been much quicker than in previous downturns, adding: “The market has not been suffering from an overhang of supply that we saw in the last recession.”

Damesick said prime City rents have risen 25 per cent compared to this time last year. He added that the government’s spending cuts, to be announced today, were likely to “erode growth slightly”.

He estimated around 8.1m square feet of office space is set to enter the market in 2013 to 2015 if all current developments are brought to completion, helping to ease supply pressure.