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Max Property seals its first bumper deal

NICK Leslau&rsquo;s new venture Max Property yesterday clinched its first deal, buying up a &pound;245.4m portfolio of distressed industrial real estate, though the property mogul warned recession bargains in the sector remain few and far between.<br /><br />Max, which raised &pound;220m when it floated on Aim nine weeks ago in the biggest IPO of the year so far, bought the portfolio from Ernst &amp; Young, the administrator to failed investment firm Industrious Group.<br /><br />But Leslau said that the flood of bank foreclosures widely predicted in the recession has proved to be more of a trickle, thwarting investors who had hoped to reap profits from buying up the distressed assets at bargain-basement prices.<br /><br />&ldquo;The general consensus has been that there would be a huge amount of distressed stock put on the market, but that has not materialised,&rdquo; he told City A.M.. &ldquo;The banks don&rsquo;t want to be in a situation where they are forced into big writedowns by foreclosing all over the shop.&rdquo;<br /><br />He added: &ldquo;We still believe they are going to want to work with players they can trust, but it will take years for that value to be unlocked.&rdquo;<br /><br />But Leslau was keen to stress that Max is already on a quest to ferret out its next big property bargain, claiming that opportunities still exist for those prepared to seek them out.<br /><br />&ldquo;There are always deals around, you just have to ferret them out,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Our next investment might be in a caravan or retail park or another area of property: we will go wherever we see value.&rdquo; <br /><br />Leslau, who owns Prestbury Investment Holdings along with financier Nigel Wray, was ranked 438th in this year&rsquo;s Sunday Times Rich List, with a personal fortune of &pound;120m.