日期:2011-06-27 11:23


A special report on property

Prime numbers

Commercial property has bounced back, but only in the best locations

Shard ascending

IN SOME corners of the commercial-property market a slight whiff of self-congratulation is in the air. Doom-laden warnings issued in 2008 and early 2009 that commercial real estate would be the “next shoe to drop” have not come to pass. Opportunistic investors hoping to cash in on the sale of distressed assets have been largely disappointed. Governments have intervened less than they have in housing (there are fewer votes in office buildings and shopping centres). “Commercial real estate was not at the heart of the crisis,” says a big fund manager in Germany.

在商业地产市场的某些角落里,空气中漂浮着一丝自得的气息。商业地产将会是“下一只掉落的鞋子”——这条2008年和2009年初发出的警告并没有最终成为现实。那些希望靠出售问题资产赚钱的机会型投资者多半沮丧而归。政府对商业地产的干预比对住宅所做的干预要少(写字楼和购物中心的选票少)。“商业地产不是这次危机的中心,” 德国一个大型基金的经理人这样说。

Investors’ interest in the asset class is growing, thanks in large part to the extreme macroeconomic environment. Near-zero interest rates make the yields on offer from property look attractive. The cashflow from tenants is more stable than that from equities, where values zigzag day by day and dividends can suddenly be suspended by the management. And unlike many types of bonds, property is seen as a useful hedge against inflation because rental agreements can be renegotiated with tenants to reflect rising prices. Bulls note that Norway’s $543 billion state pension fund, one of the world’s largest sovereign-wealth funds, is starting to allocate money to property. It made its first real-estate investment in January, spending £452m ($723m) on properties in London’s Regent Street.

投资者对资产类别的兴趣正在增加,很大一部分原因是极端的宏观经济环境。近于零的利率使得房产提供的收益看起来很具吸引力。来自承租者的现金流比来自股票的更稳定,后者的价值日复一日地曲折前行,而且红利可能突然就被管理方中止。而且和许多类型的债券不同,房地产被看作是对冲通胀的利器,因为可以与承租者重新协商租赁协议,以此来反映上涨的物价。看涨者们注意到,挪威5430亿美元的政府养老金(世界上最大的主权财富基金之一)正在开始向房地产分配资金。该基金在一月份进行了第一笔房地产投资,把4.52亿英镑(7.23亿美元)投在伦敦丽晶街(Regent Street)上的房产。

Led by Britain, which had seen the steepest fall of the big property markets (see chart 5), values are rising again. According to IPD, which provides information on property markets, British commercial property delivered a total return of 15.2% in 2010, its strongest performance for four years. Investing in property has paid off handsomely for many since late 2009. Global REITs performed twice as well as global stocks and bonds in the 12 months to the end of September 2010. Take a closer look at this resurgence, however, and the picture becomes more complicated.


In one crucial respect, the bubble in commercial property was less dangerous than in the residential sector: there was no development boom and hence no oversupply. The enormous amount of liquidity sloshing around the system was directed at acquiring existing properties rather than building new ones. “This was an excess of capital, not an excess of cranes,” says Jonathan Gray, the boss of Blackstone’s real-estate business.

一个关键点是,商业房产的泡沫不如住宅板块的泡沫危险:没有开发热,因此也就没有过度供给。该系统周围庞大充盈的流动资金被用于购买已有的房产,而不是用于新建。“这是资金的过剩,不是起重机的过剩”,黑石集团(Blackstone)房地产业务总裁乔纳森·格雷(Jonathan Gray)说。

That flood of money drove up debt burdens and property values and reduced yields (the ratio of the income flow from a property to its value). Madness became routine: the 110% loan-to-value financing for a hotel in Germany, offered to a borrower with no knowledge of either hotels or Germany; the fact that yields on Grafton Street in central Dublin, hardly a retail paradise, came close to those in some of the world’s most prestigious shopping streets; the willingness of staid fund managers to base their investment case on capital gains rather than rental growth.

这些流动资金增加了债务负担和房产价值,减小了投资收益(来自房产的收益与其价值之比)。疯狂成为常态:在德国,贷款投资一家酒店的贷款价值比(loan-to-value)达110%,而借款方既不懂酒店,也不懂德国;都柏林市中心的格拉芙顿街(Grafton Street)很难说得上是一个购物天堂,但是那里的投资收益接近世界上最知名的购物街;古板的基金经理更愿意让他们的投资案例凭借资本收益获得成功,而不是靠租金的增长。

If the market had been left to run for a little longer, it might have become crazier still. Just before the crisis broke, there had been talk of securities made up exclusively of riskier development loans. But in contrast to the overbuilding of the early 1990s, when rapid rental growth persuaded developers to dig lots of holes in the ground, this time lenders and investors were disciplined enough to want income-producing properties; they were just not disciplined enough to price the risks correctly.


Indeed, if there is going to be an imbalance in commercial property now, it is more likely to involve a scarcity of supply. As prospects for economic growth gradually improve, demand from large companies, which are sitting on lots of money and are able to take a long-term view of the business cycle, is picking up. Yet there is very little development in the pipeline, at least in the rich world. Estimates from CBRE show that 65% of the new office space due to come on stream in big cities between 2010 and 2012 is in Asia and just 8% in North America. As a result, says Brett White, the firm’s boss, vacancy rates will go down and rents, which have already stabilised in many places, will go up: “Power is very quickly shifting from the tenant to the landlord.”

实际上,如果商业地产出现失衡的话,更有可能是供给不足。随着经济前景的逐渐变好,那些资金雄厚并且对商业周期能够长远考虑的大公司,其需求正在增加。但是新开发的商业楼盘却是少之又少,至少发达国家是这种情况。据世邦魏理仕公司(CBRE)的估计,2010~2012年将开工的新建商业楼盘中,亚洲占到65%,而北美只占8%。“结果就是,空置率将下降,出租率将上升(许多地方的出租率已经非常稳定了),” 该公司的总裁布雷特·怀特说,“权力将很快从承租方转到出租方。”

Some are well placed to benefit from a prospective squeeze on space. A cluster of new buildings is going up in London, with nicknames like the Shard, the Walkie-Talkie and the Cheesegrater. Francis Salway, the boss of Land Securities, a big developer, says his firm made a conscious decision at the start of 2010 not to be too risk-averse. It has since committed itself to development projects costing over £1 billion. Mr Salway reckons that there could be a shortage of new office space in London by the end of this year; completion of his next project in the city is not due until 2012.

一些开发商已经准备好从预期的拥挤空间中受益。伦敦的一批新楼盘正在拔地而起,并有了“碎片(Shard)”、“步话机(Walkie-Talkie)”和“干酪擦(Cheesegrater)”这样的绰号。大型开发商“土地证券”(Land Securities)的老板弗朗西斯·萨尔维(Francis Salway)说,他的公司在2010年初做出了一个清醒的决定——公司将不会过分规避风险。该公司自那时起用在开发项目上的资金超过了10亿英镑。萨尔维认为,到今年年底,伦敦的新建写字楼可能会呈现短缺状况;他在伦敦城下一个项目的完工要等到2012年。

Quality streets

Outside London, the chances of an immediate surge in new building are slight. Debt financing for development projects, which lenders inevitably class as risky, is very tight. Land Securities has been able to start building in part because it raised lots of equity during 2009 and in part by joining with others. The Walkie-Talkie building, work on which started in January and is due to be completed in 2014, is a joint venture with Canary Wharf Group. And London is arguably a special case: the city’s leases tend to be unusually long, often 25 years, which means that tenants in old offices whose leases are due to expire in the next few years may want to up sticks for a modern building.

在伦敦之外,新楼盘迅速矗立的机会渺茫。针对房地产开发项目的债务融资非常紧张;银行不可避免地会把这样的项目定级为“危险”。“土地证券”之所以能够开始新楼盘的建设,部分原因是该公司在2009年募集了许多资金,还有部分原因是这些项目是与其它公司联合开发的。一月开工、定于2014年完工的“步话机”大厦就是与金丝雀码头集团(Canary Wharf Group)的合作项目。而且伦敦可以说是一个特别的例子:该市房屋的租期往往格外长,经常是25年的期限,这意味着旧写字楼中的租户,如果其租约几年内就到期的话,可能会想要搬到一个更现代的大楼中。

In any case, all this talk of rising values and space constraints can be misleading. The recovery in commercial property is confined to the best, or “prime”, assets. Prime is an overused word in the industry, but in essence it means the best buildings in the best locations, with good tenants and long leases. For offices, that means buildings right in the centre of big, international cities. For other types of commercial property it might mean something different: a great logistics centre with a long lease, for instance, might be near a motorway and nothing much else.

不管怎样,所有这些升值以及空间紧张的说法可能颇具误导性。商业地产的复苏只局限于最好的、或者说“顶级(prime)”资产。“顶级”是这个产业中被过度使用的一个词,但是这个词的本意是指位于黄金地带的最优质房产,而且有很好的租户和长期的租约。对于写字楼来说,“顶级”意味着位于国际化大城市中心地带的房产。对于其它类型的商业地产来说,这个词的意思可能有些不一样: 一个拥有长期租约的大型物流中心,比方说,可能位于高速公路附近,此外就没有多少其它的要求了。

In the boom the distinction between top-quality assets and lower-quality ones (also known as “secondary” and “tertiary”) blurred. Money chased property of all sorts, closing the yield gap between the best and the rest. Not any more. Investors are now generally much more conservative, in part because they have more of their own equity at stake. That points them towards big cities where it is easier to get into and out of investments and where demand from high-quality tenants is concentrated. Money that had been raised to buy distressed assets was also switched into safer ones when it became clear that bargain properties were not coming to market in great numbers (of which more below).


In a faint echo of the boom itself, this weight of money chasing “safe” assets carries risk. Some think that prices for prime properties have already bounced back too far. “The next bubble may be under way in some markets,” says Matthias Danne of Deka, the largest provider of open-ended property funds in Germany. Correlations also tend to go up when property companies chase the same sort of tenants and locations: a portfolio of city-centre office buildings full of blue-chip banks looked stable until the crisis. And the desire for secure, long-term leases can easily backfire if interest rates rise, which will make yields look much less appealing. “A real snapback in interest rates is the big real-estate risk,” says Mr Gray at Blackstone.

和繁荣时期有点类似,这些追逐“安全”资产的资金也带着风险。有些人认为顶级房产的价格反弹得太厉害。“下一个泡沫可能正在某些市场酝酿着,” Deka(德国最大的开放式基金提供商)的马提亚·丹纳(Matthias Danne)说。当房地产公司追逐同样类型的租户和地点时,关联性也在增加:城市中心一批满是蓝筹银行的写字楼看起来很稳定,直到危机的发生。而且如果利率升高的话(这使得租赁收益的吸引力变得大打折扣),对于安全、长期租约的渴望会很容易消退。“利率真正的好转对房地产来说是个很大的风险,” 黑石公司(Blackstone)的格雷先生说。

Blackstone’s strategy is to invest opportunistically: it looks for empty and run-down buildings that it can improve and sell. For less ambitious investors, the obvious way to find better-value properties will be to take on risk gradually. That might mean accepting shorter lease lengths, with a view to refurbishing a building on expiry and then increasing rents. It might mean staying in the biggest cities but plumping for lower-quality assets, or moving into the best locations in secondary cities. Or it might mean going for the very best assets in less attractive countries.


Some fund managers make the case for prime properties in Spain. In December Deka bought a shopping centre in Bilbao for

  • imbalancen. 不平衡,失调
  • extremeadj. 极度的,极端的 n. 极端,极限
  • appealingadj. 引起兴趣的,动人的
  • strategyn. 战略,策略
  • pipelinen. 管道,管线
  • slightadj. 轻微的,微小的,纤细的,脆弱的 vt. 轻视,
  • commercialadj. 商业的 n. 商业广告
  • globaladj. 全球性的,全世界的,球状的,全局的
  • attractiveadj. 有吸引力的,引起注意的
  • chasen. 追求,狩猎,争取 vt. 追捕,狩猎 vt. 雕刻