"We don't want to be operators or developers; we don't want anypart of the operation," says Singer, who formed Eastbridge Al Malin partnership with other real estate and energy executive andKuwait-based Al Mal Investment Co. "We want to be the financecompany that an owner or acquirer comes to because they need newequity. My view also is that local owners and operators tend tobest understand the value of any asset and the opportunities, sowhy go compete with them directly?"

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With its headquarters in New York City, Eastbridge Al Mal ispursuing a strategy of working with owners in partnerships that candevelop over time, Singer tells GlobeSt.com. "Unlike many of thetypical funds that have a lot of money on the sidelines for realestate right now, we don't want to be the entity that stands on itsown equity to either restructure a deal or buy a deal," he says."We want to do it with partners and we want to do it with leadpartners."

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Singer says that in devising Eastbridge Al Mal's business model,"we've tried to structure how we make our investments so that wedon't always take the first risk. Hopefully, the owner is going toput in some new equity and take the first risk, so if the marketdoes go down a little, we're cushioned even further. In the end, webelieve that we're investing with strong owners and assets, so thateven if it does go down a little more, there will be a spring-backeffect."

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About a year ago, Singer says, he decided to seek out capitalsources "that were not traditionally easy-reach investors into USreal estate. At that time, most large domestic investors, whetherpension funds or endowments, were pretty much in upheaval becauseof the markets. And also, because I was starting a new business,rather than compete with the traditional large names that havehistorically had success from the institutional marketplace, I'dhave a better story to tell outside the country."

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His search brought him to Kuwait, where he and foundingprincipal Edward Hamilton put together a relationship with publiclytraded Al Mal Investment. In turn, the controlling shareholder ofAl Mal is Al-Kheir Holding Co., belonging to the Al-Kharafi Family,one of the largest conglomerates in the Middle East and NorthAfrica region, with sales in excess of $5 billion annually.

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Al Mal, says Singer, has been largely responsible "for helpingus raise capital throughout the MENA region. The strategy that I'vebeen able to sell throughout the Middle East was a very simple one:the major markets in the US and Western Europe were going to berepriced and were also going to be deleveraged, so the need for newequity was going to be significant. And the ability to put newequity into high-quality, income-producing assets, maybe for thefirst time in two decades, was really going to be the crucialcapital."

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Up until the downturn, securitization was the lead dog incommercial real estate financing. "If you had a little bit ofequity, you could control a lot of real estate," Singer says."That's all changing—changing in a slow process, but it's changing.And that's what our strategy and thesis circles around. We verymuch look ourselves as an equity investor that wants to help theownership community. They're now going to need new equity money, solet's become a source. I've been very successful in Kuwait in beingable to articulate and demonstrate why there is significantrisk-adjusted return in that kind of investing." Both today and inthe next few years.

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Singer notes that Eastbridge Al Mal's fundraising isn't limitedto the MENA region. "We're working on raising money in other partsof the world from sovereign governments and wealthy companies," hesays. "Around the world, there's finally a sense that the US isgoing to come back."

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To date, Eastbridge Al Mal has concentrated on fundraising."We've been very slow to enter the market because we're watching itgo through this process, which also has been slow," says Singer."Financial institutions have not been forced to restructure some ofthe loans they have on their books. But over the next five years,there will be over $1 trillion in mortgage debt that comes due inthis country. It's going to get worked through in one way oranother. We'd like to be part of recapitalizing a lot of thatmortgage debt."

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Paul Bubny

Paul Bubny is managing editor of Real Estate Forum and GlobeSt.com. He has been reporting on business since 1988 and on commercial real estate since 2007. He is based at ALM Real Estate Media Group's offices in New York City.