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LONDON-The events of 11 September will exacerbate an economic slowdown that was already gathering pace, according to LaSalle Investment Management’s Head of European Investment Strategy, Gerald Blundell. Investors will look for safe havens in quality sources of income, especially gilts (government bonds) but also property, he forecast.

‘From a European perspective, in the short-term we expect investors to consider real estate to be a relatively stable place to invest and in the long-term it will be seen as a springboard for renewed hope and future financial growth,’ Blundell said.

However, the economic slowdown will affect property sectors in different ways, and LaSalle forecasts that retail, residential and warehousing/logistics across Europe will suffer less than offices. Office take-up has already been hit by reduced demand from the TMT (technology, media and telecommunications) sector. But the investment manager notes that Grade A office rents have continued to rise in cities such as Dublin, Frankfurt, Madrid, Milan, Munich and Paris.

LaSalle Investment Management’s ‘Market Watch 3Q 2001′ report also highlights five longer term trends that will drive European real estate in the coming years. First, the completion of the introduction of the euro will lead to greater convergence between European markets. With increased economic similarities, values and yields will converge.

Second, the provision of retailing real estate varies greatly across Europe. In the south and eastern economies, where car ownership is still growing rapidly–like Greece, Portugal, Spain and central Europe–opportunities exist for car-orientated retailing such as out-of-town shopping centres.

Third, record levels of mergers and acquisitions across Europe in 2000 have had a significant effect on real estate. An estimated €60 billion ($55 billion) of property will be released onto the market as the newly merged businesses rationalise their real estate assets. But LaSalle Investment Management predicts that these acquisitions will lease-up easily and generate returns above expectations. 

Fourth, congestion on Europe’s roads can only increase. LaSalle Investment Management forecasts that buildings with high parking provisions will offer higher returns. And fifth, urban regeneration in strong cities is growing in importance across the region. But investors must see regeneration projects as long-term propositions even though they can produce above-average returns.

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