CORAL GABLES, FL-NAI representatives from Brazil, Argentina and Mexico outlined factors impacting expansion potential for multinational corporations with operations in Central and South America during the 2006 Latin America Real Estate Forecast. Princeton, NJ-based NAI Global hosted the conference here at the Biltmore Hotel, its second annual such event following an initial one in New York a year ago.

Infrastructure investment, including energy, gas and port expansions in Brazil, are spurring export growth there and sparking an anticipated $18.2 billion in foreign direct investment, according to Paul Caine, managing director of NAI Latin America and the Caribbean. He says Brazil’s export growth is pacing between 10% and 20%.

The vacancy rate in Rio de Janeiro’s class A office market is now 22%, he says. And the vacancy rate in distribution and storage center facilities in the Sao Paulo market is just 13.5%.

Since Argentina’s steep 2001-2002 recession, Mauro Keller Sarmiento, international director of Buenos Aires-based NAI Castro Cranwell & Weiss, cited a 25% increase in that country’s gross domestic product and forecast an increase of 6% in 2006. He anticipates an upward cycle in class A office space, but forecasts especially strong demand for hotel and shopping center development based on rising tourism. Economic growth and outsourcing trends are also expected to increase demand for warehouse and logistics centers, according to Sarmiento.

Automotive suppliers, home appliance, electronics, medical devices and aerospace are among the leading drivers in Mexico as Nafta completes its 12th year, according to Gary Swedback, president of NAI Mexico. In the retail sector, he cited the increased presence of Wal-Mart, Office Depot, Home Depot and Sam’s Club, which combines with expansion plans by Starbucks, Carquest Auto Parts and Safeway.

On the corporate office side, AIG, JP Morgan and ING Lion Fund are expanding. The border cities of Tijuana, Juarez and Reynosa are key locations for the industrial sector, Sweback said, while Monterrey and Mexico City continue to see growth in office, industrial and retail. Guadalajara, he said, is Mexico’s electronics manufacturing hub.

Jorge L. Arrizurieta, president of Florida Free Trade Area of the Americas, argued for securing Miami as the site of the permanent secretariat of FTAA. Henry Goodfriend, NAI Global’s VP of corporate services, said attendance was particularly strong this year “from among hundreds of multinational companies whose Latin American operations are headquartered in Miami.”

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