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NEW YORK CITY-By now the shock and dismay stemming from the events of the last forty-eight hours is wearing off, replaced–at least in some quarters-–by calculated opportunism.

These events, of course, are Lehman Bros.’ Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing and Bank of America’s sudden acquisition of Merrill Lynch for $50 billion. To be sure, the impact will be a severe one by many measures: there will be a significant toll on employees of these firms, as well as the local economies in many financial-center cities besides New York. The national economy is also certain to suffer as banks continue to scale back lending in all sectors, from credit cards, to business loans to auto loans.

That said, for some well-positioned firms, the implosion of these investment banks represents new buying opportunities. Indeed, if the discounted assets and securities are priced appropriately, their influx onto the market could finally launch that much-awaited buying spree by the equity that has been sitting on the sidelines for the last 18 months.

“If these loans are priced to market and there is a cram down, that could help precipitate a quicker movement through this downturn,” Steve Pumper, executive managing director in Transwestern’s Investment Services Group, tells GlobeSt.com.

And if that happens, speculates Anthony LaMalfa, a senior manager at the real estate practice at BDO Seidman, the securitization market is bound to follow. “There is a lot of cash out there, and sooner or later it will have to be deployed,” he tells GlobeSt.com.

For people that have capital, this will provide an excellent opportunity over the next 12 to 24 months for them to make investments and earn above-market returns, Pumper says. But there are a number of moving parts to this theory that could go wrong, the Transwestern executive readily admits. First, investors are not at all convinced that we’ve hit bottom, which means they will hold off on acquisitions and purchases of distressed debt. Also, he says, many investors are likely to wait for loans that are coming due in 2009 and 2010–assets that will sustain a double hit with a drop in value plus a much lower LTV available from banks.

Making market-wide prognostications is also difficult because investors are still trying to assess the quality and quantity of these assets. “One number we have been able to verify today [Monday] is that Bank of America has been involved in an estimated $28 billion of commercial real estate transactions since 2001,” Hessam Nadji, managing director of research services with Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Services, tells GlobeSt.com. “Each of these entities has exposure to both properties and mortgages that were issued or acquired after 2005. The most vulnerable part of the market is late vintage paper or properties that transacted at the height of the market in 2006 or 2007.”

Those are the assets most vulnerable to price pressure, he says. Mortgages and properties issued or transacted before 2005 most likely have few performance issues and should have value built up despite the correction that has occurred in the market over the last year.

The key question is how disposition of these assets will be handled–a subject of intense debate and speculation over the past several days. “I assume that all assets are fair game,” says Professor Shawn Howton, an associate professor of finance at the Villanova School of Business and director of the Daniel M. DiLella Center for Real Estate. “This includes real estate. There is a fire sale going on of any assets backed by either commercial or residential property.”

“I assume the bankruptcy reorganization will involve selling as many good assets as possible to make creditors whole or happy,” he tells GlobeSt.com. “Equity holders are in for a very long ride with Lehman.” Unfortunately, he adds, “we need a firm bottom in the housing market before all of these positions can be unwound and some of the uncertainty resolved.

“Without that bottom, the increase in foreclosures and housing supply will continue to reverberate in the rest of the economy, and these real estate assets will continue to lose value, hurting the credit quality of institutions across the board. At the end of the day, there are assets at the bottom of many of these contracts, they are just assets that are declining quickly in value in very levered firms.”

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