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SANTA ANA, CA-Grubb & Ellis Co. foresees little or no recovery in the commercial real estate services industry this year, and only a gradual improvement next year, interim CEO Gary Hunt said Thursday during a conference call in which the company reported a loss of $32.8 million for the second quarter. “We do not anticipate noticeable improvement in the operating environment for the commercial real estate services industry this year, and the improvement next year is likely to be gradual,” Hunt said in his introduction to the Santa Ana-based company’s quarterly call with financial analysts.

Hunt said that the company’s $32.8 million second-quarter loss and its $74.3 million loss for the first six months of the year “reflect a continued slowdown in leasing throughout all sectors and a stalled investment sales market.” The Grubb & Ellis CEO observed that the company’s quarterly earnings calls are “starting to sound a bit like a broken record,” but he said that’s because, “There has been little change from what we’ve reported for the past year. The economy in general and the operating environment for commercial real estate services continue to be extremely challenging.”

In his outlook, Hunt said the consensus is that the recession is close to the bottom and that GDP will pick up in the second half of this year, but the labor market, the most important driver for certain segments of the commercial real estate services industry, “is a lagging indicator, and it may not bottom out until the first half of 2010.”

In light of this scenario, Hunt said that conditions in the office, industrial, retail and multifamily markets “are likely to soften fairly rapidly over the next six months,” with vacancies rising by 1.5% to 2% by year-end. “We do not expect to see an increase in leasing until 2010,” he said.

The Grubb & Ellis strategy since the beginning of the downturn has been “to focus on what we can control, which is to serve the needs of our clients and strengthen these relationships,” Hunt said. In support of that strategy, he said, the company has continued to position itself to achieve its long-term growth objectives, which are based on “delivering integrated real estate solutions to corporate users and individual and institutional investors around the globe.”

The steps that Grubb & Ellis has executed include recruiting more experienced, productive brokerage sales professionals, expanding its platform to capture more corporate outsourcing business and leveraging its investment management expertise to grow assets under management via the introduction of new real estate-related investment programs, Hunt explained. He cited a list of specific actions the company has taken along these lines, including the recruiting of 68 the number of top brokerage sales professionals in the past 12 months, winning three significant corporate services portfolio assignments, winning 20 new property and facilities management assignments during the second quarter for four million square feet of property and forming a joint venture with Meridian Cos. called Energy & Infrastructure Advisors that intends to sponsor retail and institutional investment products focused on opportunities in the energy and infrastructure sector.

The Grubb & Ellis second-quarter loss amounted to 52 cents per share, compared with a net loss of $5.4 million and eight cents per share in the same period a year ago. Revenue declined to $124.6 million for the second quarter, compared with second quarter 2008 revenue of $158.4 million.

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