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Allan Saunderson is managing editor of Property Finance Europe and a contributor to GlobeSt.com.

FRANKFURT-One of the most significant changes in the structure of European commercial real estate over the last two years has been the withdrawal of US buyers, but there are signs they will become more active now, according to realtor CB Richard Ellis.

Two years ago, at the peak of the market, US investors were the largest single players, making over €20 billion of acquisitions in first half 2007 alone. Although they were also active traders and generated over €9.5 billion in sales in the first half of 2007, they were still substantial net buyers. American investors are now virtually absent from the European real estate market, with total acquisitions of just €400 million in this year’s first half. This withdrawal has not resulted in substantial sales, although €700 million of disposals during the same period made them net sellers for the first time in several years.

“American buyers, correctly so, have been convinced in the last year that there were lower prices ahead,” CBRE Global Chief Economist Ray Torto said. But he added, “Looking forward, there are signs that US investors will start to become more active in Europe in the fairly near future. US opportunity funds currently raising capital are increasingly identifying Europe as a potential investment target and substantial amounts that have been raised in the recent past have yet to be invested.”

Germany has seen the greatest impact of the past withdrawal. The peak of US interest in Europe coincided with a period when German open-ended property funds and corporates were active sellers. The large portfolios on sale proved attractive to US buyers and the nation as a result was the destination for €36 billion, nearly half of all US investment into Europe in 2006-2009. Together with UK and France the three countries together received 84% of total US investment in Europe.

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