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NEW YORK CITY-ICSC’s meeting next week with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geitner will describe an industry that is improving but still faces uncertainties, said association and industry executives at the 2009 New York National Conference and Deal Making, being held through tomorrow at the New York Hilton & Towers/New York Sheraton & Towers.

The industry meeting with Geithner, scheduled for Dec. 15, will discuss an industry that executives have noted is in a far different and better place than a year ago–but still requires encouragement regarding financing, ICSC President Michael P. Kercheval noted in an industry update.

“Twelve months, 18 months ago when we were talking, there was a lot of doom and gloom,” Kercheval said. “The capital markets were really a catastrophic situation. But things have really turned around.”

REITs have raised $20 billion in financing and are sitting on cash, and the CMBS market is coming back to life with deals involving Developers Diversified Realty, Inland Western Real Estate Trust and Fortress Investment Group. General Growth is working out its bankruptcy, Kercheval added, and retailers have improved their bottom lines through inventory and expensive management. And consumer savings today may lead to spending in the future. “You can’t take it with you,” he noted.

Some retailers are looking at expansion, and liquidity has improved in the last 60 to 90 days, other speakers noted. However, concerns still exist.

Kercheval noted that the lack of new development, coupled with retailer expansion, could lead to a rent bubble that may prove problematic later on. And globalization of financing has made the current workout much more challenging than in the last major downturn in the early 1990s.

“We’ve created not just a banking crisis but a virus that’s spread worldwide,” said Glenn Rufrano, CEO of Centro Properties Group, New York, at another panel. “It amazes me that a financial institution in Australia could own a mortgage on a single-family house in Houston.”

Debt levels also are much higher now, said Simon Ziff, president of the Ackman-Ziff Real Estate Group, New York, with significant refinancing lying ahead. But some progress is happening.

“We’re back at 1993/1994 today,” Ziff said. “If you’re in an area with a good community back, you can get a non-recourse loan. If you have a slightly inferior asset to a perfect asset, you may be able to get a nonrecourse loan.”

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