Global Property Managers Profit From U.S. Exodus

By Gregory S. Davis | June 18, 2008 AAA

Virtually every business headline you read lately (including this one) has the word "global" tucked away somewhere. There is a reason for that. As the economy sputters here in the U.S., the successful companies seem to be the ones that have diversified their business beyond America's borders. This new focus on opening offices overseas and the continued outsourcing of business operations could lead to improved demand for global property managers like Jones Lang LaSalle (NYSE:JLL) and CB Richard Ellis (NYSE:CBG).

The increasing interest in real estate investments from institutional investors like pension funds and real estate investment trusts (REITs) is also a positive sign for JLL and CBG who charge management and performance fees for their investment services. U.S. real estate assets held by institutions has more than doubled over the past 10 years to $719 billion in 2007. Let's have a closer look under the hoods of these two players.

Jones Lang LaSalle
Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) has carried headlines recently with its acquisition of the real estate services firm Staubach Co. The company recorded a 32% increase in revenue to $2.7 billion at the end of 2007. While revenue improved across all of JLL's operating segments, its growth from Australia, India, Japan and Singapore represented its fastest growing segments last year.

Jones Lang LaSalle's total revenue was up 15% for the first quarter of 2008, but before we get excited, note that total operating expenses jumped 23% during the same time period. A large part of the expenses were due to a whirlwind of acquisitions of property management and business valuation firms from Scotland to Hong Kong. The firm's Investment Management segment, with nearly $50 billion in assets under management, was its best performing segment during the first quarter of 2008 with operating income up 11% to $20 million from the first quarter a year ago. (Learn what those in-the-know look for when acquiring a company, in How The Big Boys Buy.)

CB Richard Ellis
CB Richard Ellis is one of the world's largest commercial real estate management companies. It had a record setting 2007 with $6 billion in revenue. The growth was driven by the acquisition of the development company Trammell Crow and higher global transaction revenue. The company's fastest growth is also derived from is Asia Pacific region including China, India, Japan and Taiwan. For the first quarter of 2008 CB Richard Ellis, achieved a slight increase of revenue to $1.2 billion along with a surge in operating expenses that drove operating income down 32% to $70 million.

Short-Term Performance Vs. Long-Term Outlook
Other competitive property management players include Icahn Enterprises (NYSE:IEP) and Brookfield Properties (NYSE:BPO). Since the beginning of this year all of the property management companies mentioned have outperformed the S&P 500 except for Icahn Enterprises. Taking a look back over the previous five years reveals that all of the players mentioned have convincingly outperformed the S&P 500. (Learn to forecast long-term trends in our related article Projected Returns: Honing The Craft.)

Solid Combination
With the media focused on the credit crisis, investors may often overlook global commercial real estate and the services of property management firms. These companies have found that a mixture of asset management and global real estate service delivery is an adequate bandage for the slowdown in the U.S. economy.

Considering investing in real estate? Check out The REIT Way.

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