Global deals to reach $30 billion again: JLLH

Despite continuing economic uncertainty, Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels forecasts that global hotel transaction volume in 2012 will match 2011 levels at upwards of US$30 billion, according to its Hotel Investment Outlook 2012 report.

“So far, the dislocation in the financial markets has not impacted underlying trading fundamentals. This has reassured investors to a certain degree and has underscored the attractiveness of high quality, income producing hotel real estate as an asset class,” said Arthur de Haast, chairman of Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels. “Constraint will be driven by illiquid markets and the shrinking balance sheet capacity of international banks to lend significant sources of new money. Still, the market will be flush with equity capital that will come into play.”

De Haast said private equity players increased investment activity in the second half of 2011, and he expects them to remain ambitious in 2012. “With significant buying power and risk tolerance in a volatile environment, they are in position to achieve opportunistic returns,” de Haast said. “Notwithstanding, deficient debt markets and limited availability of attractive acquisition opportunities will likely hamper higher levels of activity. Still, these players will selectively acquire assets in secondary locations, as well as distressed portfolios and non-performing loans.”

Joining the buyer mix are sovereign wealth funds and private high net worth individuals who will take a long-term view and make strategic acquisitions globally. Public companies, notably REITs, are expected to focus on existing stable acquisitions rather than new ones, consequently diluting the buyer pool.

The biggest sellers in 2012 are likely to be bank-induced, as a result of debt maturities and consequent refinancing challenges. In addition to the influx of assets expected to come to market, a significant amount of note sales are anticipated as well. Private equity firms and institutional investors are also expected to liquidate some previous acquisitions, either to divest select non-core assets or to return capital to investors as funds reach maturity.

In the United Kingdom, the U.S. and Ireland, institutions with significant real estate exposure have started to place stressed assets into the market, although activity has yet to start in Spain and Japan. Borrowers in Spain have more control over administration processes, as opposed to the U.K. and Ireland, creating reduced certainty for the banks and stemming greater levels of workout activity. Lenders in Japan are still reluctant to realize losses on hotel loans, which is causing delays in sales transactions.

“We expect that portfolio deals will dominate in several of these markets as banks, whenever they have a large portfolio, prefer to look for a portfolio solution to exit as opposed to selling assets individually,” de Haast said.

Emerging markets remain the global growth engine, greatly driven by rising domestic demand. Fundamentals continue to point to further growth in 2012.  Although growth in China and India is slowing both have good momentum, activity is building in Central and Eastern Europe, notably Poland, Russia’s activity jumped up, and South America continues to excite investors, with Brazil as the region’s growth engine.

“Flexibility is a key theme for 2012, and the ability to react to change quickly will feature as a success indicator. Unexpected events, such as political unrest and natural disasters seem to have become “the new normal” and success will be predicated by investors and operators who can calculate risk and adapt the quickest,” de Haast said.