• Wider impact of the crunch still to be felt

While there are increasing signs that the worst of the credit crunch is over, the impact on commercial property and the wider economy is still only starting.

British Land, the UK commercial property REIT, said this week that the worst was over for the initial marking down of values after reporting its first loss in 20 years and a 20% drop in Net Asset Value. But now its focus was on "the real economy, customers and rents".

For hotel investors, the outlook is similar, although in most cases existing owners have yet to adjust to the new prices. And the slowdown is being felt elsewhere in Europe, outside of the UK.

According to Investment Property Databank's pan-European index of commercial property values, there was a marked slump in total returns during 2007, down to 5.9% from 12.4% in 2006. Negative returns in Germany and the UK, the two largest economies in the survey, was the main cause.

But commercial property returns also slowed in 2007 in Central and Eastern Europe, down to 13.6% from 18% in 2006. This is a clear sign that developing countries are never entirely decoupled from the economies of the developed world.

The biggest UK REIT, Land Securities, last week reported a similar trend to British Land. One of the group's three divisions, Trillium, is a significant hotel owner with 29 Accor properties across the UK held on turnover leases. These hotels generated an operating profit of £27.1m in the year to March 31.

Francis Salway, chief executive of Land Securities, said in a statement on last week's numbers: "How occupiers respond to current economic conditions will prove key over the next 12 months".

Both REITs are reasonably well positioned in that they are effective and active asset managers, and have low gearing. These are probably the two most important factors for hotel owners over the next year or so as well.

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