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The Financial Times recently focused on continued distress in the Japan real estate market, which we in the industry increasingly feel while developers go defunct daily and debt is still difficult to find.

However, recently regulators have begun intervention in the JREIT market by directing asset managers to remember their fiduciary duty and not sell assets at a discount.  They back this up by monitoring banks and no longer allowing panicky refusal to refinance debt to these low-levered vehicles, which is what caused the NCRI issue. They argue that there was no reason for NCRI to need to file for civil rehabilitation.    Interview with FSA

Vulture investors flocking to Japan for distressed asset deals may be surprised not be able to find them in the JREIT market – except in the extremely discounted pricing of their stock shares.  The pricing of the NCRI bid may also surprise, as the Japan Development Bank is also participating.

But opportunities continue to arise in the real estate market.  Developers unable to sell to REITs and construction companies building it all continue to file for bankruptcy.  There is still a dearth of credit.  The NPL game is starting over again, but the best assets are still tightly owned by the large Japanese corps, conglomerates, and JREITs.

It is clear that distress continues in the Japan real estate market, and now the robust fundamentals are starting to erode due to a now deteriorating overall economic situation.  But we need to remember that the source of distress  in Japan was NOT in the fundamentals (and is not yet, except perhaps A-class office), it resulted purely out of the quick domestic stoppage to real estate debt market liquidity.  In the midst of the mayhem coinciding with a global credit crunch crisis, incidents like NCRI and defunct JREIT sponsors occurred and pulled the JREIT market down.   The government is finally getting their act together and we will likely see JREIT market support kick in as well as new liquidity measures from April and healthy banks looking at the sector again.

For opportunistic investors, the NPL market and developer/construction company-related situations allowing asset / debt discount acquisitions are arising.   For core/equity investors, it may be worth looking at the JREIT market again.

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