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Bust or bottom: Gurus differ on commercial real estate outlook – OCRegister

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HSBC Holdings Plc’s co-head of global banking Gerry Keefe has challenged short seller Carson Block’s call that the commercial real estate market has much further to fall.

“You have to conclude that the bottom is behind us,” Keefe told Bloomberg Television’s Manus Cranny. “I usually think you find the bottom when you can’t find anyone to say anything good about an asset class and I think that was probably Q4 in (commercial real estate) land.”


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Asked about Block’s comments to Bloomberg TV earlier this month that the real estate market reminded him of the financial system in 2007, Keefe challenged his view. “Carson Block’s in the business of saying things like that,” he said.

“We’re comfortable with our (commercial real estate) exposure,” said Keefe.

HSBC has slashed its US commercial real estate holdings in the last year. Full-year results in February showed a 27% year-on-year drop in the size of its US real estate exposure to $3.9 billion. HSBC Chief Executive Officer Noel Quinn said at the time that the bank had been “progressively de-risking” its portfolio.

Keefe had an optimistic outlook for infrastructure and said global project finance was enjoying a boom with large pools of capital in Asia and the Middle East looking for investments.

“We believe we’re entering a golden age for project infrastructure finance,” he said.

The buoyant markets could lead to more hires and Keefe said HSBC “had needs” for more staff. This followed comments in an interview last week by his boss, Greg Guyett, global head of banking and markets at HSBC, who said the company could hire around 200 bankers to boost its ranks.

“It’s basically go-time in the markets” in the US, said Keefe. “In the rest of the world the story is a little bit more complicated. The Middle East is probably the only place in the world right now where you’re seeing announcements of $40 billion funds to invest in AI. That’s probably the most important pool of capital.”

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