CPE 100 Quarterly Sentiment Survey: Service Sector to Lead Consolidation Trend

The wave of corporate acquisitions in commercial real estate will continue to pick up speed during the next several quarters, and executives welcome the trend as a plus for the industry.

The wave of corporate acquisitions in commercial real estate will continue to pick up speed during the next several quarters, and executives welcome the trend as a plus for the industry, according to the latest CPE 100 Quarterly Sentiment Survey.

3Q13 Sentiment ChartSixty-four percent of CPE 100 members expect consolidation to accelerate over the next 12 months, while 36 percent said that the pace will stay the same. By an overwhelming majority—69 percent—respondents agreed that consolidation is  beneficial; only 8 percent expressed concern that the trend is harmful. The results are based on the quarterly survey of the CPE 100, an invited group of industry leaders.

Despite recent blockbuster deals like American Realty Capital Properties’ $11.2 billion proposal to buy Cole Real Estate Investments, the CPE 100’s sights are focused on service firms.  During the next 12 months, the sector will lead the industry in consolidation volume, according to 57 percent of those surveyed. Another 21 percent believe that capital markets-related companies will be the most active, followed by equity REITs (14 percent) and non-listed REITS (7 percent).

“The trend of M&As occurring at a higher rate within the service side of the industry is also supported by data collected for our annual index of commercial real estate firms,” said CPE Senior Associate Editor Mike Ratliff, who coordinates the CPE 100 survey. “We found that the number of average employees at service firms increased 14 percent since 2011, while owners only saw a 6 percent increase.”

The CPE 100’s expectations may be influenced by a recent flurry of acquisitions by national service firms, including several since Labor Day.  Cassidy Turley reported in September that it had wrapped the acquisition of former affiliates spanning 20 offices in California, Arizona and Colorado. Transwestern revealed that it was establishing a Boston office by buying Richards Barry Joyce & Partners L.L.C., a diversified 35-year-old firm. Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. announced that it had completed its acquisition of Kansas City, Mo.-based Capital Realty.

CBRE Group Inc. expanded its Mid-Atlantic presence last month with the acquisition of Fameco Real Estate, a Philadelphia-based firm with a leasing and property management portfolio comprising 250 retail centers.  And on Oct. 1, Avison Young continued its expansion drive by picking up Dillon Corporate Services Inc., a Dallas-based firm previously affiliate with Cresa. That deal capped a six-week stretch during which Avison Young had acquired affiliates in Greenville, S.C., Tampa, Fla., Philadelphia and Melville, N.Y., on Long Island.

The CPE 100’s outlook regarding the health of the industry and economic conditions has recently become more upbeat in one important respect. In the most recent survey, only 39 percent of participants said that they expected their firm’s performance to improve during the next three months. This time, 64 percent predicted that their company would be performing better.

“M&A is often viewed positively by the industry, occurring as it tends to during recovery periods,”” noted CPE Editorial Director Suzann D. Silverman. “However, this recovery has been particularly volatile, so it bodes well for the industry’s progression that executives are taking such an upbeat stance toward both today’s significant M&A activity and their expectations for their own firms’ performance.”

Regarding other indicators of market performance, the CPE 100s’ views continue to fluctuate mildly, as they have throughout 2013. Half of respondents say that market conditions will be unchanged in three months, slightly less than the 54 percent who offered that opinion during the last survey and 58 percent during the first quarter. Forty-three percent believe that the industry will be in better shape three months from now, nearly identical to the 42 percent who predicted a favorable outlook during the first quarter and up from 31 percent last quarter.