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  1. du NationalPost Nobody is selling real estate and few are buying it, so how do you value it? The question dominated a panelist discussion that included the leaders of some of the largest real estate companies in the world. The consensus at the 14th annual North American Real Estate Equities conference, put on by CIBC World Markets, is the Canadian market will see little activity in 2009. Pinned down on what Toronto's Scotia Plaza might fetch in today's market, Andrea Stephen, executive vice-president of Cadillac Fairview Corp., said she couldn't answer. "It is difficult because there is a small pool of buyers," said Ms. Stephen who passed the question on to Tom Farley, chief executive of Brookfield Properties Corp. which is now building the Bay-Adelaide Centre, the first new office tower in Toronto's financial core in 15 years. Mr. Farley noted only three major assets have traded in the past seven years, the last being the TD Canada Trust Tower in Toronto. That was sold at $723/square foot, he said. Ms. Stephen said that figure might be "little rich" in today's market, but said it's hard to establish a real price. When Cadillac, which is owned by the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan Board, bought the Toronto-Dominion Bank's office tower assets the price was about $300 a square foot but that was eight years ago. There is no real pressure on any of the major owners of Canada's office towers to sell, so the type of fire sales that have been seen in the United States are less likely. "You have eight entities that control 90% [of the major towers]. It's ourselves and seven pension funds," said Mr. Farley. "We can weather the storm." Not everyone on the panel was as confident about the Canadian market. David Henry, president of retail landlord Kimco Realty Corp. which is based in the United States but has some holdings in Canada, said rental rates are "falling of the cliff." He did note the company's Canadian portfolio is holding up better than its U.S. holdings. He said there will be merger opportunities as prices continue to fall. Mr. Henry, said capitalization rates have been rising with alarming speed. The cap rate is the expected rate of return on a property, the higher the cap rate the less a property is worth. "We saw cap rates go from 6 to 8.5 in the United States. It may not go as high [in Canada] but it could go to 8," he said, referring to the retail sector. Dori Segal, the chief executive of First Capital Realty Corp., said he still hasn't seen the buying opportunities. "There is not a single grocery anchored shopping centre for sale in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary or even Victoria for that matter," said Mr. Segal.
  2. Toronto : OMERS grabs rest of TD Tower LORI MCLEOD From Saturday's Globe and Mail July 25, 2008 at 8:34 PM EDT Brookfield Properties Corp. has sold its stake in one of the two Toronto skyscrapers that make up its flagship Brookfield Place, a surprise deal that set a new price record for Canadian office space. Brookfield said Friday it sold its half-interest in the TD Canada Trust Tower to co-owner OMERS Realty Corp. for $721 a square foot. OMERS, part of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System, acquired full ownership after triggering the shotgun clause in its partnership agreement with Brookfield, a commercial property company based in New York. The move led to rumblings that friction between the partners may have sparked the deal, but this wasn't the case, said Tom Farley, president and chief operating officer of Brookfield's Canadian commercial operations. “Absolutely not. Brookfield and OMERS have a terrific relationship. The building was and is 100-per-cent leased, OMERS decided they wanted to own 100 per cent … and we found the price to be attractive,” Mr. Farley said. If Brookfield had not wanted to sell its stake, it would have had the option of buying OMERS' stake under the partnership agreement, he added. The record price paid for the 51-storey tower built in 1990 suggests demand for top quality buildings remains strong despite fears of a spreading real estate slump, said Michael Smith, analyst at National Bank Financial. “This sets a new benchmark price for rare, trophy assets, which simply don't come on the market that often,” he said. The next highest recorded price paid for a large office building was $625 a square foot for the Harry Hays Building in Calgary in 2007, according to data from CB Richard Ellis Ltd. Friday's purchase comes at a time when Canada is experiencing its greatest shortage of office space in 10 years. However with 3.7 million square feet in development in Toronto alone, vacancy rates in the city are expected to pop to 10 to 12 per cent in the next two years from 4.4 per cent in the second quarter of 2008, according to CB Richard Ellis. The market will still have strong fundamentals, and the deal confirms Brookfield Place's position as a premier asset in the downtown core, said Paul Morse, senior managing director of office leasing at Cushman & Wakefield LePage. Brookfield still owns 100 per cent of Brookfield Place's larger Bay Wellington Tower, 50 per cent of the complex's shared retail space and 56 per cent of the parking, Mr. Farley said. “If in fact we had sold out our entire interest in the property I would have had mixed feelings, but we still have a significant ownership interest in one of the best properties in Canada, if not North America,” he said. Brookfield's gross proceeds from the sale of $425-million could be used for a variety of purposes, including acquisitions in North America, Mr. Farley said. The funds could also be used to buy back shares or pay down debt, he added. Mr. Smith said the purchase makes sense strategically for OMERS, which has already been doing extensive renovations at the Royal Bank Plaza across the street from Brookfield Place. Representatives from OMERS weren't available to comment on the deal. http://www.reportonbusiness.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080725.wtdcentre0725/BNStory/Business/home