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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Japan property investor folds, a subprime victim

TOKYO: A Japanese property investor has filed for court protection from creditors, the first listed company in Japan to collapse from tighter lending in the wake of the US subprime crisis.

Reicof Co Ltd said it had failed with debt of 42.6 billion yen (100 yen = RM3.21) as investments in hotels went sour.

"Financial and real estate markets have deteriorated in the wake of the subprime crisis and we were not able to sell properties or secure loans as expected," Masaki Nogami, a Reicof lawyer, said at a news conference yesterday.

Japanese banks are getting cold feet on property, analysts say, only giving 60-70 per cent of a building's value compared to 80-90 per cent a couple of years ago.

Industry officials say investors are pulling back from Japanese properties as they eye better opportunities in the United States and Europe to pick up distressed assets.

Japanese real estate stocks have been halved in value since mid-2007, also hit by troubles in the residential sector after tighter building codes were introduced.

Credit Suisse analyst Yoji Otani said many real estate firms had already revised down their earnings outlooks and more failures may be yet to come.

"Many real estate investment funds were struggling even before the subprime crisis, and the tighter lending conditions are delivering the final blow," he said.

By Reuters

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