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Billionaire Investor Howard Marks Says 70% Discount On Offices Might Not Be Enough

Howard Marks has built his billions on bargain hunting, but the steep discounts in the office market still aren't enough to convince him. 

Wells Fargo Tower in Los Angeles, where Oaktree Capital Management is headquartered.

“Let's say you are getting 70% off. Is that enough?” Marks, co-founder and co-chairman of Oaktree Capital Management, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television Monday. “The mere fact that the price of something is down doesn't make it a buy.

“It has to be [that] the price is down more than it should be, given the fundamentals,” he added.

Oaktree, which specializes in distressed lending, has $192B of assets under management. Forbes places Marks’ net worth at $2.2B.

The Los Angeles-based investment firm has taken some losses on office properties, including a 25% haircut on a Miami building in March. It also had a prominent shopping mall in Ireland placed in receivership in May.

Marks’ cautious attitude toward office properties doesn't translate across the rest of commercial real estate. With high interest rates, real estate values falling and maturity dates approaching, lenders will take losses — and firms like Oaktree will be able to step in.

The same holds true for private equity, as both rely on debt to amplify returns, Marks said.

“Right now and going into the future, leveraged companies will not be able to renew their leverage as easily and the cost of doing so will be higher,” Marks told Bloomberg. “That gives us better opportunities than we’ve been seeing.”

Nationally, the office sector reached 20.1% vacancy in the second quarter, passing 20% for the first time ever, according to Moody's. Meanwhile, Wall Street analysts have increasingly seen properties financed by bonds receive new appraisals at 40% to 60% below previous values, according to MarketWatch