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JPMorgan, Blackstone Execs Warn Of Deepening Commercial Real Estate Distress


After another increase in the Federal Reserve's benchmark interest rate this week, some of the biggest owners of and lenders to commercial real estate properties are sounding the alarm about possible distress.

“I do think traditional office is much worse in the U.S. than people think, and I think a lot of firms have not been aggressive enough on their marks,” Joan Solotar, the global head of private wealth solutions at Blackstone, said during a Bloomberg Invest conference this week.

Solotar said Blackstone has reduced its ownership of U.S. office buildings from 50% of its portfolio to just 2%, instead focusing on stronger asset classes with future demand like data centers, warehouses and single-family rentals. Solotar cautioned that “everyone is painting [CRE owners] all with a broad brush" while defending Blackstone’s BREIT, which has limited investor redemptions as some have questioned its current asset values.

“We feel great about our real estate portfolio," she said. "That does not mean we do not think that there will be pain. The companies that own traditional office, companies that own malls, this will be a very painful environment for them.”

But the rapid rise in interest rates has already wreaked havoc among tech startups, the repricing of fixed income and in the banking sector. The head of J.P. Morgan Asset Management warns that commercial real estate may be the next domino to fall.

“When the Federal Reserve hits the brakes, something goes through the windshield,” J.P. Morgan Asset Management CEO George Gatch said during the firm’s European Media Summit this week, the Financial Times reported. “Commercial real estate is an area of concern. We have higher interest rates for property developers, how does that impact the real estate market and lenders in that space?”

Gatch is the latest executive to air concerns about the health of the commercial real estate market, especially as banks are facing $270B in commercial mortgages set to mature this year, the highest amount on record, according to Trepp. All the while, asset values have been plummeting, especially among office properties, where prices have fallen roughly 17% in the past year, according to Green Street.

“With over half of the $5.6T of outstanding commercial loans sitting on bank balance sheets, bank lending remains the primary source of funding for the sector,” Goldman Sachs wrote in a recent report. “The recent stress in the banking sector has fueled growing concern about spillover effects on the commercial real estate industry.”