Real Estate in Brief

Samonov Launches Fund

Accent Real Estate Investment Managers, an investment company headed by Alexander Samonov, the former owner of the Kopeika chain of supermarkets, will launch a $500 million fund next year to invest in troubled real estate projects, RBC reported last week.

The fund, which plans to start marketing in March 2009, is to focus primarily on unfinished commercial real estate projects that were halted because of a lack of financing, although up to 30 percent of the fund's assets will be allocated for investment in residential projects, the company told RBC. (MT)

Cyprus Slowdown

Cyprus began experiencing slower property sales as the global credit crisis reduced the number of foreigners seeking homes on the Mediterranean island, Finance Minister Charilaos Stavrakis said. In a speech last week at the Cyprus International Institute of Management, Stavrakis said the slowdown in the economy of Russia might also impact Cyprus because of their developed business ties. Cyprus expects the economy to grow by 3.7 percent next year, compared with a 3.9 percent forecast for this year, he said. Some slowdown in economic activity "might be inevitable," but with "no dramatic effects," he said. (Bloomberg)

Mirax Approaches Gazprom

Mirax Group, the Russian developer owned by billionaire Sergei Polonsky, has offered Gazprom's finance unit the opportunity to buy projects in western Moscow, Kommersant reported.

Mirax approached Lider, which manages pension funds for the state-run gas producer, to buy or co-invest in projects it has yet to start, the Moscow-based newspaper said, citing an unidentified Moscow property developer.

Mirax chief financial officer Alexander Paperno said last week that the company may offer stakes in its projects, Kommersant said. Mirax is not currently planning to sell assets, the newspaper said, citing deputy chairman Sergei Sadovnikov. (Bloomberg)

JPMorgan Warns on Russia

Investors should "steer clear" of Russian real estate stocks because the industry will be the country's "hardest hit" in the event of a global economic recession, JPMorgan Chase & Co. said.

Real estate and construction companies, already facing higher borrowing costs, may see a drop in demand for property if the global economy contracts, slowing Russian economic growth to 4.5 percent next year under the brokerage's "pessimistic" scenario, JPMorgan wrote in an investors note yesterday.

"When people own more than one apartment, they are likely to sell one in times of financial difficulty," wrote JPMorgan strategists including Peter Westin in Moscow. "This could bring pressure to bear on currently high property prices." (Bloomberg)

Strabag Postpones Cement

Strabag, Central Europe's biggest construction company, postponed plans to establish a cement unit in Russia as financial turmoil leads it to cherry pick investments.

Prices are beginning to slide in Russia after import tariffs were abolished, Villach, an Austrian-based company, said in a statement yesterday.

"The decision does not impact our aim to double the output volume in Russia each year," Strabag Chief Executive Hans-Peter Haselsteiner said in the e-mailed statement. "In the current financial environment, we have to select our investments carefully." (Bloomberg)