The AFR’s Ben Wilmot had an interesting story today about a spate of announced property deals falling over due to the global credit crisis.

Charter Hall is no longer negotiating to buy a $200 million industrial portfolio from Multiplex. And why would they when the Charter Hall share price has plunged by 60% in three months and gearing is pushing 50%?

The Roberts family are starting to look like geniuses having pocketed $1 billion in cash from the overblown $7.3 billion sale of Multiplex to Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management last year.

One of the problems with the Australian economy is that such a large proportion of it is dependent on property. Whilst the housing bubble hasn’t burst, the same can’t be said for commercial property, especially assets managed in heavily geared property trusts.

People forget that Macquarie Bank is a huge property play and it is about to book a write-down on the carrying value of its listed property trusts. Units in Macquarie Office, which owns the bank’s Martin Place headquarters, have plunged by 30% since November.

Whilst Centro’s huge portfolio of smaller US shopping centres is deservedly getting most of the attention, Macquarie DDR owns 81 US centres, has excessive gearing of 55% and has just reported a half year loss of $6.4 million. No wonder the units have halved since October.

It is plunging property prices that have helped put MFS and Allco on the critical list. MFS has taken a $900 million haircut on its Stella tourism portfolio and the deal which most hurt Allco was paying $300 million for the Rubicon property business which was not much more than a highly geared $5 billion global property portfolio.

Allco was good at the niche business of leasing planes, trains and ships. It has hit the rocks going big into property and, to a lesser extent, US power stations at a time when easy credit dried up.

The Labor Party’s position is interesting. It owns about 66,000 Allco shares and the union bruvvas at Industry Funds Management are being asked to take on the group’s share of the $1.5 billion US power station portfolio.

Another interesting stock to watch is the MFS Gold Coast cousin City Pacific. Last August, it announced the $49 million purchase of a Gold Coast property called Mariners Cove from the Raptis Group.

It was meant to settle on February 15 but this has now been delayed due to some unspecified council issues. But wasn’t the sale meant to be unconditional?

It’s time we had some fuller disclosure on exactly which announced deals are falling over. For instance, Mirvac needs to re-confirm that its 50% sale of 101 Miller St in North Sydney will really deliver the $236.5 million in cash from Eureka Funds Management promised on Christmas Eve.

Listen to today’s chat about the credit crunch with Deborah Cameron on 702 ABC Sydney.

Peter Fray

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