David Oakley reports the imminent launch of a U.S. commercial property derivatives market trading platform as early as this week. (See "Property derivatives poised for US launch", Financial Times
, March 5, 2007.) Estimated at $26 trillion in value, Oakley writes that "property is one of the few major asset classes without a developed derivatives market in the U.S."
Four banks have signed with the National Council of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries to license their index data for three years - Bank of America, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, and Merrill Lynch. Click here
to read the NCREIF press release.
This type of financial instrument has already taken hold in the UK with a property derivatives market that has grown to nearly $10 billion in the two years since inception. No surprise then that US banks will plan to follow suit, especially with respect to the use of good data (cited as a driving factor behind the UK experience).
Note that the NCREIF Property Index (NPI) is self-described as "a unique property valuation and performance metric. It is the largest, oldest, and most recognized measure of institutional quality, privately owned commercial real estate in the U.S. The benchmark represents (as of Fourth Quarter 2006) marked-to-market valuations on 5333 U.S. properties reported quarterly by a large number of institutional owners and fiduciaries. It has a total market value of $247 billion. The NPI includes sub-indices by property type, and location."
Structured as a type of interest rate swap, one counterparty receives a cash flow tied to real estate market performance. A second counterparty receives a variable rate-driven cash flow every few months, tied to LIBOR (London Interbank Offered Rate).
For a pension fund unable to buy property and/or allocate monies to a real estate investment trust or real estate private equity fund, this new derivative may be a good workaround. Suitability will depend of course on many factors such as terms specific to the derivative instrument contract, what the plan is seeking to achieve and whether exposure to real estate makes sense.
The Baltimore Sun
reports continued good performance as recently as two months ago. (See "Commercial real estate funds continue to thrive
" by Andrew Leckey, originally published January 7, 2007.) On the other hand, valuation and liquidity must be taken into account. Future expected risk-adjusted returns and correlation patterns with other assets are similarly important.