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Under new management and the new owner Gazit, Atrium’’s analysts expect new financial power from the former MEL.

Former MEL back on analysts’’ radar screens

The Austrian real property stocks are still in the stranglehold of the markets. Analysts from the major bank UBS conclude in an examination that the real property markets of CEE still have a lot of catching up to do, but that the current weakness will be more persistent than expected - for reasons that already have been named many times.

In comparison, good performance
The new situation brought more attention to a security that up to now has played the thankless role of the sector's Cinderella: Atrium, formerly Meinl European Land (MEL). The MEL stock security performed better than the total market and, compared to its climax, does not show bigger losses than its competitors. Particularly since announcing Gazit's buyout in March 2008, Atrium has done better than other real estate papers. Atrium even bears comparison with international participants in the sector with a big rate of supermarkets in their portfolios, such as GTC, Plaza Centers and Orco: since March, the East heavyweights have partly dropped more than the half. "Atrium's good performance in comparison to the peer group is due to the portfolio's high quality.

On the other hand, Atrium has enough liquidity - nearly two billion euros - to finance development projects, thanks to its proactively planned and early implemented transaction with Gazit", says Peter Weinzierl, board member of Meinl Bank. "Other market participants had to stop and even sell their projects. We have always said that financing projects in Eastern Europe could become extremely hard due to the markets' development. Such a scenario set in." Many of the sector's players have actually announced to pull back projects in the pipeline, among them industry giant Immoeast.

Some developers retract from the important market of Russia and will not start any more projects in 2009. Among them, heavyweights such as the Mirax group can be found - originally set to erect Europe's highest building in Moscow. The fact that Atrium does not perform worse, and partly even better, than other comparable market actors could seriously complicate the presentation of a claim and of the causality between the redemption of certificates and exchange loss. Therefore, the bank reacts calmly to possible claims for damages.

Scarce office space
Modern office space is still scarce in Moscow and St Petersburg. In other Eastern European countries there are also still market opportunities - and those who got the money to utilise them will be in charge; at least, these are the hopes at Atrium. The experts from Sal. Oppenheim affirm, "After a 500 million euro 'infusion' from Gazit, the introduction of a new management team and the name change, the company has earned the right to return to the investors' radar screen." Altogether, Atrium would need about 2,4 billion euros to complete the projects in the pipeline. Indeed, there is still a lot of uncertainty when it comes to the new management team, to the actual realisation of the projects and to the cost structure; therefore, Atrium must be evaluated as "neutral". However, a reconsideration in the near future is realistic.
(Source: Medianet)

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