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Jones Lang LaSalle on Wednesday underlined the unprecedented strength of the global commercial property market as it reported a 70 per cent jump in annual earnings.

The Chicago-based real estate services group announced net income of $176m for the year to December 31, up from $104m, on revenues up 45 per cent to $2bn. Fourth-quarter earnings grew 20 per cent to $80.4m.

The figures are likely to precede a strong set of annual results from Los Angeles-based CB Richard Ellis, the largest operator in the market, which reports on Tuesday February 6.

Cushman & Wakefield (C&W), a privately-owned US rival with a large global presence, this week reported a 23 per cent in global turnover to $1.5bn. Japan’s Mitsubishi Corporation last month sold a controlling stake in C&W to Italy’s Agnelli family.

Figures from C&W last week showed that 2006 was another record year for investment in the commercial property market with $643bn of stock changing hands, a jump of 33 per cent on the previous year.

Institutions and private investors have continued to invest money into shopping centres, offices and industrial parks, pushing down yields (cap rates), despite many predictions that the global boom is unsustainable.

The strength of the boom is exemplified in the US by the bidding battle between Blackstone and Vornado to buy Equity Office, the country’s largest office real estate investment trust.

The agents have been in pole position to benefit from the strength of the international investment boom, which has shown little signs of waning.

Jones Lang LaSalle has been under some pressure to make a transformative acquisition. CBRE last year strengthened its pole position in the market when it paid $2.2bn to buy Trammell Crow, another large US property agency.

But JLL, which made five small acquisitions last year, today proved that it still maintaining rapid organic growth.

Revenue from the US region was up 44 per cent to $625m. EMEA contributed turnover of $679m, up 38 per cent. Asia-Pacific saw slower growth of 24 per cent to $337m, partly due to a decline in Japan where capital market activity was lower than in 2005. However, China and South Korea both contributed strong growth.

Meanwhile LaSalle Investment Management, the company’s fund management wing, announced revenues up 90 per cent to $384m, buoyed by a high level of incentive fees and a big rise in assets under management from $30bn to $40.6bn.

Colin Dyer, chief executive, predicted “continued healthy conditions” in the world’s major economies, improving real estate fundamentals and consistently strong capital allocations to real estate.

This is despite fears that rises in the cost of borrowing in some developed countries could take the heat out of the market, where many buyers are highly leveraged.

Bruce Mosler, president and chief executive of Cushman & Wakefield, said this week that “capital is being allocated to real estate like never before on all continents and from all corners of the world.”

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