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World’s biggest property companies facing worsening conditions

Japanese Mitsubishi Estate has blamed a faltering domestic economy for the 22% fall in its full-year profit and said the Japanese market remained tough as banks shied away from lending.

The annual profit fall was the company's first in seven years and reflected weakness in the firm's residential property sales business, according to senior executive Yutaka Yanagisawa.

Westfield Group, the world's largest shopping centre owner by market value, reported challenging letting market conditions in the US where investors are still reeling from the demise of General Growth Properties, the biggest real estate bankruptcy in the country's history.

Westfield's co-managing director, Steven Lowy, said consumer sentiment in the US and UK remained weak but it was confident it could meet forecasts as rental income growth in Australia offsets cooler occupier markets abroad.

Anglo-French property company Hammerson admitted it saw further weakness in real estate values in the first quarter of 2009 and said cash strapped tenants present considerable challenges.

The London listed retail property specialist, which owns about £6.5 billion of real estate assets, said that the total income from struggling tenants had risen to £9.3 million, about 2.6% of its total rental income, and that it was seeing a drop in tenant demand in the UK and France. Its overall occupancy rate fell to 92% from 95% at the end of December 2008.

All three companies claimed they had seen hints of recovery in their respective markets but that economic uncertainty and the stubborn shortage of debt has made it impossible to predict the length of the global real estate slump.