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Property investment guru Zell backs Brazil, China and Egypt

These countries have a shortage of affordable housing and infrastructures that support foreign investment, Zell told a forum in New York sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton business school.

Zell, chairman of Equity Group Investments and Equity International, is regarded as a wise voice within the industry. He believes that Brazil, in particular, should not be overlooked by investors.

He told the gathering that Brazil is self-sufficient, has a strong pool of skilled professionals and otherwise unlimited resources. It also offers scale, he said, and described how Equity International-owned malls have seen 12% growth over the past year.

'If you look at all of the facts, I don't think there is a better environment in all the world than Brazil,' said Zell, who has suggested the country, could surpass China in economic might in 30 years.

He said there were also promising conditions in Egypt, where 'there is an enormous shortage of housing.'

In Brazil funding for housing has been unaffected by the turmoil in capital markets that has frozen or dampened housing elsewhere, he said. He is currently investing in low-cost housing in China, where results have been good so far.

Much of the financial crisis that has taken a toll on confidence in the world's property market has stemmed from demand in the US and Europe that wasn't real so true demand will have to re-emerge to lead any recovery, he predicted.

Countries to avoid include Japan, which has a shrinking population, and India, where licensing and bureaucracy 'beyond belief' discourage foreign investment, he told the audience.

He also avoids investing in Russia 'where tax authorities could literally steal companies from their owners', and from Turkey, where he fears authorities are against foreign investors.