Sternlicht Says Summers Is Wrong on Need for More Lending

Barry Sternlicht, the head of real estate investment firm Starwood Capital Group LLC, said there is an abundance of credit available, disputing a comment made by former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers about banks needing to do more lending to stimulate the economy.

“He is wrong,” Sternlicht said in a Bloomberg Television interview with Stephanie Ruhle from the Robin Hood Foundation’s investor conference in New York. “We have plenty of credit and plenty of lending.”

Summers, in an interview yesterday, told Ruhle “the only way” to get the economy back to normal is with “more confidence, more borrowing and lending, and more spending,” and that maintaining the flow of credit ought to be one of the nation’s priorities. While homebuyers may have trouble getting mortgages, the commercial real estate market doesn’t need additional lending as it recovers, Sternlicht said.

“I am delighted that banks are not stepping up and doing a lot of construction loans on buildings that do not need to be built,” he said. “I am happy with the lending environment.”

Sternlicht, chief executive officer of Greenwich, Connecticut-based Starwood, said he is “bullish” on commercial real estate because of its attractive yields. Prices for U.S. multifamily, retail, office and industrial buildings have increased 59 percent from a 2009 low as investor demand rises, according to the Moody’s/RCA Commercial Property Index.

Foreign capital is “pouring into the United States” in search of long-term investments, said Sternlicht, who is chairman of the Robin Hood Foundation. He said a German fund is expecting a 6 percent return on a new building in Denver that his company sold recently.

Realtors Report

The National Association of Realtors projects modest growth in U.S. commercial leasing in the coming year as the job market improves, according to a report today. The difficulty of accessing loans is a hindrance to a faster recovery, Lawrence Yun, the group’s chief economist, said in a statement.

Sternlicht, in the interview, said he may consider initial public offerings of some of Starwood’s holdings.

“I think you might see our mall business go public, maybe some of our hotels,” he said. “We own more than 100 hotels in the U.S. and building a bunch. It’s a good time to be public.”

He said he is “rooting” for Sears Holdings Corp. (SHLD) and JC Penney Co. (JCP), department store chains that have lost out to competing retailers in recent years. When asked if he wanted to buy the companies, he said, “At the right price, sure, why not? I think we could do something interesting with both of them. They both have interesting opportunities.”

To contact the reporter on this story: David M. Levitt in New York at dlevitt@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kara Wetzel at kwetzel@bloomberg.net

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