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Cushman Plans Takeovers to Raise Revenue From Australia Fivefold

Cushman & Wakefield Inc., the largest closely-held commercial real-estate broker, plans to acquire rival businesses in Australia as it seeks to boost revenue from the nation fivefold by 2016.

The group expects to finalize the purchase of a property valuation company on Australia’s east coast by June 30, said David Woolford, Australian managing director at the company, declining to provide further details. Cushman plans to boost revenue from Australia to at least A$50 million ($50.1 million) a year, from about A$10 million now, and to raise its staff to 300 people from 55 people now, he said in an e-mailed response to questions on May 11.

“We must make substantial acquisitions to take that leap, to be competitive,” Woolford said in a telephone interview from Sydney. “Without having a strong business in Australia, we can’t capture the global clients.”

The company is pushing into Asia with plans to increase the region’s proportion of revenue to 20 percent of total sales in five years from the current 10 percent, Chief Executive Officer Glenn Rufrano said in December. The world’s third-biggest real estate services group behind CBRE Group Inc. and Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. has kept its Australian growth on hold since it began operating as a full-service real estate broker in 2008, and has only recently moved into expansion mode, Woolford said.

Cushman, whose services in Australia include real estate valuation, sales, management, leasing and tenant representation, is expanding in Australia as a shortage of properties and demand from overseas investors and pension funds is expected to boost values of office towers, prime shopping centers and warehouses. Office values will rise 3.5 percent this year, retail 2.7 percent and industrial properties 4.4 percent, Jones Lang LaSalle said in a report in March.

Hiring Plans

Cushman this month said it had hired John Barras, real estate valuer at BarrasValuations Pty and a former director at CBRE, to head its valuation and advisory division in Sydney. It will seek to acquire teams of real-estate professionals and plans more takeovers of valuation rivals to compete with listed competitors CBRE and Jones Lang, Woolford said.

The company, whose Australian business now accounts for about a 10th of its Asia-Pacific operations, will expand from offices in Sydney and Brisbane now to Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide, he said. Cushman & Wakefield, controlled by Italy’s Agnelli family that also controls Fiat SpA, reported net income of $19 million for 2011, on revenues of $236.3 million, according to a statement on its website.

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