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Fourth-Quarter Profit Tumbles 60.6% at Jones Lang LaSalle

Global commercial real estate services firm Jones Lang LaSalle (NYSE: JLL) today reported a drop in fourth-quarter profits of more than 60%. Acquisition and restructuring charges, including severance costs, totaled $30 million and contributed to the sharp decline in earnings. Over the past year the company has cut its workforce by about 800 from approximately 33,700.

For the fourth quarter, Jones Lang LaSalle reported net income of $41 million, or $1.17 per share, compared with net income of $105 million, or $3.16 per share for the same period in 2007. The company’s share price closed up more than 17% on the day to finish at $26.90, but still well below its 52-week high of $90.83.

During this morning’s earnings call, CEO Colin Dyer acknowledged the tough financial pressures facing the firm. “The financial crisis has vastly reduced the availability of private credit around the world and has had a negative impact on all asset prices, including commercial real estate.”

Although profits tumbled, one bright spot in the report was the firm’s corporate solutions business for the Americas. The unit provides outsourcing services including transactions, project development and integrated facility management. Revenues for the corporate solutions segment grew 29% for the year and 26% in the fourth quarter on a year-over-year basis.

Lauralee Martin, chief operating and financial officer of Jones Lang LaSalle, noted during the call that the company is already structured to help clients weather the financial storm and work through any problems they may encounter. “But then very quickly [clients will ask] can we do the property management, can we do the leasing, can we do the capital markets,” said Martin. “They’re going to need to create value if they can’t sell [properties], or at least maintain value. It’s that cycle of positioning that we want to get ourselves in the middle of.”

For the year as a whole, the company’s net income totaled $84 million, or $2.44 per diluted share of common stock, compared with net income of $256 million, or $7.64 per share for 2007.

The purchase of tenant representation firm Staubach in July 2008 helped boost revenues in the Americas 22% in calendar year 2008 and 26% in the fourth quarter. Revenue for the year in the Americas region totaled $933 million, of which Staubach contributed $128 million.

Revenue from management services – which includes property management and investment management — in the Americas rose 17% in 2008 to $422 million, and 10% in the fourth quarter to $127 million.

Meanwhile, transaction services revenue aided by the Staubach acquisition increased 26% for the year, to $479 million, and 39% in the fourth quarter, to $177 million.

Preliminary data from Real Capital Analytics indicates that the value of commercial real estate transactions in the U.S. fell 70% in 2008. Transaction volume in the fourth quarter of 2008 fell 80% on a year-over-year basis.

“Office markets around the world are experiencing higher vacancy rates, lower leasing volumes, weak net absorption and negative rental growth,” Dyer said. “In our U.S. target markets, gross absorption was down 14% from 2007 to 2008. And in Europe, gross take-up was 12% down compared with 2007 volumes.”

In the Asia-Pacific region, revenue totaled $536 million in 2008, down from $602 million in 2007. On a quarterly basis, revenue for Asia-Pacific totaled $144 million in the fourth quarter, down from $170 million a year earlier.

Revenue in Asia-Pacific stemming from management services — driven by corporate outsourcing, facility management and property management — totaled $245 million for the year, a 19% increase over 2007. Revenue from management services totaled $65 million for the fourth quarter, up 15% from a year earlier.

“Against this challenging environment [in Asia-Pacific], we’ve taken a number of actions,” said Martin. “On the cost side, we’ve taken aggressive reductions in our staffing levels. On the revenue side, we’re focusing our energy on clients needs, building a client recovery service offering, portfolio management capabilities in our hotel business, and strong corporate finance capabilities in our capital markets groups.”

Under the institutional advisory umbrella, LaSalle Investment Management generated $352 million in revenue for 2008, compared with $371 million in the prior year. Fourth-quarter revenue was $91 million, compared with $115 million in 2007.

LaSalle Investment Management raised $2.9 billion of equity during 2008 compared with $10.1 billion in 2007. Investments made on behalf of clients totaled $4.1 billion compared with $8.4 billion in 2007.

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