Finance  ·  Analysis

Cushman & Wakefield Reports Broad Revenue Losses in Q4 Earnings Call

Returns tied to leasing and valuations each drop 12%, capital markets business revenue down 41%

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If 2023 was a hard year for commercial real estate, then it was especially challenging for Cushman & Wakefield

The 106-year-old brokerage reported a 6 percent decline in annual revenue during its fourth-quarter 2023 earnings call Tuesday, citing double-digit annual declines in its leasing, capital markets and valuation businesses. 

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While the firm’s revenues tied to its leasing and valuation lines each declined annually by 12 percent, its capital markets business revenue declined by 41 percent in 2023. 

“People are hesitant to borrow and lend long due to the shape of the yield curve,” said CEO Michelle MacKay during the earnings call. “Once the Fed begins to cut rates, which seems likely later this year, we expect the yield curve to normalize. This should help people get more comfortable to take 10- to 15-year risks to provide a pathway to a more active market.” 

Cushman’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) — a proxy for cash flow — were $570 million in 2023, a decline of 37 percent compared to the calendar year 2022.

However, Cushman Chief Financial Officer Neil Johnston noted that the firm generated $101.2 million in cash flow during the year and that the brokerage holds a secure balance sheet with $1.9 billion in liquidity — a $1.1 billion revolving credit facility and $800 million in cash. 

Moreover, revenue from its property management, facilities services and project management businesses all grew by 3 percent on the year. 

“We do expect trends and capital markets to improve throughout 2024; however, sustained growth is unlikely to occur before the second half of this year, when we anticipate a more conducive interest rate environment,” said Johnston. “We expect the leasing market to be relatively stable for the year and for our services business to grow at a similar rate as 2023.”  

One area most responsible for Cushman’s challenging 2024 has been its joint venture partnership with  Greystone, the industry’s top FHA lender and top agency lender for multifamily financings. The brokerage acquired a 40 percent stake in Greystone in December 2021 for $500 million, hoping to leverage its agency, FHA and servicing businesses. 

Unfortunately, C&W’s Americas EBITDA of $139 million declined by $24 million in 2023 — a drop of 16 percent from 2022 — with $14 million of the decline attributable to the Greystone joint venture, according to Johnston. 

“As FHA volumes remain under significant pressure in the quarter, we continue to believe long-term fundamentals in the multifamily market are compelling, and we expect results in this business to stabilize in 2024,” he said.

The firm’s stock price fell 7 percent following the earnings call. It currently sits at $10.34 per share, down 55 percent from the stock’s all-time high of $23.12 in February 2022. 

MacKay, who took over as CEO in July 2023, tried to rally the troops on only her third earnings call. 

“We are poised to create meaningful value as the market returns to growth,” she said. “We will never settle. We are often seen as scrappy challengers in this market, outthinking others, brave in our decision-making and advice.

“We proudly lean into today’s market challenges,” she added. 

Brian Pascus can be reached at bpascus@commercialobserver.com