Cushman & Wakefield, the US-based global property consultancy with 230 offices in 58 countries, reported a loss in Q1 today as well as slow revenue growth, providing one of the weakest earnings statements among the five property companies that have publicly released year-on-year figures for the first three months of 2012. Cushman, through its Italian parent company Exor, said this morning that EBITDA in the first three months of 2012, were a negative $13.5 million, compared with positive earnings of $3.7 million in Q1 2011.

The company also said its revenues rose by just 6% over the same period last year, to $402 million. Last year, it began with a weak Q1 but ended with earnings of $111 million.

It has been an uneven start to the year for the firm. The company’s former CEO, Arthur Mirante, left last month to work at the New York office of the private Canadian brokerage Avison Young, “For the first quarter of 2012, [Cushman] continued with the execution of its growth initiatives, including balancing its service platform and making strategic hires,” the company, led by CEO Glenn Rufrano, said.

In the UK and Europe the commercial property market has cooled down, Q1 2012 volume fell to its lowest level since Q1 2010, with volumes reducing by 31% compared to the end of 2011. Annually, volumes also fell by 1.56 per cent in March, while foreign investors scaled back their activity, leaving domestic buyers to increase their market share from 35% last year to 37%.

Michael Rhydderch, Head of Capital Markets EMEA at Cushman & Wakefield, commented:

"It is not unusual for volumes to fall in the opening quarter - on average since 2006 they have dropped nearly 16% compared to Q4 in fact - but this is not just a seasonal lull, with volumes falling more and falling compared to the same period of last year - which in itself was no high point. There are still plenty of new investors coming into the market, with foreign buyers more dominant than domestic players over the last quarter. However, a shortage of stock, of debt finance and of confidence is holding the market back by perhaps more than we expected given the level of equity demand and the momentum at the start of the year."

Apart from Cushman, most of the other public commercial real estate brokerage firms reported higher revenues and earnings in Q1 2012 compared with the same period last year:

The world’s largest commercial firm, California-based CBRE Group, reported in April that its EBITDA rose by 24% to $140.5 million, on revenue growth of 14%, to $1.35 billion, during the first three months of 2012 compared with the same period in 2011.

Jones Lang LaSalle, based in Chicago, reported this month a global EBITDA of $45.9 million in the first quarter of 2012, up 62% from $28.3 million in the first three months of 2011. During the first quarter of the year, revenue increased 18% to $813 million, the firm reported.

However, in a sign of the weakening commercial rental market overall, JLL reported that its division covering North and South America saw leasing revenue grow by just 5% to $149.7 million in the quarter.

Colliers International, the commercial real estate division of the Toronto-based company FirstService, like Cushman, showed a loss in the first quarter of 2012, however it was smaller.

It reported in April an adjusted EBITDA of negative $2 million, compared with a $2.6 million gain in the first three months of 2011. At the same time, revenues rose by 9% to $213 million.

Newmark Knight Frank (now Newmark Grubb Knight Frank) reported this month through its parent company BGC Partners that it had first-quarter revenues of $44.9 million. It did not report comparable revenue from the first quarter of 2011, or earnings tied directly to its real estate group.

In addition, the Newmark figures do not include revenue from Grubb & Ellis, which was in turmoil over the past several months and did not report earnings for the first quarter. It was acquired by BGC Partners through bankruptcy and was merged last month into Newmark to create Newmark Grubb Knight Frank. The combined firm is expected to have revenues of about $110 million in the second quarter, BGC Chairman Howard Lutnick said this month in an earnings call.