REAL ESTATE – The German arm of US private equity firm Cerebus has reportedly lost the head of its real estate business as well as five other employees from the unit.

According to Germany’s Börsen-Zeitung, Ralf Winter, head of real estate at Cerebus Deutschland, has resigned with immediate effect along with the other employees.

The newspaper did not any sources for its information nor did it give an explanation for their departure.

The newspaper also said Saul Goldstein, Winter’s deputy, would remain with the firm. It added that David Knower, head of Cerebus Deutschland, was also staying.

A spokesman for Cerebus was not immediately available for comment on the report.

Like its peers Fortress and Terra Firma, the company started by UK private equity mogul Guy Hands, Cerebus has accumulated an enormous portfolio of private flats in Germany in the past few years.

To date, Cerebus has 120,000 flats, many of which stem from its acquisition of a formerly state-owned real estate firm in Berlin and a formerly union-owned property firm.

Analysts expect that Cerebus, a classic short-term investor, will not hold on to the properties for the long-term but instead offload them when it can realise a decent profit. Fortress and Terra Firma have a similar business model, and Fortress has even signalled that it may float residential properties on stock exchanges later this year.

Beyond seeking to make money in German residential housing, Cerebus Deutschland has emerged as a leading buyer and securitiser of non-performing real estate loans.

Separately, the real estate broker Atisreal has given another indication that the German commercial property market – which has been weak since 2001 – is recovery. According to Atisreal, demand for available office space in the first quarter rose 18% year-on-year.