GLOBAL - European listed real estate fell by more than 11.3% last year, with only Switzerland posting a positive return of 10.8%, according to the Global Property Research (GPR) 250 index.

Poland performed worst among European markets, dragged down by the company-specific performance of Global Trade Centre, the only Polish constituent of an index that tracks the 250 most liquid listed equities.

Spain followed with -58.4% - and the index's worst performer, Immobiliaria Colonial - ahead of Italy, which posted -43.7%.

GPR analyst Jeroen Vreeker said: "Why we've seen a drop in the last quarter is a difficult question. There is an overall macro aspect, which is probably the most important factor. Company-specific factors may also have played a part."

Asked whether Europe's downward trend was likely to continue, he said: "I hope not. The fact Europe is down in global terms doesn't necessarily mean that will be the trend going forward."

Finnish property firm Sponda, which has pension insurers Ilmarinen and Varma as major shareholders, topped the European index with 10.6% in the fourth quarter, ahead of Capital and Counties with 9.9% and another UK company, Derwent, with 8.3%.

UK companies account for 32.9% of the European index and three of the top five fourth-quarter European performers.

All except one of the top five performers in the global index were US companies.

The exception was Canadian REIT Canmarc, which returned 55.6% in the year to date.

Vreeker said international investors, especially those in the US, tended to look at ETFs rather than specific stocks for European exposure because European companies only make up a relatively small part of the index.

"They don't tend to look at the European component of a global index as much as they do at the Asia-Pacific component or at US REITs," he said.

European companies accounted for 20.13% of the index at the end of 2009, 16.25% at the end of 2010, but only 13.8% at the end of 2011.

Vreeker attributed the decline in percentage to major IPOs last year coming from the US, Australia and Asia-Pacific - events, he said, that had disadvantaged Europe in terms of index weight.