REAL ESTATE - Real Estate Investors (REI) finance director Malcolm Lewin resigned last week “with immediate effect” as the group reported a 36.7% increase in its assets to £7.9m (€11.7m).

The firm provided no explanation for the surprise resignation, which leaves REI without a finance director. Marcus Daly, who was appointed non-executive director of the firm in June, will take over the role in the interim.

Commenting on the firm’s half-year results, REI chairman Peter Lewin forecast change in the UK commercial property market.

“Banks have been standing on each other to lend money. Now they’re not exactly pulling their horns in but they are becoming more cautious,” he said.

“The economy is not as robust as one would like and that will affect retail tenants’ ability to pay. Tenant failure will make banks a wee bit more selective.

“There will be more opportunities, with fewer people competing as interest rates rise and external factors kick in. But it won’t happen suddenly.”

His comments came as Lehman Brothers issued overweight ratings on retailers Marks & Spencer and Kingfisher, claiming fears of a central bank interest hike had been “overdone”.

Lewin was sanguine about the impact of external factors on REI’s business strategy. “Markets will always be changing. Like most professional property investors, we don’t mind,” he said, pointing out that the company’s cash balances would allow it to take advantage of available opportunities.