Moving well beyond the recovery stage, the commercial real estate industry is experiencing a wave of new development and brisk activity on the mergers and acquisitions front. Add to the mix improving rents and occupancies and an abundance of low-cost capital, and the result is a high-octane deal-making environment.

In this special section, NREI ranks the largest companies in the industry across several disciplines and property sectors. A trends story accompanies each ranking.

Hotels are the hottest assets, and for good reason. Occupancy, revenue per available room, and average-daily rates have been rising steadily over the past few years, making this segment ripe for M&A activity. Hotel investor RLJ Development LLC is in the process of acquiring 100 hotels from White Lodging Services for $1.7 billion. RLJ ranks No. 25 on NREI's ranking of Top Hotel Owners with 5,754 rooms and 30 hotels in its portfolio at the end of 2005. Once the deal is complete, RLJ will own more than 19,000 rooms.

In the industrial sector, development is on the rise. ProLogis developed or had under construction 25.2 million sq. ft. at the end of 2005 compared with 11 million sq. ft. a year earlier. Panattoni reports a similar spike. In 2005, the company developed or had under construction 20.6 million sq. ft. compared with 10.9 million sq. ft. the previous year.

In terms of methodology, an e-mail survey was sent to 500 companies in April. Only the top 25 companies in each category appear. The data covers the 2005 calendar year. Participation was voluntary. The ranking of the top shopping center owners was originally published in NREI's sister publication, Retail Traffic. Brokerage and lending totals first appeared in the April and May issues, respectively. Apartment rankings were tabulated by the National Multi Housing Council and were first printed in April.