The nation's two biggest real estate service providers, CB Commercial Real Estate Group Inc., Los Angeles, and Cushman & Wakefield, New York, are separately forming international alliances that will position the two giants to compete toe to toe in the rapidly ballooning global marketplace.

Arthur J. Mirante II, president and CEO of Cushman & Wakefield, back in his New York office following two weeks of globe-hopping to Hong Kong, London, Toronto and Mexico City, seems energized by his firm's new global alignment of seven real estate service-providers, to be called Cushman & Wakefield Worldwide.

"We've been heading in this direction for some time," Mirante says, "but we wanted to have all the pieces of our worldwide formula in place."

The new international initiative is led by Cushman & Wakefield, with 39 offices; London-based Healey & Baker, with 34 offices in Europe; Cushman & Wakefield/GCI, serving the growing mexican market; Royal LePage, Canada's leading real estate services firm; Mackenzie Hill, a multiservice real estate firm based in Sao Paulo, Brazil; Cushman & Wakefield/SEMCO, S.A., a property management firm also based in Sao Paulo, with an office in Rio de Janeiro; and Marlin Land Corp., established six months ago as the last piece of the puzzle by Healey & Baker, the Shaw family of Hong Kong, Grosvenor Estate Holdings and Cushman & Wakefield to provide real estate services throughout Asia from its Hong Kong base. Marcus Shaw is the chairman of Marlin Land, which is made up of 30 professionals "who joined us from some of our major competitors in the Asian market," Mirante says.

The new venture's purpose is "to better organize and oversee the services we provide and to bring about a consistency of service," Mirante says. "With NAFTA, new communications technology, European unification and the globalization of financial markets and world economies in general, we must offer our clients consistent, high-quality real estate services on a worldwide basis."

Mirante also points out that, like the Global 1000, many small and midsized companies are exploring, opening and expanding operations around the world, which calls for expanded capabilities on the part of their service-providers.

A board of senior executives from C&W and all of its international partners will guide Cushman & Wakefield Worldwide's strategic operations in such areas as marketing, quality control, use of technology and research. Paul Orchard Lisle, senior partner of Healey & Baker, will chair the board for the first two years, Mirante says. Also serving on the board from C&W will be Anthony Sirianni, chief operating officer.

Asked about the future structure of the association, Mirante says that for the time being the member companies will be jointly managing their shared activities, but "it may come to a point where we will be building (corporate) infrastructure.

"We're clearly in a building mode right now and our shareholders are committed to this operation," Mirante notes.

CB Commercial, meanwhile, is forming a Latin American alliance with top firms in Argentina, Brazil and Chile to add to the global reach begun with its partnership with DTZ Debenham Thorpe Zadelhoff in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australia. The firm has now forged alliances in 23 countries, including South America, with over 160 offices worldwide.

CB Commercial terms Latin America one of the most promising new frontiers in the increasingly globalized real estate arena, according to Linda Williams, vice president of CB Commercial's international department. "Our decision to find partners in Latin America was driven by our clients' needs in these markets." The alliance partners are L.J. Ramos Brokers Inmobiliaros in Argentina, Commercial Properties in Brazil and P&G Larrain in Chile.

Comparing the importance of the alliance with the late '70s expansion of brokerage firms and services nationally, Peter Marr, managing director of CB Commercial's international department, says CB Commercial's Latin American alliance demonstrates the internationalization of real estate in the 1990s.

"Markets in South America are filled with opportunities and untapped economic resources," Marr says. "Meeting the multinationals' growing real estate space requirements and investment appetite will determine which firms will lead the real estate business in the next century."

CB Commercial's Latin American partners credit the improving political and social climates and increasing economic stability in their countries for the rise in foreign investment.

"Argentina has proven that its economy is stable, and that has attracted international investment from proactive corporations," says L.J. Ramos, president of L.J. Ramos Brokers Inmobiliaros. "As industrial activity continues to increase, inflation declines and the standard of living increases in Argentina, the real estate market will continue to grow."

Raymond Smith, principal for CB Commercial Properties in Brazil, adds that Brazil's size and wealth of resources provide rich markets for real estate investment, particularly outside the major cities of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

"Brazil has a number of large markets with 1 million to 3 million people, all with substantial commercial and industrial output," Smith says. "Brazil constitutes 53% of the South American economy, and there are many exciting markets."

A recent CB Commercial survey of its international offices confirms that businesses are making significant investments in Latin America. Fortune 500 companies, such as Proctor & Gamble and Hughes Tool, along with many businesses in high-growth industries such as telecommunications and technology, are looking to expand their markets southward. CB Commercial/DTZ says it will service those needs, ranging from buying a large space in an industrial park to leasing a small office in the capital city.

"In the past in Chile, there had been an oversupply of real estate, but with the stabilization of our economy that has changed," says Gerardo Larrain, principal of P&G Larrain in Chile. "There are excellent real estate opportunities in Latin America, and we hope to expand our efforts through our alliances with CB Commercial and DTZ."