Depressed commercial property prices have prompted a wave of interest in the market with up to 16 firms currently working on or readying plans to launch real estate funds.

Blackstone, the New York-listed financial services firm, heads the list with plans to raise around $2bn (£1.2bn) in Europe for a new Special Situations real estate fund.

The fund will look to buy up cheap real estate debt rather than equity. Blackstone recently raised $400m from high-net-worth individuals for a similar segregated fund. The cash was raised in just three weeks.

A source said: 'The opportunities in the real estate debt market are staggering. I don't think the raising is a signal that we've hit the bottom of the market by any means. But there are some incredible bargains to be had in the debt arena. And Blackstone could have a relatively free ride given the travails at the property arms of some of its main rivals.'

Independent On Sunday