GE purchased many properties at the top of the market. According to Real Capital Analytics, a research firm in New York, the company sold $7 billion of real estate world-wide last year and acquired $16.6 billion.

Among the notable deals: In July 2007, it bought nine office complexes in Chicago from Blackstone Group LP for $1.05 billion. Those properties had been owned by Equity Office Properties, which Blackstone acquired for $39 billion at the beginning of 2007 and then sold off in large chunks.

Some other buyers who bought pieces of the Equity Office portfolio fared poorly. For example, New York developer Harry Macklowe was forced to liquidate a large portion of his real-estate empire this year because of the problems he took on when he bought seven of Equity Office's Manhattan office buildings.

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