In a move that caps five years of frenzied expansion, FirstService Real Estate Advisors and Colliers International have combined their operations and global real estate services platforms.

FirstService will now operate as Colliers International in 61 countries around the world. As a result, Colliers is now the third-largest real estate services firm in the global commercial real estate industry.

Yet the firm’s presence in multifamily brokerage is not that substantial. Real Estate Alert ranked Colliers as the eighth-largest brokerage firm in the multifamily space in the first half of 2009, with $43.5 million in transactions. Still, a Collier’s source said the announcement wouldn’t have a large impact on its multifamily business.

Some in the apartment brokerage business wonder if that might change in the future. “They are likely going to enhance their focus on multifamily since that's the only asset class that still has financing liquidity and was certainly not quite as hard hit as the other sectors,” says Lisa Robinson, COO with Atlanta-based Apartment Realty Advisors.

If that happens, Robinson won’t be concerned. “Competition keeps everyone sharp and ups their games,” she says.

FirstService REA will use the merger to centralize its network of affiliates to provide greater consistency and stability in operations. The company also launched corporate solutions and institutional asset and property management divisions as part of its business. Colliers, meanwhile, employs more than 15,000 people in 480 offices in 61 countries and generates in excess of $1.9 billion in revenues annually.

The move comes more than five years after parent company FirstService invested in FirstService REA. First Service REA than began acquiring controlling stakes in several North American-based commercial real estate service specialties, including FirstService PGP Property Valuation, PKF Hotel and Hospitality Consulting, MHPM Project Leaders, and FirstService Williams, FirstService REA’s New York Tri-State area brokerage hub.