Debt: The Missing Link

PERE Real Estate CFOs Forum

Yesterday, I attended the PERE Real Estate CFOs Forum. These are my notes from this keynote session by Schecky Schechner, Managing Director, US Head of Real Estate Investment Banking, Barclays Capital.

There is a wave (a wall?) of real estate debt maturities coming due over the next three years.

He started talking about the private markets. There are banks and insurance companies lending to commercial real estate. Lenders are making debt offers are becoming more reasonable. There is less availability over $100 million. Since the valuation of commercial real estate is difficult giving the lack of transactions, lenders are looking more to debt yield. They are basing the amount of the loan on cash flow.

There has been some REMIC relief [See New Rules Ease the Restructuring of CMBS Loans] so that securitized lenders can alter the terms of the loans when there is reasonable likelihood of default. But servicers are somewhat overwhelmed. There are increasing numbers of loans going to special servicing.

TALF is now eligible for CMBS. But there is almost no activity. No deals have priced. There are some questioning whether commercial real estate debt presents a systemic risk

The unsecured debt markets have come back. But this is mostly limited to the public REITs. The credit spread for REIT debt is narrowing form 491bps over 10 Treasury notes earlier this summer to 275bps today.

Mortgage REITs are coming to life. Since June there have been 12 blind pool mortgage REITs filed with the SEC that were looking to raise $5 billion. The cover a spectrum of different business plans. There are some people thinking that the blind pool model may not work. Some think you need to have a partially identified pool of assets. There are also some concerns over the incentive fees put into place. The window seems to be closed right now. The mortgage REITs are using leverage. They are getting REPO facilities and credit lines based on a borrowing base.

The Mezzanine market has lots of money sitting on the sidelines looking for opportunities. But opportunities are scarce.
Subscription lines are scarce. But they are out there. The terms are shorter. There is some concerns that limited partners may be defaulted on their capital calls.

What are the implications for private equity real estate funds?

One is the pretend and extend approach. Lenders and investors are hoping to get through it, with time healing the problems.
Another option is TALF. But access seems limited.

The last and most interesting is the public option. The buy side of the market is looking for internally managed with a focused market approach. You may be able to recapitalize with public equity. The volatility of the public equity market has declined. Mutual fund flows have turned positive. Risk appetite has increased. Public company implied cap rates are trading tighter than their private counterparts.

There is also increased activity in “Make-a-REIT” filings. Sponsors are looking to expand their current portfolio and bulking up the portfolio in connection with the public offering.

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