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Commercial real estate and small banks

A couple more data points for the commercial real estate and the banks that plowed into the sector during the go-go years earlier this decade. It’s a mess and one that smaller banks and the FDIC will be left to clean up.

Fitch Ratings says banks with less than $20 billion in assets on average have a commercial real estate loan exposure that represents more than 200% of total equity. For comparison, the exposure of the 20 largest banks rated by the firm, is more than 125%. and this doesn’t even include the toxic construction and development loans that are sinking fast.

Fitch is expanding its review of such banks to see how they would perform under stress and whether current bank ratings are justified. Delinquencies on loans packaged in commercial mortgage-backed securities rose above 3% in July and Fitch expects them to reach “at least” 5% by year end.

, and this isn’t even including the toxic construction and development loans,

Fed policy statement lag

The Fed and Treasury are extending the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility into next year, which is no surprise since the asset-backed securities market and its cousin, the commercial mortgage-backed securities market, are still struggling.  The question for me, though, is why doesn’t the Fed make these announcements when it’s issuing its FOMC statement.

The same thing happened in June. The FOMC releases this statement, and the next day it announces it will tweak a number of its extraordinary measures, deciding to extend some while letting others die a natural death.

Commercial real estate death watch


It’s no wonder that the Federal Reserve has a watchful eye on commercial real estate. Lending hasn’t come back, prices are plummeting and those that poured funds into the sector during real estate boom are getting killed by high vacancy rates and falling rents.

Maguire Properties is one such company. The Wall Street Journal reports the debt-laden REIT is handing over seven buildings to its creditors along with the $1.06 billion of debt that comes along with them. But rather than restructure the debt, the creditors may try to offload them into an extremely soft market, suggesting they’d rather take their lumps now rather than wait for a snapback in the market that may well be years away.

TALF is a keeper

Though policymakers have more time to mull over whether to extend TALF, it looks like the Fed will discuss it at their meeting next week in addition to Treasury purchase program that expires in September, according to the WSJ.

When the TALF program was launched in March, officials said it could extend loans of as much as $1 trillion to investors, part of an effort to revive credit markets. So far, it has only reached $30 billion.

Another wrinkle in the TALF CMBS saga

The New Fed has released some modifications on its CMBS TALF program that could be telling as to why one of the CMBS legacy bonds put up as collateral was rejected during the inaugural round.

Clarification added to the FAQ:

The New York Fed will not fund a TALF loan if, in its judgment, a potential borrower is motivated to request a TALF loan due to such borrower’s or any of its affiliates’ direct or indirect economic interest in the underlying loans or leases, or products or services relating to such loans or leases, contained in the pool backing the ABS, and such economic interest would impact the incentive of such borrower to independently assess the risk of investment in such ABS. To the extent that any potential TALF borrower has any concerns that it could be rejected on this basis, such borrower is encouraged to contact the New York Fed well in advance of its loan request.

Rejected CMBS looks stressed out

More on the CMBS deal rejected by the Fed under its TALF program:

The deal has above-average stress points when compared with those that were accepted. According to Bank of America’s breakdown, 90-day plus delinquencies, for example, were at 3.2% compared with the 1.27% average of those accepted. The highest delinquency rate of those accepted, however, was 4.41%.

Looking at the underlying collateral is where the fun really starts.

At the time the deal was put together in March 2007, Moody’s Investors Service noted that 79% of the loans in the pool backing this class and others had loan-to-value ratios over 100%. Talk about easy lending! Additionally, 78% of the loans pay only interest for the entirety of the loan, leaving a big balloon payment at the end.

The CMBS, re-Remic muddle

FT’s Alphaville has a great post on re-Remics and the push to make them respectable, at least in the eyes of the Federal Reserve and its TALF program.

If the Fed were to accept repackaged CMBS in its TALF program, it would go a long way in feeding the securitization machine that Wall Street banks are eager to jump start. But is that a good thing? The re-Remics are essentially repacking problem CMBS bond deals so they can create a “bullet-proof” AAA slice for investors who don’t want to have to worry about downgrades. If you’re thinking you’ve seen this movie before, you’re not alone.

Breaking the credit ratings habit

How many times do investors need to rail against rating firms’ credibility before things really change? Standard & Poor’s set off the most recent round of vitriol on Tuesday after it raised the ratings on bonds backed by commercial mortgages back to sterling AAA just a week after it cut them. It tweaked its assumptions after investors complained about the downgrades.

There’s good reason to be upset. Ratings changes still have real world consequences, even though the credit crisis has gone a long way to discredit them.

from Neil Unmack:

Banks off par with rosy CMBS view

    Banks holding European commercial mortgage-backed securities at par on the basis that they stand at the top of the pecking order when it comes to repayment should think again.
    Even some of the most senior-ranking bonds backed by commercial property loans will have to be written down as the downturn bites. And with about 120 billion euros of European CMBS outstanding, the numbers are big.
    Many of the underlying loans are underwater. But companies who manage the debt have refrained from taking aggressive action and enforcing on the loans on the basis that prices may recover, rents are still being paid and borrowers are still up to date on their interest payments.
    Their approach is simple enough. Why risk losses from a fire sale if the market may recover by the time the debt comes due five or so years down the line? In fact, of the 1,100 loans packaged in European CMBS, only 39 are classified as being in "special servicing" -- shorthand for having a problem -- according to Standard & Poor's.
    One deal where the servicer isn't taking this wait and see approach is a 487 million pound deal called Epic Industrious by Royal Bank of Scotland for now-defunct property firm Dunedin, which was placed in administrative receivership last year.
    Ernst & Young is set to sell the properties to vulture fund Max Property, after a smaller auction last week. This is likely to mean losses for senior creditors -- a first for CMBS bondholders in this cycle.
    As well as a ridiculous name, Epic Industrious has other peculiarities which suggest a wider fire sale of properties from other transactions isn't likely in the near term.
    Firstly the borrower is in administration, necessitating a more speedy resolution than in situations where a loan is simply in default and can be worked out over time.
    Another complexity is the fact that the deal is a so-called synthetic CMBS, in which RBS used credit default swaps to shift the risk of the loan to bondholders. In these deals banks may be incentivised to work out the debt speedily, whatever the losses, and claim on the insurance policy provided by bondholders.
    Epic Industrious shows how severe losses will be in some CMBS deals. While some loans are still backed by strong properties worth more than their debt, and generating more than enough cash to service the debt, it is clear that property markets won't have recovered enough by the time many loans come to be refinanced.
    Declining rents will tip more loans into default and many will fail to refinance at maturity.
    Moody's noted in a recent report on a deal created by Credit Suisse that originally parcelled 10 loans that it expects "a very large portion'' of the portfolio to default, suggesting that the benefits investors thought they would get by diversifying their risk across a pool of loans is worth little in practice.
    Tackling problem loans now, and selling some or all of the assets, may yield better recoveries than simply hoping for a market revival.
    Much of this pain is already priced into CMBS, with senior bonds trading at about 70 cents in the euro or less. While some banks will hold at market levels, others may have only partially written them down after last year reclassifying fair value assets into loans and receivables.
    Anecdotal evidence suggests some banks are still holding senior tranches at par. This looks hopelessly optimistic. A raft of recent and looming rating agency downgrades will force them to increase capital reserves and prompt them to sell, even if it means taking a loss.
    Prepare for a rocky ride in bricks and mortar.

Fed’s TALF not stimulating much of anything in CMBS

The numbers are out and they’re not looking too good for the commercial real estate market. Investors only applied for $669 million of loans using old, or legacy, CMBS, as collateral, Reuters is reporting. No one requested loans from the New York Fed using new CMBS, but that’s hardly a surprise since the market has been frozen since last year.

The Fed is hoping to jump start the $700 billion market for CMBS because without it the commercial real estate market is in big trouble. With banks and insurance companies no longer in the commercial real estate lending business, the securitization market is shaping up to be the last great hope for developers and property owners who need to refinance maturing debt.