Neil Collins\'s Profile
De Montfort adds to property gloom
As the green shoots were being trampled underfoot by the City’s (remaining) finest at the Chelsea Flower Show this evening, the bankers had more to choke down than the champagne. Some of their companies had paid 500 pounds for their copy of De Montford University’s annual Commercial Lending Report, while others had seen the summary on Alphaville and struggled to stay cheerful.
The De Mortford study shows that there’s a vast amount of property-secured debt out there, and the loan life is getting shorter. Over two-thirds of the debts in the survey (it covers 250 billion pounds of advances) are repayable in less than five years, with 23 per cent due this year and next.
This short-termism would matter less if the lenders had the appetite to roll the debt forward, or if new lenders were entering the market. Unfortunately, neither is true, and as the banks watch the deteriorating security behind their advances, that’s not likely to change soon.
Loans in default at the end of last year total 2.6 per cent of the outstanding total, a figure which is much higher than the trivial amount of a year earlier. But default is the final failure, and this year the number will surely be much higher. The survey reveals that many borrowers know they’ve bungled, and that many lenders are keeping the loan going only because it looks less painful than foreclosure and sale onto a falling market.
Even worse, every advance has a different mixture of security, revenue prospects and capital value, making a one-size-fits-all policy next to impossible. Work-outs will be long and slow.
The conclusion is obvious: commercial property has a way to fall yet, and the damage to bank balance sheets may be even worse than they have so far admitted. Still, at least it wasn’t raining at the Flower Show.