Europe’s Top 40 Lenders 2018, part 2: The other European and North American banks

In the second of three instalments, Real Estate Capital examines the leading lenders in Europe today.

Welcome to the 2018 edition of Europe’s Top 40 Lenders. Now in its fifth year, this list is intended to highlight those most actively providing liquidity to Europe’s property markets today.

Here, in the second of three instalments, we highlight the other European (not including the UK and German) banks and the North American banks which have made the list. To see part one, covering UK and German banks, click here. Our final instalment, highlighting the insurers and debt funds, will be published on 3 October.

THE OTHER EUROPEAN BANKS

BNP PARIBAS

• Senior, whole loan, development, bridge lender; can provide mezzanine in collaboration with partners
• Active across Europe
• Lending volumes not disclosed
• Loan book size not disclosed (year-on-year growth rate of 10%)

Park Lane Hilton: BNP provided £270m of finance. Credit: Sabrina756

BNP Paribas is usually secretive when it comes to disclosing lending volumes, but activity in recent months demonstrates the French bank remains an important player across Europe.

In 2017, BNP recorded double-digit percentage growth in new loans across Europe. “It has been a very active year in terms of lending to listed companies and non-recourse asset finance,” Gilles Polet, the bank’s head of real estate finance Europe, notes.

In the first half of 2018, BNP maintained the level of activity of the previous year, with several stand- out deals, including the €500 million loan provided to Value Retail in May to refinance designer outlet shopping centres La Roca Village and Las Rozas Village in Barcelona and Madrid, respectively.

The French bank has also closed significant deals in the hospitality space. In February, it lent £270 million (€303 million) to London & Regional to refinance the London Hilton on Park Lane. In the same month, BNP participated in a club deal providing a £400 million loan for Covivio’s acquisition of 12 hotels in the UK.

More recently, in July, BNP closed a £270 million financing for UK House, an office and retail property facing Oxford Street in Central London.

In February, Real Estate Capital revealed that BNP Paribas’ asset management division, BNP Paribas AM, held a first close on its debut debt fund, focused on core, core-plus and value-add property lending across Continental Europe, and targeting €1 billion by Q4 2018.

The firm was understood to have raised several hundred million euros for its real estate and infrastructure lending activities when it hit the first close. “We are on track with our targets,” Philippe Deloffre, the firm’s head of real estate debt, said at the time.

CRÉDIT AGRICOLE

• Senior, bridge and development lender
• Active in France, UK, Spain and Italy
• €2.4bn new lending in 2017, excluding development loans
• €1.6bn new lending H1 2018
• c.€11.7bn loan book

In 2017, France’s Crédit Agricole saw a 33.3 percent decrease in new lending volumes year-on-year. The bank has been selective, financing only those deals that fit within its strategy and risk criteria, which has had an impact on generating new business, it said. Higher competition in Spain and uncertainty in the UK amid the backdrop of Brexit have also affected Crédit Agricole’s new lending.

Despite the drop, the bank remained a high-volume lender in Europe, with €2.4 billion of new loans written during 2017. In the first half of 2018, Crédit Agricole recorded €1.6 billion of fresh business.

Crédit Agricole’s deals since October 2017 included participating in the bank club that provided a €900 million loan for the purchase of the Coeur Défense office building in Paris by an Amundi-led consortium of investors, in France’s largest single commercial property transaction last year.

In May, the bank contributed to the €1.2 billion revolving credit facility sourced by France’s AccorHotels from a syndicate of 15 banks, with the loan’s margin dependent on the group’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance. More recently, in July, Crédit Agricole provided a €100 million sustainable improvement loan for French REIT Gecina, which would be used for the company’s general corporate purposes.

ING REAL ESTATE FINANCE

• Senior, mezzanine, whole loan and development lender
• Active in Benelux, Germany, UK, Spain, Central and Eastern Europe
• c.€10bn new lending in 2017
• c.€6bn new lending in H1 2018
• €34bn loan book

In recent years, ING Real Estate Finance has attached itself to large-scale, core lending deals. Last December, the bank teamed up with BNP Paribas and Crédit Agricole to provide a €900 million loan for an Amundi-led consortium’s acquisition of the Coeur Défense office tower in Paris. It followed last November’s partnership with pbb Deutsche Pfandbriefbank and LBBW in a €625 million financing of the Sony Center in Berlin for Oxford Properties Group and Madison International Realty.

ING’s 2017 lending total dipped, however, from 2016, from €11 billion to circa €10 billion.

Following a 2017 in which margin compression was felt across the core and core-plus financing market, ING has seen “fierce competition” from other commercial banks and insurers, says Mike Shields, who leads the group’s European lending operation. “With more volatility in international politics combined with more economic uncertainty linked to trade, I do get the feeling that loan pricing has stabilised in H1 2018,” he says.

In Shields’ opinion, the big-ticket financing market is bearing up well, which he attributes to abundant equity and global institutional capital for core and core-plus deals.

“The large loan market in Europe is alive and well,” he argues. “Due to capital controls in China, there is no doubt we have seen fewer Chinese buyers, but this market gap has been filled by investors from other parts of Asia, the Middle East and North America. We have seen less large single-bank underwriting and more bank clubs on these large acquisitions.”

Deals closed in 2018 include the €121.5 million financing for fund manager Niam’s acquisition of a Polish office portfolio, as well as a facility worth €130 million to Testa to leverage its residential portfolio in Spain. In Portugal, it financed Marathon’s acquisition of a retail portfolio with a €43.5 million loan.

The group was also the mandated lead arranger in the €6.1 billion bridge-to-bond facility for French player Unibail-Rodamco’s takeover of Westfield Corp, the Australian shopping centre operator.

NATIXIS

• Senior lender, plus mezzanine on trophy assets
• Active in France, Spain, Italy and Germany
• Lending volumes and loan book size undisclosed

French bank Natixis declined to provide lending volumes, although Dealogic data show it was bookrunner on €3.4 billion of syndicated real estate loans during 2017, highlighting an element of its lending. The last annual volume reported by Real Estate Capital was 2016’s €8 billion.

In its native France, the stand-out deal this year has been the co-arrangement of a €448.8 million eight-year term loan for Foncière des Murs (soon to be Covivio Hotels) to finance the acquisition of a 12-strong portfolio of four- and five-star hotels in the UK. The group was also involved in the €175 million corporate secured financing for the French SCPI Accimmo Pierre.

In Italy, Natixis also successfully closed a €137 million loan for Fondo Tessalo, a new Italian real estate fund specialising in healthcare facilities, to finance the acquisition of a series of buildings, including a hospital, three clinics and two nursing homes, in and around Rome. Meanwhile in Germany, the group closed a seven-year €335 million loan facility for

Aroundtown to finance the acquisition of ‘Behördenzentrum’, a government services building in Frankfurt, which will be let to the state of Hesse.

Regarding Natixis’s strategy over the past year, Thierry Bernard, head of real estate and hospitality, pointed to sub-sectors of the property market. “We are interested in financing last-mile logistics portfolios,” he says. “We’ve already financed one in Italy and are currently working on the financing of another in France.”

SOCIÉTÉ GÉNÉRALE

• Senior, whole loan lender
• Active in France, UK, Italy, Germany, Austria, Spain, Benelux, Czech Republic, Poland
• Lending volumes and loan book undisclosed

Although the French bank did not disclose its recent lending volumes, it is known to have recently completed significant deals across several European jurisdictions, including Germany and the UK.

In July 2018, SocGén solely led the £643 million refinancing of the Citi tower building in Canary Wharf, London, and the circa €655 million financing of a portfolio of rehabilitation centres in Germany owned by a consortium comprising Medical Properties Trust and Primonial.

“There is some appetite from our institutional clients for prime assets across Europe because they are following long-term holding strategies and can accommodate the yield compression,” says Jerome Gatipon-Bachette, Paris-based global co-head of real estate structured finance.

“There remains strong interest from more opportunistic sponsors for properties to be repositioned because little capital has been invested post-crisis, even if real opportunities start to be scarce and generate strong competition.”

Specific areas such as the UK hotel sector and the German healthcare market remain very active for two reasons, claims Gatipon-Bachette. “The UK hotel sector has shown a strong performance over the past year benefiting from the weaker level of the pound, while the German healthcare market is still an area of development due to its fragmentation and structural needs for the near future. It’s an opportunity for us because we see more institutional investors looking to invest, and we have followed them.”

THE NORTH AMERICAN BANKS

BANK OF AMERICA MERRILL LYNCH

• Senior, whole loan, mezzanine lender
• Active across Europe
• Undisclosed 2017 lending
• €300m, £561m of CMBS issuance so far in 2018
• Undisclosed loan book

Bank of America Merrill Lynch has been a crucial player in the recent revival of Europe’s CMBS market. In November last year, the investment bank priced a £347.9 million CMBS – Taurus 2017-2 UK – a transaction secured against a portfolio of UK ‘last-mile’ logistics properties bought by Blackstone and M7 Real Estate. The deal, which ended an 18-month hiatus in the CMBS market from May 2016, saw its highest-rated tranche priced at 85 basis points over three-month Libor.

In May, the bank priced its Taurus 2018-1 IT securitisation, sponsored by Blackstone and Partners Group, at 100bps over three-month Euribor for its highest-rated tranche. The deal securitised €300 million of debt backed by three loans secured on a portfolio of Italian logistic and retail assets.

BAML also did a joint CMBS deal with Morgan Stanley, BAMS CMBS 2018-1; a £299.5 million securitisation of a loan backed by a portfolio of UK logistics properties. Its class A notes were priced at 100bps in July. The bank’s latest securitisation, TAURUS 2018-2 UK, which securitised a debt facility used to finance the acquisition of the Devonshire Square Estate in the City of London, had its A tranche priced at 110bps in August.

“Since the end of 2017, we have been at the forefront of European CMBS,” says Matthias Baltes, head of EMEA commercial real estate structured finance at BAML.

Baltes notes the bank’s new lending volumes this year are expected to be similar to 2017, when fresh business rose by 15 percent compared with 2016. “So far this year, we have kept lending very consistent, with a healthy flow of deals across all European jurisdictions, from Spain to Finland.”

CITI

• Senior, whole loan, loan-on-loan lender
• Active across Europe
• $4.8bn new lending in 2017
• $1.3bn new lending in H1 2018
• Loan book size undisclosed

Putting on the Ritz: Citi provided £300m against the London landmark

US investment bank Citi has been an active lender across European real estate markets since the last Top 40 list was compiled in October 2017. In 2018 to September, it has provided $3 billion of commercial real estate lending, putting it on target to at least match 2017’s total of $4.8 billion.

Last year’s business included a significant portion of a €2.2 billion senior financing package to fund Blackstone’s acquisition of the Finnish Sponda platform, a deal which closed in November. That led to business in the CMBS market during 2018, with the bank issuing one of the largest securitisations of this cycle – the €550 million FROSN transaction, alongside Morgan Stanley in April.

Citi has also been active in the UK student housing market, with more than £1.3 billion of lending since the last Top 40 edition. Deals included the financing of iQ Student Accommodation’s acquisition of Pure Student Living in December 2017; a deal of more than £500 million.

The luxury hotels sector also yielded business for the bank, with loan deals written against two London landmarks. Last October, Citi wrote a circa £400 million loan against the Grosvenor House Hotel for Ashkenazy Acquisition Corporation. That deal was followed in June by a £300 million loan to finance the Ritz for Ellerman Investments, which is owned by the billionaire Barclay brothers.

Elsewhere, Citi provided a circa €550 million loan against multifamily assets in Spain for Blackstone in April 2018, following a separate €300 million resort hotel loan in the Spanish market to an unspecified borrower the previous December. In July, the bank also provided around €250 million to finance a mixed-use portfolio in Sweden.

Wesley Barnes leads the lending team from London, which also includes Omar El Glaoui and Russell Gould.

GOLDMAN SACHS

• Senior, whole loan lender (investment bank’s Real Estate Finance Group)/mezzanine and whole loan lender (merchant bank’s Real Estate Principal Investment Area)
• Active across EMEA (REFG) and major European markets (merchant bank)
• 2017 lending not disclosed (investment bank known to have underwritten a €1bn financing; merchant bank understood to have completed three deals in Europe and invested around $600m)
• 2018 lending and loan book size not disclosed (Investment bank’s CMBS total so far £518m and €247.8m)
• Loan book size not disclosed

Goldman Sachs has sourced significant deals through its two separate lending business lines in the past 12 months.

The Real Estate Finance Group, part of the investment bank and led by Jan Janssen and Andrea Bora, in Q4 2017 underwrote the €1 billion-plus financing for GLP’s acquisition of logistics firm Gazeley. “The key thing in that deal was to offer certainty and size,” Janssen says, adding that the deal was then fully syndicated with “tight” spreads achieved for the borrower.

Goldman’s REFG, which lends on the bank’s balance sheet, has also been a “key player” in the recent revival of Europe’s CMBS market, Janssen highlights. A standout deal was Ribbon Finance 2018, a securitisation of a £427.3 million loan backed by Holiday Inn hotels in the UK. The AAA notes of the deal, launched in mid-May, were priced at 78 basis points.
Besides CMBS, REFG has diversified its product offering, doing more construction financing and loan-on-loan deals, not only for NPL portfolios, but also to leverage debt funds. “We have been trying to be creative with different structures rather than going straight to investment assets, which still are the bulk of our business, but obviously it’s a more competitive segment,” Janssen says.

The third-party debt business within the merchant bank – Real Estate Principal Investment Area – is led by Jim Garman and Richard Spencer and is investing through Broad Street Real Estate Capital Partners III, which was closed in January, after raising approximately $6.5 billion.

“We focus on transitional, development deals for senior lending while, for mezzanine, we provide big tickets to well-known sponsors, backing large portfolios of stabilised real estate,” Spencer says.

In addition, REPIA is increasingly looking at development opportunities across Europe, including multi-family residential or student accommodation deals, Spencer notes.

MORGAN STANLEY

• Senior, stretched senior, loan-on-loan, whole loan, warehouse facility lender
• Active across Europe
• $10bn new lending in 2017
• $10bn new lending in H1 2018
• Loan book size undisclosed

In the first half of 2018, Morgan Stanley originated more than $10 billion of new real estate loans across Europe, roughly the same volume generated during the whole of last year.

“As client demand has grown, we have built a team to meet it,” says Stephen Dyer, the investment bank’s head of European commercial real estate lending. “This, combined with increased market activity in the sectors where we have a strong presence, such as Spanish bank portfolios, UK student housing and European light industrial, has driven an increase in lending volumes,” he adds.

Although Morgan Stanley did not confirm it, Spanish media reported in December last year that US private equity firm Cerberus signed a €3 billion debt financing with the bank to finance the acquisition of BBVA’s bulk of property assets. The US bank has “no ceiling” when it comes to loan size, as one of its standout deals closed in Q2 2018 shows: the refinancing of Greystar’s Chapter brand UK student housing portfolio, with a facility of more than £700 million.

Over the past 12 months, the bank has been particularly active in Spain, the UK, the Netherlands and Ireland. “Where we focus our origination activity is primarily driven by those jurisdictions [in which] our core clients are most active in,” Dyer points out. This year, Morgan Stanley has been more active on the residential, student housing and light industrial sectors.

The lender has also brought three CMBS deals to market this year, as either sole arranger or co-arranger alongside other banks. Its latest deal, BAMS CMBS 2018-1, issued in June along with Bank of America Merrill Lynch, was the £299.5 million securitisation of a loan backed by a portfolio of UK logistics properties. The deal had its class A notes priced at 100 basis points.

“We made CMBS a focus item in 2018 – demonstrated by our three deals to date – as we wanted to show investors it was a product they could dedicate resources to without it being stopped at the first signs of market volatility,” Dyer says.

ROYAL BANK OF CANADA

• Senior, stretch-senior, mezzanine and loan-on-loan lender
• Active in the UK and Continental Europe
• Around C$2bn (€1.3 bn) of new lending in the 12 months to August 2018 (2017 and H1 2018 volumes not disclosed)
• Loan book size not disclosed

RBC Real Estate Capital Partners, the European arm of which is run by Axel Brinkmann from London, is expanding its footprint across European markets. In the 12 months to August, the bank provided around C$2 billion (€1.3 billion) of new lending across eight transactions.

The Canadian lender can finance both transitional and stabilised property, with debt ranging from senior to mezzanine, as well as loan-on-loan financing. The bank is keen to retain significant volumes of debt on balance sheet, including mezzanine loans for select transactions and sponsors.

Among its recent deals, RBC was arranger, alongside Citi and Morgan Stanley, for the financing of Blackstone’s take-private of Finnish firm Sponda, co-underwriting a €1.6 billion senior loan and retaining €400 million on balance sheet. RBC was co-lead arranger on a €625 million refinancing of a Scandinavian multi-family portfolio, senior lender on a €130 million pan-European hotel platform financing, and sole lender of a £53 million mezzanine loan against a portfolio of UK student housing. Also, among recent lending, RBC arranged the refinancing of the Four Seasons hotel in Prague, with a €50 million loan.

WELLS FARGO

• Senior-focused lender, can provide development, whole loans, capital markets lending
• Active in the UK and Ireland
• c.£2bn new lending in 2017
• c.£1bn new lending in H1 2018
• £7bn loan book

Much of Wells Fargo’s lending in the past 12 months has reflected investors’ increased focus on beds; including build-to-rent residential loans to Legal & General, Greystar and AIG, plus student accommodation loans including a £45 million facility to GCP Student Living for a scheme in Brighton in June.

The London-based team focuses primarily on the UK market, although it has also been active in Ireland in 2018 with a €250 million revolving credit facility for IPUT as well as a €92.4 million facility to support Hines’ investment ownership of a Dublin student housing asset.

Recent UK REIT financings have included participations in unsecured facilities or British Land, Hammerson and SEGRO, while also supporting SEGRO, Great Portland Estates, London Metric, Tritax and Derwent London in both the banking and debt capital markets. Wells has also funded institutional and private equity fund managers, comments Richard Craddock, director in the origination team. Deals include acquisition finance for Tristan Capital’s £71.5 million August purchase of the Interchange in Croydon, as well as backing Blackstone’s acquisition of the Livingston Designer Outlet in Scotland.

“We have the ability to deploy balance sheet and underwrite complex transactions which helps us to support core-plus as well as opportunistic investors,” Craddock adds.

In January, Wells provided Schroders’ West End of London vehicle WELPUT with capital for asset management opportunities. It refinanced £140 million of existing debt for seven years, with an additional £235 million of existing debt also renewed in May.

Although Wells focuses on senior lending, it can provide development finance as well as underwrite whole loans with a view to selling down the senior tranche. The real estate capital markets team, led by Tom Jackivicz, has ambitions to participate in the resurgent CMBS market as well as provide loan-on-loan and warehouse facilities to non-bank lenders.