Demand for “jumbo” loans to refinance 2006-08 vintage debt has given way to acquisition finance, according to a new UK debt barometer.
The maiden report by debt broker Laxfield Capital, which analysed more than £25bn of financing requests in 268 deals made this year, revealed an average deal size of £93.5m with a total of 91 requests for loans over £100m recorded.
Of these “jumbo” requirements, 76% by loan count were debt refinancings. But Laxfield added that demand had begun to shift to acquisition finance as investment activity gathered pace.
The UK CRE Debt Barometer found that the number of requests for loans of less than £50m increased substantially during 2013, from fifth in the first quarter to half of all requirements in the third quarter.
Some three-quarters of the 108 requests for loans of less than £50m were acquisition-related, “which points to the increasing strength of investment activity outside the large-ticket core markets in 2013”.
This trend was most clear in an analysis of loan purpose, which found that demand for debt refinancing formed 67.9% by volume of total financing demand, but was gradually giving way to acquisition finance.
At the beginning of the year refinancings made up almost 90% of requirements by volume but had dropped to less than 60% in Q3 when new acquisition loans formed more than 40% of all financing requests.
The paper found “that the increase in finance demand associated with new acquisitions during 2013 points to greater investment activity, competition from a broad range of lenders and a financing market less dominated by large legacy loan positions”.
Average deal size in London of £95.4m stayed relatively constant during 2013, whereas regional/national portfolio deals showed a strong decrease from £157m to £61m over the course of the year.
“This trend reflected a move away from bulky refinancings towards new lending opportunities secured on regional assets,” the report said.
While terms remained conservative over the period there was a gradual increase in loan-to-value levels, fixed-rate financing and longer loans. The weighted average LTV requirement was 51.8% during the year, significantly lower than the leverage of up to 65% available in the standard senior market.
Incentive to borrow was limited in early 2013 by the lack of investment opportunity, reflecting a market dominated by cash buyers.
The average LTV request was just 43.6% in Q1.
However, growing activity in the investment market stimulated demand for financing, increasing the average LTV request to 58.3% in Q3 – but still substantially less than pre-crisis levels of up to 80%.
Loans for between two and 20 years were requested during the 10-month period with floating rate deals still dominating – an average of 79% by deal count. But fixed-rate financing increased from 5.3% in Q1 to almost 20% in Q3 by deal count.
The weighted average loan-term requirement was 5.8 years, with a growing trend towards longer-dated finance in 2013.
The report found that “this reflected an appetite among some property investors to secure long-term money at favourable current rates and the increased availability of finance from fixed-rate lenders”.
Demand for office finance remained dominant, although diversification in to other sectors increased during the year “reflecting growing confidence in alternative sectors.”
Head of capital management at Laxfield Capital said: “The analysis gives a picture of a market becoming increasingly active and liquid, with financing demand spreading more widely and away from safe-haven assets.
“We also see new lending opportunities in the regions and an overall improved confidence in the availability of real estate finance.”