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Trump Files Suit Against Lenders Developer Seeks to Extend $640 Million Loan on a Chicago Skyscraper Wsj.com By ALEX FRANGOS Tall Trouble: Donald Trump's Chicago skyscraper project, the Trump International Hotel & Tower, during construction in July. Mr. Trump is suing to extend a $640 million senior construction loan on the 92-story Trump International Hotel & Tower from a group of lenders led by Deutsche Bank AG and including a unit of Merrill Lynch & Co., Union Labor Life Insurance Co., iStar Financial Inc., a publicly traded real-estate investment trust, and Highland Funds, a unit of Highland Capital Management LP. The tower, which contains 339 hotel rooms and 486 condominiums, will be the second-tallest building in the U.S. behind Chicago's Sears Tower and is expected to be completed in mid-2009. The hotel, on the lower floors, opened earlier this year. But sales of both the hotel rooms and the condominiums have come in below original estimates and the project's current projected revenue remains short by nearly $100 million needed to pay off the senior lenders. The lawsuit, filed in New York State supreme court in Queens, is a further indication of the dysfunction in the real-estate lending markets as borrowers and lenders struggle to resolve troubled projects. People familiar with the matter say the lender group, which is made up of more than a dozen institutions, was unable to agree on the extension. The suit demands -- among other things -- that an extension provision in the original loan agreement be triggered because of the "unprecedented financial crisis in the credit markets now prevailing, in part due to acts Deutsche Bank itself participated in." This so-called force majeure provision is common in contracts and can be applied to acts of war and natural disasters. Mr. Trump already extended the loan once in May. From the Archives Mr. Trump asked for $3 billion in damages. The suit won't affect construction of the project, according to people familiar who say there is enough money to complete the $90 million work that is left. The suit says Mr. Trump attempted to resolve the impasse by offering to buy the project's unsold hotel units for $97 million. That money would be used to pay down the construction loan, along with the $204 million in proceeds from closed units and the $353 million that is expected from units that close in the next six months. A Deutsche Bank spokesman declined to comment. Mr. Trump has put $77 million of his own equity into the tower, which he would stand to lose in a potential foreclosure. Other than a $40 million guarantee to complete the project, Mr. Trump has no recourse obligations to the project. A Trump spokesman declined to comment. [Trump, Donald] Deutsche Bank originated the construction loan in 2005 and sold off most of it to others, retaining less than $10 million of exposure on that loan. The suit alleges that Deutsche Bank compromised the senior construction loan by selling pieces off to "so many institutions, banks, junk bond firms, and virtually anybody that seemed to come along," that the lending group is unable to come to a consensus on how to deal with the matter. It also alleges Deutsche Bank created a "serious conflict of interest" by taking a separate stake in the project's so-called mezzanine loan that was originated by private-equity firm Fortress Investment Group. The mezzanine loan, which is junior to the senior construction loan, had an original principal of $130 million but will eventually accrue to $360 million. Deutsche Bank purchased roughly one-quarter of the mezzanine loan, according to people familiar with the matter. The suit names the mezzanine lenders as defendants, including Fortress and its affiliates, Newcastle Investment Corp. and Drawbridge Special Opportunities Fund, as well as Dune Capital Management and Blackacre Institutional Capital Management, the real-estate arm of Cerberus Capital Management. Fortress didn't respond to a request for comment. The other lenders declined to comment. Unless sales of the condo and hotel units restart despite the worst housing market in generations, and quickly generate $400 million in new sales, it will be difficult for the project to pay off the mezzanine loan, which comes due in May 2009.
By Sarah Mulholland April 23 (Bloomberg) -- Loan extensions will likely be insufficient to prevent a wave of commercial real-estate defaults as borrowers struggle to refinance debt amid tighter lending standards and plummeting property values, according to Deutsche Bank AG analysts. As much as $1 trillion in commercial mortgages maturing during the next decade will be unable to secure financing without significant cash injections from property owners, according to the Deutsche analysts. At least two-thirds, or $410 billion, of commercial mortgages bundled and sold as bonds coming due between 2009 and 2018 will need additional cash infusions to refinance, the analysts led by Richard Parkus in New York said in a report yesterday. Many commercial real-estate borrowers will be unwilling or unable to put additional equity into the properties, and will have to negotiate to extend the loan or walk away from the property, the analysts said. The volume of potentially troubled loans and declining real-estate values will make loan extensions harder to obtain. “The scale of this issue is virtually unprecedented in commercial real estate, and its impact is likely to dominate the industry for the better part of a decade,” the analysts said. Many dismiss the seriousness of the problem by assuming lenders will agree to extend maturities, according to the report. That approach might work if the amount of loans that failed to refinance was relatively small, but the percentage is likely to be 60 to 70 percent, the analysts said. The overhang of distressed real estate will hinder price appreciation, making lenders less likely to extend mortgages with the expectation that the value of the property will rise enough to qualify for refinancing, the analysts said. Loans made in 2007 when prices peaked and underwriting standards bottomed will face the biggest hurdles to refinancing. Roughly 80 percent of commercial mortgages packaged into bonds in 2007 wouldn’t qualify for refinancing, according to Deutsche data.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Real estate values around the nation have collapsed, and sales of foreclosed and "underwater" homes now dominate many housing markets, according to a report released Tuesday. The report, from Zillow.com, a real estate Web site, revealed that with foreclosures soaring, nearly 20% of the nation's home sales in 2008 were of bank-repossessed properties. Another 11% were short sales, in which homeowners owed more in mortgage debt than their homes were worth. Madera, Calif., had the highest percentage of these distressed sales: 54.6% of all transactions there were foreclosed homes, and another 3.4% were short sales. In Merced, Calif., 53.4% of sales were foreclosures and 4.8% were short sales. In nearby Stockton, 51.1% were foreclosures and 5.4% were short sales. "As more markets turn down and markets that were already down go deeper, the pace at which value is being erased from the U.S. housing stock is rapidly increasing," said Stan Humphries, Zillow's vice president in charge of data and analytics. "More value [was] wiped out in the fourth quarter of 2008 than was eliminated in all of 2007," Humphries said. About $3.3 trillion in home equity was erased in 2008, with $1.4 trillion of that wipeout coming in the fourth quarter alone, according to Humphries. More than $6 trillion in value has been lost since the market peaked in 2005. Those equity losses have put many homeowners underwater, where they're extremely vulnerable to foreclosure. These owners can't tap home equity for the cash they need to pay bills when they run into rough financial patches, and they often find it impossible to refinance - lenders will not loan more than the property is worth. In the United States, 17.6% of all homes are now underwater, according to Zillow, as are 41.2% of all mortgages for homes bought in the past five years. The worst-hit cities are in the once-booming Sun Belt. In Las Vegas, 61.4% of all homes are underwater. Because so many homes are worth less than their mortgage balances, an increasing number have to be sold short. But short sale transactions can take a long time to complete, because lenders have been having trouble keeping up with the flood of requests. "The speed of short sales is a function of the resources being allocated to them by lenders, and those resources are being stretched to the limit," Humphries said. That means lenders may not act on approving short sales for months. The deals cannot go forward without their approval, because the banks must agree to forgive the difference between what they're owed and what the sale brings in. As the time it takes to arrange short sales lengthens, they become harder to complete. Time and money wasted One example of how price declines can doom a short sale occurred recently in Phoenix. Curtis Johnson, a real estate broker there, worked with a health care worker whose hours were being cut and who could no longer afford her mortgage. She fell behind and decided to sell. Johnson was able to find a buyer willing to pay $183,000, and got an approval form the lender. The owner confidently moved out, got a new place and started a new life. But the lender folded and the mortgage went to a new servicer, who took six weeks to approve the deal. "Unfortunately, the buyers who were approved were no longer interested because the real estate market had dropped significantly," Johnson said. "They wrote a new offer, considerably lower then the first, and it was time to start over." Two more offers eventually fell through before a new buyer was found and the owner's bank approved the price, this time at $163,000. On the day of that closing, however, the parties discovered that the buyer's lender had run out of funds and dropped out of the deal. The home went to foreclosure auction before another sale could be arranged. The house is now on the market for $139,900. "[The house is] listed for less than what would have been received had the bank been willing to work with us, and still has not yet sold," Johnson said. Distressed sales like that depress the market for all homeowners. Regular sellers in cities dominated by foreclosures have to adjust their prices downward to compete. The percentage of homes sold for less than what their owners originally paid has leaped up in the past couple of years. In the United States as a whole, 34.6% of the sales made in 2008 were done at a loss. In Merced, 71.6% of all sales last year were for less than the seller paid. Stockton, Modesto and Las Vegas all had in excess of 68% of all homes being sold at a loss. Foreclosures beget more foreclosures by adding inventory to the market, which depresses prices, which increases foreclosures, according to Humphries.
Laurentian thrives in trying times PETER HADEKEL, Freelance Published: 7 hours ago In the midst of the worst banking crisis in decades, small, regional-based Laurentian Bank is beating the pants off its much larger rivals. Earnings are up more than 30 per cent so far this year, and Laurentian stock has risen 37 per cent since January. That compares with a 14-per- cent decline for Bank of Montreal shares, a one-per-cent drop at Royal Bank and a 21-per-cent fall at CIBC. The TMX financials index is down nine per cent over the same period. Laurentian has plenty of cash and its capital ratio is among the best in the industry, Réjean Robitaille says. So much for the talk that a small financial institution could not survive in an age of behemoths. Laurentian, the country's seventh-largest bank, had only a tiny exposure to the asset-backed commercial paper market that collapsed in Canada and no exposure to the U.S. mortgage market. It's one of the few feel-good stories in the current financial mayhem. In contrast, big mortgage lenders and an investment bank in the U.S. have gone down, and huge writeoffs have been taken at most of the big banks in Canada. "It's bad," Laurentian CEO Réjean Robitaille said yesterday when I asked him about the troubles hitting the financial system. This week, the U.S. nationalized mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, while investment bank Lehman Brothers teetered on the brink. But investors shouldn't lump all financial institutions together, he says. In this case, small really is beautiful. "Look around the world, there's a lot of institutions that may not have the same size as others but that are doing quite well. Why is that? Because they have a good focus, and strong execution. "Look at what happened in the United States to the big players. ''Nobody four or five years ago would have said that Bear Stearns or Lehman Brothers" would get into trouble, Robitaille said. Clearly, being a giant is no advantage right now. Laurentian may not have the same scale as some of its rivals, but it can react more quickly. Give it credit for making some smart moves. Its total exposure to the troubled non-bank, asset-backed commercial paper market, frozen last year under the so-called Montreal Accord, is just $20 million. Of that amount, about $4.3 million has been written off. It wasn't dumb luck. The Laurentian credit committee wasn't comfortable with the ABCP market or with other exotic securities that other banks piled into, Robitaille said. "We've got a lower risk profile. ... We weren't in subprime lending or structured investment vehicles or derivatives," he said, rhyming off some of the complex products that have backfired on bigger banks. As a result, the balance sheet is strong and conservatively funded to a large extent by personal deposits. Laurentian has plenty of cash - about $4.5 billion - and its capital ratio is among the best in the industry, Robitaille says. In this case, lack of ambition has served it well. Five years ago, it sold 57 branches in Ontario to TD Bank, deciding that it couldn't afford to spread itself too thin. "We can't be everything to everyone," Robitaille says. The bank has identified three areas where it's focusing its energy and investment. These include the retail and small business market in Quebec, commercial real estate lending across Canada and financial products marketed to independent financial advisers. The bank also maintains a foothold in the investment business through Laurentian Bank Securities. Ironically, given the troubles banks have had in housing in the U.S., Laurentian is doing well by securitizing mortgages in Canada. It packages federally insured Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. home loans for resale to investors, earning a profitable spread when it does so. "It's a very good product," Robitaille says, and this has turned out to be "the cheapest way to fund the bank." Third-quarter earnings per share were a record for Laurentian. "In a challenging year for banks, this is exceptional," said Desjardins Securities analyst Michael Goldberg in a research note. [email protected]