I've been renown for calling the housing crash in 2006-7 and the commercial real estate crash in 2007. Late in 2007, I penned a piece titled "The Commercial Real Estate Crash Cometh, and I know who is leading the way!" wherein I made it clear that the CRE party was over, the music stopped and the DJ was packing up. Part and parcel of this general CRE warning (the first of which was the introductory post to BoomBustBlog in September of 2007) was the identification of a particular short candidate whose profligate spending and excessive leverage made for what ultimately was one of our most profitable and thoroughly analyzed shorts - Generally Negative Growth in General Growth Properties - GGP Part II. This company was investment grade (AA) rated and it's common equity traded in the $65 range when I initiated my short position. Roughly twelve months later it filed for bankruptcy. It was the 2nd largest mall REIT in the US and the largest real estate bankruptcy ever although the CFO explicitly called my research and opinion "trash"! The entire story can be followed via: GGP and the type of investigative analysis you will not get from your brokerage house.
Unfortunately, many investors, the equity market, commercial, investment and morgtage banks failed to heed my admonitions. The result of which was the literal pillaging of investors by investment bank private equity and asset management arms. For those who think I'm being rather bombastic and dramatic, reference "Wall Street Real Estate Funds Lose Between 61% to 98% for Their Investors as They Rake in Fees!", to wit:
Oh, yeah! About them Fees!
Last year I felt compelled to comment on Wall Street private fund fees after getting into a debate with a Morgan Stanley employee about the performance of the CRE funds. He had the nerve to brag about the fact that MS made money despite the fact they lost abuot 2/3rds of thier clients money. I though to myself, "Damn, now that's some bold, hubristic s@$t". So, I decided to attempt to lay it out for everybody in the blog, see "
The example below illustrates the impact of change in the value of real estate investments on the returns of the various stakeholders - lenders, investors (LPs) and fund sponsor (GP), for a real estate fund with an initial investment of $9 billion, 60% leverage and a life of 6 years. The model used to generate this example is freely available for download to prospective Reggie Middleton, LLC clients and BoomBustBlog subscribers by clicking here: Real estate fund illustration. All are invited to run your own scenario analysis using your individual circumstances and metrics.
To depict a varying impact on the potential returns via a change in value of property and operating cash flows in each year, we have constructed three different scenarios. Under our base case assumptions, to emulate the performance of real estate fund floated during the real estate bubble phase, the purchased property records moderate appreciation in the early years, while the middle years witness steep declines (similar to the current CRE price corrections) with little recovery seen in the later years. The following table summarizes the assumptions under the base case.
Under the base case assumptions, the steep price declines not only wipes out the positive returns from the operating cash flows but also shaves off a portion of invested capital resulting in negative cumulated total returns earned for the real estate fund over the life of six years. However, owing to 60% leverage, the capital losses are magnified for the equity investors leading to massive erosion of equity capital. However, it is noteworthy that the returns vary substantially for LPs (contributing 90% of equity) and GP (contributing 10% of equity). It can be observed that the money collected in the form of management fees and acquisition fees more than compensates for the lost capital of the GP, eventually emerging with a net positive cash flow. On the other hand, steep declines in the value of real estate investments strip the LPs (investors) of their capital. The huge difference between the returns of GP and LPs and the factors behind this disconnect reinforces the conflict of interest between the fund managers and the investors in the fund.
Under the base case assumptions, the cumulated return of the fund and LPs is -6.75% and -55.86, respectively while the GP manages a positive return of 17.64%. Under a relatively optimistic case where some mild recovery is assumed in the later years (3% annual increase in year 5 and year 6), LP still loses a over a quarter of its capital invested while GP earns a phenomenal return. Under a relatively adverse case with 10% annual decline in year 5 and year 6, the LP loses most of its capital while GP still manages to breakeven by recovering most of the capital losses from the management and acquisition fees..
Anybody who is wondering who these investors are who are getting shafted should look no further than grandma and her pension fund or your local endowment funds...
What many do not understand is that the real estate crash of the previous decade is far from over, because The True Cause Of The 2008 Market Crash Looks Like Its About To Rear Its Ugly Head Again, With A Vengeance. This is true for not only the US, but the EU countries as well. Unlike our European and Asian counterparts, many US investors are much too detached to what occurs overses, quite possibly from a hubristic, apathetic or even ignorant stance that what happens over there has littel effect on us stateside. Unfortunately, that is not the case. What do you think, pray tell, happens when the liquidity starved, capital deprived, overleveraged banks faile to roll over all of that underwater Eu mortgage debt?
Investors seeking safety in Germany, the UK and France may truly be in for a rude awakening!
Do you really think they will rollover the US debt anyway? How about the result of the guaranteed losses that both bank and investor will take as said debt either fails to get rolled over or is forced to do equity cramdowns? Then think about EU banks going down and American banks being called to pay CDS!
Then think about those sovereign states that truly cannot afford to bail out their banks.
I made this perfectly clear as the keynote speaker at ING's CRE Valuation Confeence in Amsterdam this past April.
Yes, "The Real Estate Recession/Depression is Here, Eurocalypse Style". We have already identified a Dutch real estate short candidate - subscribers (click here to subscribe), please download Northern Europe CRE short candidate #1. This company is suffering from a variety of maladies that, on an individual basis, may not seem that bad but once aggregated put it on the same path that GGP was on. The difference? This is after the so-called economic recovery, in the conservative EU state of the Netherlands, and right before the massive rate storm that will be the Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis that I have warned about since 2009. The result, many properties that will either be difficult or impossible to refinance or roll over. Again, subscribers, reference Dutch REIT Debt Analysis, Blog Subscriber Edition. This is a succinct illustrtion of how this company will not be able to rollover much of its debt, and the absolute lack of recognition of such by the markets. Of interest is the fact that the number 3 short candidate on our short list is over 50% owned by this company (which came in as #!). With friends such as that, who needs enemies!
Yes, this company's share price does not reflect its financial condition. Hedgies, macro speculators, and those looking to generate alpha - this is the opportunity for you!
For those who have not followed my CRE forensic analysis in the past, below is an excerpt of the full analysis that I included in the updated Macerich (a large US developer/REIT) forensic analysis from several years ago. This sampling illustrates the damage done to equity upon the bursting of an credit binging bubble. Click any chart to enlarge (you may need to click the graphic again with your mouse to enlarge further).
Notice the loan to value ratios of the properties acquired between 2002 and 2007. What you see is the result of the CMBS bubble, with LTVs as high as 158%. At least 17 of the properties listed above with LTV's above 100% should (and probably will, in due time) be totally written off, for they have significant negative equity. We are talking about wiping out properties with an acquisition cost of nearly $3 BILLION, and we are just getting started for this ia very small sampling of the property analysis. There are dozens of additional properties with LTVs considerably above the high watermark for feasible refinancing, thus implying significant equity infusions needed to rollover debt and/or highly punitive refinancing rates. Now, if you recall my congratulatory post on Goldman Sachs (please see Reggie Middleton Personally Contragulates Goldman, but Questions How Much More Can Be Pulled Off), the WSJ reported that the market will now willingingly refinance mall portfolio properties 50% LTV, considerably down from the 70% LTV level that was seen in the heyday of this Asset Securitization Crisis.
The same is the basic case over in Europe.
Click the following pages to englarge...
Those who wish to download the full article in PDF format can do so here: Reggie Middleton on Stagflation, Sovereign Debt and the Potential for bank Failure at the ING ACADEMY-v2.
I have actually discussed the Dutch market in depth at the ING conference
Q&A and discussion, part 1
Q&A and discussion, part 2