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Monday, October 26, 2009

Major US real estate lender files for bankruptcy protection

In its bankruptcy filing Sunday in Delaware bankruptcy court, the company listed total debt of $21 billion and assets of $20.1 billion.

CHICAGO: Capmark Financial Group, one of the largest U.S. commercial real estate lenders, has filed for bankruptcy protection amid mounting bad debt, becoming the latest casualty in the still turbulent U.S. real estate market.

Capmark has been hurt by rising losses on mortgage loans, and has had to foreclose on properties such as the Equitable Building in Atlanta because borrowers were not able to make loan payments.

In its bankruptcy filing Sunday in Delaware bankruptcy court, the company listed total debt of $21 billion and assets of $20.1 billion.

It seeks to reorganize under court protection, reducing its debt while continuing to operate its businesses.

Many U.S. banks and real estate investment trusts have been hurt by increasing losses on commercial real estate loans.

With millions of jobs lost and office space remaining empty during the recession, developers have been forced to default on loans.

Analysts predict that commercial real estate defaults will rise rapidly.

"We view this reorganization process as an unfortunate but necessary response to recent unprecedented conditions in financial and commercial real estate markets, which presented a significant challenge for Capmark and similarly situated finance companies," said Capmark President and CEO Jay Levine, in a statement.

"By constraining the availability of capital, these difficult market conditions had a negative effect on all our core businesses."

Last month, Pennsylvania-based Capmark posted a $1.6 billion quarterly loss, as it set aside $345.8 million to cover loan losses during the quarter ended June 30.

The company had been in talks with lenders and bondholders to restructure its debt so that it could stay in business.

Capmark in September agreed to an option to sell its North American servicing and mortgage businesses to Berkadia III LLC - a joint venture of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and Leucadia National Corp.

Now that Capmark has been forced to file for bankruptcy protection, it will receive $415 million in cash and a $75 million note in the deal, minus any losses on a portfolio of mortgages.

Had the transaction been completed outside of bankruptcy court, Capmark would have received $375 million in cash at the closing.

Berkadia would have held $40 million to cover indemnity claims and pay the $75 million note.

Capmark was created in 2006 after a private equity group led by KKR & Co., Goldman Sachs Capital Partners and Five Mile Capital Partners bought the commercial real estate business of lender GMAC LLC for $1.5 billion in cash.

According to the bankruptcy filing, the group owns 75.4 percent of the company.

GMAC owns 21.3 percent, with most of the remaining shares owned by employees and directors.

Messages left for KKR, Goldman Sachs and Five Mile were not immediately returned on Sunday.

In a statement, Capmark said its Capmark Bank subsidiary is not part of the bankruptcy filing.

The bank, which recently received $600 million in new equity from Capmark Financial, will continue to serve its customers.

As of Friday, Capmark and its units involved in the filing had more than $500 million of cash and cash equivalents available to fund operations.

Capmark said it believes it has enough liquidity at this time to allow it to pay vendors for goods and services and to pay salaries and continue benefits to its employees, and has filed motions with the court to allow it to do so.

"The Chapter 11 process will give Capmark the opportunity to restructure our balance sheet while continuing to focus on maximizing value for our principal stakeholders," said Mohsin Meghji, the company's chief restructuring officer, in a statement.

Capmark's filing marks the latest in a string of commercial real estate-linked bankruptcies.

General Growth, the second largest shopping mall owner in the U.S., in April filed for bankruptcy protection in the largest U.S. real estate bankruptcy case in history with $27 billion in debt.

Extended Stay Hotels LLC in June also filed for bankruptcy protection, citing massive debt stemming from its 2007 acquisition by the Lightstone Group at the peak of the hotel market and a sharp drop in business travel due to the recession.


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