NY Community Bancorp Flashes a $560 Billion Real Estate Warning for Banks

Patrick Clark, Natalie Wong and Diana Li, Bloomberg News, January 31, 2024

(Bloomberg) — The US commercial real estate market has been in turmoil since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. But New York Community Bancorp and Japan’s Aozora Bank Ltd. delivered a reminder that some lenders are only just beginning to feel the pain.

New York Community Bancorp’s decisions to slash its dividend and stockpile reserves sent its stock down a record 38% on Wednesday, with the fallout dragging the shares to a 23-year low on Thursday. The selling bled overnight into Europe and Asia, where Tokyo-based Aozora plunged more than 20% after warning of US commercial-property losses and Frankfurt’s Deutsche Bank AG more than quadrupled its US real estate loss provisions.

The concern reflects the ongoing slide in commercial property values coupled with the difficulty predicting which loans might unravel. Setting that stage is a pandemic-induced shift to remote work and a rapid run-up in interest rates, which have made it more expensive for strained borrowers to refinance. Billionaire investor Barry Sternlicht warned this week that the office market is headed for more than $1 trillion in losses. 

For lenders, that means the prospect of more defaults as some landlords struggle to pay loans or simply walk away from buildings.

“This is a huge issue that the market has to reckon with,” said Harold Bordwin, a principal at Keen-Summit Capital Partners LLC in New York, which specializes in renegotiating distressed properties. “Banks’ balance sheets aren’t accounting for the fact that there’s lots of real estate on there that’s not going to pay off at maturity.”

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