Wednesday, May 11, 2016

As Credit Tightens, Entrepreneurs and Dealmakers Turn to Non-Traditional Lenders

After what occurred in 2000 and 2008, one should have expected banks and other common lenders to become more regulated and scrutinized. Though this may have created some inconveniences for some firms, it helped open the door for others. Banks have established more rigorous qualifications for companies to be given financing, and capital constraints and shareholder activism are becoming more influential when it comes to publicly traded business development companies (BDC). For middle markets in particular, this has allowed alternative lenders to emerge and acquire more market share than would otherwise have been possible, because of the vast amount of competitors.

“Banks have established more rigorous qualifications for companies…”

With public perception of banks still relatively low and regulators keeping a close watch, it is not difficult to see why banks want to keep a low profile and not conduct any business that may raise a red flag. In 2015, 25% of middle market loan transactions featured deals of more than 6x EBITDA; an example given by regulators as a possible red flag. It is why most traditional bank lenders are currently staying away from making leveraged loans deals on private equity firm deals.

Similarly, BDC’s are also currently sourcing fewer deals. They are currently facing difficulties in raising capital, because as of March, most were trading below book value. This has prevented many from issuing new equity for funding. Without cash to fund new transactions, the only alternative would be to fund from repayment on existing loans.
Collateralized loan obligation (CLO) issuances are on the decline. About $4 billion in CLOs were priced for what was most of the first quarter, a harsh decline from almost $17 billion during the same time period just last year. During 2013-2015, the CLO market grew by more than 50%. However, the market has decreased by about 50% during the past year. Additionally, under the Volcker Rule which is set to take effect at the end of 2016, managers will be required to hold 5% of their CLOs. Though many managers are attempting to adapt and others are selling off their CLOs, it remains to be seen how the rest of the market reacts.

Finally, we come to the benefactors. Alternative lenders are currently taking advantage of the current state of the lending market with great vigor. A great advantage they have is being able to act quickly and with much flexibility. This is possible, because most are either non-regulated or regulated far less than traditional lenders. These alternative lenders are beginning to develop close relationships with private equity firms for these particular reasons, which helps PE firms acquire financing for deals, and as a result fund the investments in their portfolios. Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) funds are also benefiting from the current state of the financing landscape, especially considering the two new regulatory changes made at the end of last year; reduced registration requirements by advisors and the amount of capital an SBIC can control has been raised to $350 million from $225 million.

Though the availability of attaining financing has become more difficult, not all have been affected negatively. The financing landscape will improve, but in the short-term, in its current state, we should expect alternative lenders to become more prominent players in the space.


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