New global banking regulations to restrict funding of commercial property developments: Gail Kelly

New global banking regulations will restrict funding to commercial property developments in Australia, according to the banking industry.

Westpac’s Gail Kelly says new regulations, named Basel III, raising the amount of capital and liquid assets banks must hold means Westpac can no longer finance risky commercial properties.

“Commercial property, unless it is delivering cross-sell activity, like the transactional business, and infrastructure, become less attractive from a return on equity point of view [as Basel III take effect],” Gail told the Australian Financial Review.

“With commercial property, it’s not just the high level of capital required [as a ratio to assets weighted for risk] but also the through the cycle impediments [structurally higher provisions for bad debts].”

She says that while bad debts in the industry are down, Westpac will be approving less loans to commercial developers.

Kevin Nixon from the Institute of International Finance, which works for global banks, wealth managers and insurance companies, says it is clear that the new capital and liquidity requirements would restrain lending to long-dated riskier projects such as infrastructure and commercial property.

“There are two elements - the extra capital required to be set against these loans but also the proportion of the loan which must be funded by either deposits or long-term debt,” Nixon told The Australian Financial Review.

“So that’s why long-dated infrastructure and long-dated commercial property becomes problematic.”

Nixon says the uncertainty about upcoming regulations, to be introduced in 2013, is restricting lending from banks.

“[The new regulations] will both increase and sustain the emphasis that banks place on deposit funding from retail customers, which will impact property funds and real estate investment trusts,” Brad Carr from NAB says.

He says this shift makes it more difficult for the funds and trusts to attract investors as the relative risk-reward skews to bank deposits, not property.

“The property funds that are best placed to absorb this impact will be the ones with greater access to raise capital from different sources,” Carr told The Australian Financial Review.

“It will be increasingly important to have a broader array of investor bases and funding options available, from domestic institutions, offshore bond investors, hybrid markets or bank debt.”

Alistair Walsh

Alistair Walsh

Deutsche Welle online reporter

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