GE poised for European and Asia debt drive

The US investor has created a new post for Michael Bryant to lead the firm's increased investment in European and Asian real estate debt, which it sees as a "crucial part" of the growth of its business.

GE has appointed Mike Bryant managing director of international debt as the firm looks to build on €4 billion ($5.6 billion) of real esate debt investments it has made in Europe since late last year.

Bryant, who has been responsible for originating equity opportunities in UK private and public property markets, will work with GE’s existing teams in Europe and Asia to boost debt exposure. He will also be looking at originating loans to property investors in the two regions.

Mark Hutchinson, president and chief executive officer of GE’s international business, said in a statement the firm wanted to increase its exposure to debt portfolios. He added Bryant had already led more than €4 billion of deals in Europe and could “transfer this knowledge” to Asia. “We believe that we can achieve attractive levels of risk-adjusted returns by leveraging our balance sheet to buy performing debt portfolios,” added Hutchinson.

Bryant added in the statement: “Our increasing exposure to large-scale debt portfolios reflects the value and attractiveness we continue to see in this asset class as the turbulence in the financial markets continues, and we believe that it will be a crucial part of the growth of our business.”

GE signalled its intention to focus more on debt rather than purely equity investments in November 2007 when it acquired €2.7 billion ($4.1 billion) of loans from UK mortgage company, Bradford and Bingley. It followed that purchase up in April this year by acquiring a €1.3 billion package of loans from Capmark Europe. The 39 performing loans were secured against a range of assets in Europe, mainly in Germany. It then took investments to €4 billion in July when it snapped up senior debt and whole loans for €642 million from Credit Suisse. The loans were backed by assets in Germany, Switzerland, the UK and Spain.

As well as performing loans, the firm has also been acquiring non performing loans in Europe. Last December GE Real Estate and GE Corporate Financial Services teamed up to acquire non performing loans in Italy with a gross book value of €2.6 billion.

GE’s announcement it had created a new role for Bryant came at the same time as it revealed Ilaria del Beato was succeeding Mike Rowan as managing director of GE Real Estate UK. The promotion follows Rowan’s return to the US to become president of Americas equity.