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Scottish Widows makes CRE lending debut

The Scottish life, pensions and insurance company has made its first direct real estate lending deal with £20 million in financing to Custodian REIT.

Scottish Widows has made its first foray into direct real estate lending with a £20 million (€28.02 million, $31.37 million), 10-year facility at 3.935 percent to UK real estate company Custodian REIT, secured on a part of its property portfolio, PERE sister publication Real Estate Capital has reported.

The deal is the insurer’s first since it launched a debt platform in April with its parent, Lloyds Bank, to target the fixed-rate, long-term lending market in the UK.

It marks the arrival of Scottish Widows into an increasingly crowded lending market where other pension funds and insurers, such as Aviva, Canada Life, Cornerstone, Legal & General, MetLife, Pricoa and Standard Life, are already active.

The Edinburgh-based insurer intends to make loans ranging in size from £20 million to £100 million for seven to 30-year terms with loan-to-value (LTV) ratios of 65 percent and returns around 200 basis points.

Leicester-based Custodian is expected to use the loan to help fund further acquisitions including the imminent purchase of almost £10 million worth of properties. The company targets UK commercial real estate assets characterized by small lot sizes with individual property values of less than £7.5 million.

The company said its net borrowings are 15.5 percent LTV, which will rise to 20.9 percent on completion of the £10 million purchase. Custodian wants to increase its gearing towards 25 percent LTV.

“Securing long-term, fixed rate debt at a level significantly below the UK historical average demonstrates our commitment to achieving the target gearing ratio and mitigating risk,” said Richard Shepherd-Cross, managing director of Custodian Capital, Custodian REIT’s investment manager.

Custodian REIT launched in March of last year with a £95 million UK property portfolio sourced from an existing portfolio of 48 properties held by clients of wealth manager Mattioli Woods, which owns Custodian Capital.