New York Community Bancorp Inc. is exploring options to divest troubled commercial real estate assets from its portfolio after revealing an unexpected $185 million loss related to two loans in its recent fourth-quarter earnings report. The move comes as the bank faces challenges stemming from exposure to rent-regulated multifamily properties in New York City, a significant office-building exposure of about $1.8 billion, and upcoming maturities in the range of $250 million to $300 million in the coming years.
The bank has initiated efforts to offload a $22.4 million mortgage tied to three five-story walk-up apartment buildings in Washington Heights, a neighborhood in northern Manhattan. The mortgage, which primarily supports rent-regulated apartments and mixed-use space, matured in early January, with the entire debt amount now due, along with interest at a 20% default rate, according to details of the offering.
Concerns about New York Community Bancorp’s real estate exposure have intensified as its stock has plummeted by more than 60% this year. The bank’s troubles echo broader anxieties about regional banks grappling with commercial real estate challenges. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen acknowledged her concerns about U.S. commercial real estate during a Tuesday briefing with lawmakers, noting that some institutions could be “quite stressed,” although she expressed confidence in the sector’s manageability.
The current economic landscape, marked by slumping property prices and increased borrowing costs, has prompted many regional banks to take steps to reduce exposure to problematic commercial real estate. The recent downgrade of New York Community Bancorp’s credit by Moody’s Investors Service to speculative-grade or “junk” status reflects the challenging environment. Despite the downgrade, the bank’s president and CEO, Thomas Cangemi, emphasized the institution’s decisive actions to fortify its balance sheet and enhance risk management processes during the fourth quarter.
While asset sales, even at a discount, can serve as a strategy for banks to proactively address industry challenges, experts anticipate that commercial real estate lenders may face difficulties in the coming years. The looming maturity of old debt against a backdrop of rising interest rates poses additional hurdles for these institutions.
Investors and industry observers will be closely monitoring New York Community Bancorp’s actions and their impact on the bank’s financial stability amid broader concerns about the real estate market and regional banking sector.