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Fortress Investment Group’s $1B Bet on NYC Office Rebound

Fortress Investment Group is making a bold $1B bet on NYC’s office market, acquiring loans tied to office buildings from Capital One. The move marks one of the most ambitious gambles on NYC’s office sector in the last decade.

Fortress Investment Group's $1B Bet on NYC Office Rebound

Fortress Investment Group is making a bold $1B bet on NYC's office market, acquiring loans tied to office buildings from Capital One. The move marks one of the most ambitious gambles on NYC's office sector in the last decade.

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Good morning. Fortress Investment Group is making a $1B bet on an NYC office rebound. ALDI’s expansion continues as it acquires the Winn-Dixie (WINN) and Harveys Supermarket chains. Meanwhile, according to Moody's, CRE lending volumes are projected to drop below $500B in 2023.

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Market Snapshot

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10Y Treasury
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*Data as of 8/17/2023 market close.

OFFICE REBOUND

Fortress Investment Group's $1B Bet on NYC’s Office Rebound

Fortress buys $1B of Capital One loans

Fortress Investment Group chair Peter Briger Jr. and 40 Exchange Place (Long Arc Capital, Getty, GFP)

Fortress Investment Group is making a bold $1B bet on NYC's office market, acquiring loans tied to office buildings from Capital One. The move marks one of the most ambitious gambles on NYC's office sector in the last decade.

Betting on the Big Apple: With a significant portion of the loan portfolio centered around NYC office loans, the purchase aims to exploit opportunities in the city's struggling market. The acquisition comes at a time of distress in the city's office market, with high vacancies and landlords facing property defaults.

Capital One's portfolio: Although the loan details have yet to be shared, Capital One's lending activity in the NYC office sector includes loans at properties such as The Durst Organization's 855 Avenue of the Americas and GFP Real Estate's 40 Exchange Place. The bank had reclassified a substantial portion of its office loans from "loans held for investment" to "loans held for sale" in its Q2 earnings report.

Raising eyebrows: The timing of this purchase comes as New York’s office market is facing a particularly challenging period. Vacancies are widespread throughout the city, and landlords are increasingly defaulting on their properties due to economic pressures. In the second quarter, available office space in Manhattan reached a record high of 70.3 million square feet, according to Savills, indicating a high level of distress in the market.

➥ THE TAKEAWAY

Strategy and timing: The move by Fortress to acquire these loans aligns with its strategy to capitalize on opportunities arising from the regional banking crisis. Despite the challenges in the office market, Fortress aims to position itself favorably by purchasing distressed loans with the potential for recovery.

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SOUTHERN EXPANSION

ALDI Expands Grocery Empire, Snaps up Winn-Dixie and Harveys

Aldi Adds To Grocery Consolidation With Deal to Buy Winn-Dixie, Harveys Supermarkets

Aldi said it will evaluate which Winn-Dixie and Harveys Supermarket stores will convert to its no-frills, discount format. (Southeastern Grocers)

ALDI’s expansion continues as it acquires the Winn-Dixie (WINN) and Harveys Supermarket chains, adding around 400 stores to its US portfolio.

Southeastern power play: With its U.S. headquarters comfortably situated in Batavia, Illinois, Aldi is mirroring the aggressive U.S. expansion of its German rival, Lidl. As the German market reaches saturation, both companies are setting their sights on international horizons. According to Aldi CEO Jason Hart, this acquisition is a strategic move that aligns with Aldi's objective to operate 2,400 stores across the U.S. by the end of the year.

Competitive landscape: The grocery shopping aisle in the U.S. is a battlefield, with giants like Publix, Walmart, and Amazon holding their ground. It’s a contest where regional and national chains constantly wrestle for market share. In this context, Aldi's decision to acquire Southeastern Grocers is a masterstroke, positioning the company strategically amid rampant competition and widespread industry consolidation—a trend highlighted by major deals like Kroger's pending bid for Albertsons Cos.

➥ THE TAKEAWAY

Strategy shift: Historically, Aldi has expanded through organic growth, preferring to slowly but steadily open new stores. But with this acquisition, Aldi is flipping the script. It's a calculated pivot that allows this discount grocery titan to rapidly extend its geographical reach and scale up in highly competitive markets. This bold move hints at a potentially adaptive shift in Aldi’s approach, as it seems eager to tweak its operating model to resonate with the diverse preferences of American shoppers.

🌐 AROUND THE WEB

📖 Read: The insurance industry is going through a structural shift due to increased costs due to intense storms and global instability, leading to insurers raising prices or pulling back coverage in certain areas.

▶️ Watch: Bill Rudin, CEO of Rudin Management, joins 'Squawk on the Street' to share insights into the current state of commercial real estate, developers' perspectives, and more.

🎧️ Listen: In this episode of The FORT, Chris Powers interviews Donald Zale, who shares the founding story of Zales and growing up in the family business.

📊 Download: NAR's July 2023 Market Insight report notes a Q2 slowdown in commercial real estate leasing, with earlier bank failures heightening market uncertainty and speculation.

LENDING DOWNTURN

Moody’s Expects Lending Volumes to Fall Below $500B in 2023

Lending Volumes Expected to Fall Below $500B in 2023: Moody’s

MIDTOWN AND LOWER MANHATTAN HAVE NOT YET CAUGHT UP TO THEIR PRE-PANDEMIC OFFICE OCCUPANCY LEVELS (Getty)

According to Moody's, CRE lending volumes are projected to drop below $500B in 2023, marking a 38% decline from 2022 due to interest rate uncertainty and reduced transaction volumes in certain asset classes like office and retail.

Optimism in the forecast? Now, despite this downturn, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) is striking a more hopeful note. They see the storm, but they're expecting clearer skies ahead—predicting that interest rates should find stable ground over the next 12 to 18 months. If they’re on the mark, we might see a notable recovery in CRE lending volumes, soaring to $856B in 2024 and nearing a whopping $1T in 2025.

A word to the wise: However, not everyone's singing this optimistic tune. The economists over at Moody's are raising eyebrows and flagging some significant roadblocks to the industry's rebound. Historically, CRE debt markets don’t bounce back overnight. They usually take several quarters to regain their footing after a major downturn. And with four consecutive quarters of lending in the red, Fagan of Moody's is hinting at potentially another two quarters of pullback—and that could stretch to eight if high interest rates stick around.

A year of transition, not triumph: Now, let's talk numbers. Loan-to-Value ratios (LTVs) across assets have inched up to 50%, which is a far cry from the pre-2008 peak of 72%. Falling Debt Service Coverage Ratios (DSCRs) are a major player in this industry-wide dip. According to Kevin Fagan, Moody's senior director of CRE economic analysis, 2024 might not be the big comeback year some are hoping for. It might be more of a transitional year for CRE lenders. But hey, here’s a silver lining: the odds of a 2023 recession are dropping, with GDP growth, low unemployment, and declining inflation all playing their part.

➥ THE TAKEAWAY

A ‘Slowcession’ brewing: While we might dodge a full-blown recession in 2023, the US CRE market seems to be gearing up for a "slowcession"—a period of below-average growth. Financing costs aren't likely to get any friendlier, and conservative lending could very well be the order of the day. This could ripple out to affect CRE rents, occupancy rates, and transactions in the near term. As for the 10-year Treasury rate? It looks set to hover around 4% for the foreseeable future, with the Fed likely to stay the course with its current interest rate policy.

✍️ DAILY PICKS

  • Hotel sales plunge: LA's hotel scene is struggling, with sales plummeting by nearly 53% in the first half of 2023. Rising interest rates are the culprits, causing foreclosures and a market slowdown.

  • Office-to-resi plans: NYC has a grand plan: transform empty Midtown offices into 20,000 homes. How? Tax breaks, quick approvals, and a dedicated team from multiple agencies.

  • Griffin's gambit: Citadel's Ken Griffin isn't just a finance bigshot — he's flexing political muscles in Florida, successfully influencing a proposed law on Chinese property purchases.

  • Originations cool: Despite a whopping $3T in outstanding loans, Q2 saw a 53% dip in new commercial and multifamily loans compared to last year. Bright side? That’s a 23% hike from Q1.

  • Revolutionize construction: AI isn’t just for tech nerds. It’s revolutionizing construction and leaving a big footprint on the real estate industry.

  • Retail rebound: With foot traffic back, low vacancies, and stronger demand, institutional investors are getting back in the game, bolstered by a historic construction lull and renewed faith in retail.

  • Vacant to vibrant: Cities like Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Detroit are wrestling with a thorny issue: tens of thousands of empty lots amidst a housing shortage.

  • Credit crunch: Despite a strong tenant list and high occupancy rates, SL Green took a hit — Fitch Ratings downgraded its corporate debt due to its low unencumbered-to-unsecured-debt ratio.

  • Amazon-adjacent: Brookfield Properties has big plans near Amazon's HQ2 in Arlington, VA, recently filing redevelopment plans for the old TSA headquarters.

  • Distress dilemma: NYC office investor Savanna is in hot water. With rising vacancies, extended loans, and shrinking ownership stakes, they’re feeling the heat.

  • Hotel sell-off: Blackstone cashed out on three Marriott hotels in South Florida, selling them for a cool $64M to NY’s Three Wall Capital.

  • Ripple effects: WeWork’s troubles aren’t just WeWork's problems. Its shaky finances and emptying spaces may spell trouble for landlords, lenders, and investors across the US.

  • Credit concerns: Major banks like JPMorgan and Bank of America might be headed for credit rating cuts due to the shaky economy. Result? Potentially pricier credit, stingier lending, and dropping valuations in commercial real estate.

  • Record-setting: TMG Partners made history in Oakland with a record $172M C-PACE loan for an office tower, thanks to GreenRock and KeyBanc Capital Markets.

📈 CHART OF THE DAY

US Self Storage Construction by Year

In 2023, the US self-storage industry expanded to a staggering 1.7BSF in order to meet the lofty demand caused by pandemic displacements. Over the last five years, 254.6MSF was added, accounting for 15.1% of total inventory. In 2022, nearly 39.9MSF of rentable storage was introduced, with 52.5MSF projected for 2023—a 31.8% surge in total supply.

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