But, as a business that has been working in Europe for the past two years, we know that this is not the case.
Lending in Europe is not always easy, and in some countries not really possible, but we have made it our business to find ways to lend whenever, and wherever, we can. In some countries, other than local banks, there are very few lenders able to help investors and developers looking to obtain leverage over real estate in continental Europe. In fact, there are some countries where we are possibly the only other option.
When lending in a new country, the first step is to work out if it is indeed possible for a UK lender to lend, and if it is, then it’s a case of working out how. There are many nuances and almost every country has different rules and regulations, which can be quite different to the way we lend in the UK. There are similarities to the UK in Ireland, as you’d expect, but elsewhere lenders have to be very sure they are working in the right way.
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For instance, we can’t lend directly to French entities because French banks have a lending monopoly, but we can assist where borrowers have corporate entities outside France, but have French assets which can be used as security.
In Spain, we face a different challenge. Although lending follows a more standard civil law process, assessing property values is much more problematic. Previous sales data is limited and often unreliable. This makes it difficult to compare anything but the most standard of property types. We set up our Spanish arm, with a full Spanish-speaking team, to deal with exactly these types of problems.
In continental Europe, loan transactions are often cross border, for instance the loan being provided for a finance company in one country and the security being taken in another country. In Ireland and Spain, many loans are being used for debt restructurings, assisting in cleaning up the aftermath of the financial crisis.
One area we are particularly active in is enabling the directors of UK businesses to raise equity against their European property.
It has taken us a lot of time to develop our continental European bridging capability, but now that we are fully operational in Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain and France, we expect to double our lending volumes in these countries next year, with Germany, Switzerland and Luxembourg coming on top of that. Most of the jurisdictions we lend in are currently experiencing rising property markets, and the opportunities are multitude. We are there for the long run.