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30% of Mid-Market Lenders Dropped Rates to Compete for Borrowers in Q1

May 10, 2021, 08:19 AM
Filed Under: Industry News

Cerebro Capital, a commercial loan platform, released its Q1 2021 survey on non-bank lending for middle-market commercial and industrial (C&I) loans. The results are paired with the Federal Reserve's 1Q21 survey of commercial banks to illustrate a comprehensive perspective of corporate lending to middle-market borrowers and how it compares to the previous quarter.

Cerebro's quarterly non-bank lending survey was initially launched in the second half of 2020 to provide deeper insights into the $3 trillion credit market and commercial banks compared to non-bank lenders in 1Q21. The 1Q21 survey was completed by Vice Presidents and Managing Directors of alternative lenders that target middle-market borrowers and offer loan sizes of between $2 million and $100 million.

Both commercial bankers and non-bank lenders saw increased demand for C&I loans from their lending institutions in Q1 2021. Thirty-three percent of commercial bank lenders saw an increase in loan inquiries from potential borrowers. Over 60 percent of non-bank lenders, which include private credit funds, mezzanine funds and business development companies, have expressed strengthened demand in the past quarter.

Cerebro also found:

Increasing Borrower Demand Driven by Shift to New Lenders

  • Borrowers are switching lenders: 80 percent of non-bank lenders indicated that borrowers requested loans from them because they offered better terms than competitors. The majority of Commercial Banks (64 percent) reported that switching lenders was not a factor for their borrower demand increases. One possible reason for this trend is the increase in commercial bank borrowers choosing to include non-bank lenders in their credit search processes. Non-bank lenders have been offering loan terms that, though a bit more expensive, offer larger loan sizes and more flexible terms.
  • Increased Accounts Receivable, Inventory, and Plant Expansion: About 75 percent of non-bank lenders reported increases in A/R and inventory working capital needs as a sharp driver of new loan demand. However, the majority of commercial banks, nearly 85 percent, saw the majority of new loan demand come from investment in property, plant and equipment. This is not surprising considering the economic impact of reopening from the pandemic.
  • High M&A Activity: 56 percent of commercial banks and 73 percent of non-bank lenders reported M&A as a key driver to new loan demand in 1Q21. However, of all the reasons driving demand for non-bank lenders, M&A activity had the largest number of lenders (48 percent) indicate that it is a "very important" factor. This trend continues on from 4Q20 during which M&A activity started to pick-up.

Lenders Compete by Improving Non-Bank and Traditional Loan Terms

  • Larger Loan Sizes: 34 percent of non-bank lenders have increased loan sizes over the past quarter compared to only 22 percent of commercial banks. Non-bank lenders have been more aggressive on increasing loan sizes for their clients as the economy improves and competition heats up.
  • Lower Interest Rates: Approximately one-third of both commercial bank and non-bank lenders have indicated that they have lower interest rates over the past quarter for new loans. In general, the credit markets have begun to relax as risk of lending has decreased in the anticipation of the economy reopening.
  • More Flexible Loan Covenants: Nearly 20 percent of both commercial bank and non-bank lenders have eased loan covenants and structuring. Though some lenders are providing more flexible structures than typical to win market share, other lenders are offering structures that resemble pre-covid lending structures, representing a relaxed approach compared to the past six months.

Optimistic Outlook for Easing Loan Terms in 2021

Looking ahead for the remainder of 2021, nearly 40 percent of non-bank lenders surveyed anticipate continuing to ease loan terms. The primary reason for this outlook is that 60 percent of these lenders expect increased competition for high quality corporate borrowers, requiring more aggressive actions to win new business.

"We've been excited to see lenders offering much more competitive terms, such as 3 years interest only financing, covenant lite structures, and lenders getting comfortable with cash equity at 10 percent, which is 50 percent lower than what lenders required the second half of last year," said Matt Bjonerud, CEO of Cerebro. "We believe this uptick in activity is pent up demand from the prior year and do not see activity slowing down in the foreseeable future, but it's unclear how long lenders will offer aggressive terms to deploy their excess cash.

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