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U.S. Private Equity Firm Defaults On European Shopping Centre Loan As Retail Woes Spread

Shopping centre woes have spread to the Netherlands.

It isn’t just the UK where U.S. private equity firms are facing pressure on debt-funded retail deals: The trend is spreading to the rest of Europe too.

An €80M loan to a joint venture led by U.S. investor Mount Kellett was not repaid when it matured in July, putting it in default, according to a stock exchange filing.

The loan is secured against a portfolio of nine regional Dutch shopping centres and one Dutch office building which Mount Kellett and Sectie5 Investments bought from Corio in 2014. The portfolio was valued at €129M at the end of 2018.

Mount Kellett tried to sell the portfolio in 2016 but could not find a buyer, and now the loan has not been refinanced or repaid before maturity, according to Debtwire.

Retail values in Continental Europe have held up better than those in the UK until now. E-commerce penetration is lower than in the UK and U.S., there is less retail per person, and leases are shorter and retailers provide information on sales, meaning rents are not as high as in the U.K.

But Mount Kellett’s loan default shows the Continent will not be immune to the issues affecting the U.K., where private equity owners of retail are seeing loans default and lenders take control of assets.

The Dutch loan has now been moved to special servicing. It was originally provided by Deutsche Bank and then securitised. The vacancy rate is 17%, according to a recent report from servicer Situs. The properties are spread across the secondary cities of the Netherlands.

Mount Kellett was set up in 2008 by former Goldman Sachs banker Mark McGoldrick, who ran Goldman’s special situation group and made so much money for the bank that he was dubbed “Goldfinger”.

But things did not turn out well for Mount Kellett. The firm made big bets in the energy sector that went south when oil prices fell earlier this decade. The firm’s private equity funds were facing big losses, and in 2015 Fortress struck a deal which saw it invest in the funds and take a stake in the management business.

Ironically considering the recent loan default, the firm’s European real estate business was very profitable, making big returns on deals including buying stakes in UK hotels and debt secured against prime London assets.

Fortress did not return a request for comment on the Dutch loan default.