By Marc Morris - Case Manager at Fiduciam
Fiduciam is used to dealing with the unexpected, so while Covid-19 has been a particularly unwelcome shock – both for people’s health and for the economy– it is something we have tried to take in our stride as far as possible.
Successful short-term lending is all about being flexible and adapting to circumstances as you find them, so our team has been well placed to react to the challenging situation presented by the coronavirus.
Fiduciam was quick to see the potential of the UK Government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). The scheme is designed precisely to help businesses whose plans and finances have been hit by the coronavirus outbreak, and this seemed to us to be an excellent match for the flexible short-term finance options Fiduciam offers. The construction sector has been particularly hard hit, with figures from the Office for National Statistics showing that output fell by around two-fifths at the height of lockdown. The restrictions put in place to prevent the further spread of Covid-19 have derailed a number of development and refurbishment projects. When Fiduciam was accredited for CBILS by the British Business Bank last month, we therefore anticipated strong demand from this sector.
As it turned out, it was not long before we were approached by a housebuilder, who had seen a development project thrown off track by Covid-19. They had taken out an initial loan to purchase two adjacent properties in an up-and-coming town on the south coast of England, with a plan to convert them into a range of residences attractive to both first-time buyers and families. Covid-19 threw these plans off track and they came to Fiduciam aiming to refinance their existing loan and to procure additional funds to complete the conversion project.
From the borrower’s perspective, there are clear advantages to taking out a loan under CBILS. Firstly, the loan allows the housebuilder to resume the construction works immediately which were halted when the lockdown was introduced. Whilst the housebuilder had obtained leverage at the outset of the project, none of the housebuilder’s usual lenders were willing to finance the continuation of the project. Furthermore, under CBILS, the Government pays the fees and interest for the first 12 months. This turned out to be critical to make the loan affordable, in light of the much lower profitability of the project than the pre-Covid projections.
The scheme is also advantageous for lenders, who benefit from a partial guarantee from the Government, enabling us to unlock institutional funding more easily. This also means we are able to offer a lower interest-rate, which also provides an added benefit to our borrowers. Through the CBILS scheme, we were able to offer this housebuilder a £1.1 million topping out at 70% loan-to-value at an interest rate of around 0.8% per month, which is low for higher-risk development loans to small family-run housebuilders.
There are also direct benefits for the Government from the CBILS scheme. As well as helping to keep the economy moving and providing jobs, which is the primary objective of CBILS, this loan also served another Government objective, easing the current housing crisis by tackling the undersupply of residential accommodation. This project will create four new flats and three houses in place of one habitable property and a derelict farmstead.
The loan was not without complications, as the deal requires the transfer of land between the two properties, and the farmstead, although derelict, is also a listed building. However, Fiduciam is accustomed to dealing with all manner of complex lending scenarios and overcoming tricky issues, making us the perfect lender for this situation.
Our experience of CBILS so far has been extremely positive. Over the coming weeks Fiduciam is looking forward to helping many more high-quality businesses across the economy to get back on their feet, and return to growth, as the country gradually recovers from Covid-19.