As bankers around the country wait for the Federal Reserve to trigger new business activity for them by raising interest rates, executives at U.S. Bancorp expressed some wariness about one major line of business — commercial real estate.
The business accounts for about one-fifth of the Minneapolis banking company’s loan activity have grown solidly since the global downturn seven years ago. In the Twin Cities, U.S. Bank provided the financing recently for some major commercial real estate projects, including the Hewing Hotel and Highlight Center, both in Minneapolis.
When the company announced its third quarter results on Thursday, Chief Executive Richard Davis told analysts and investors that it is trying to hold a line on growth in commercial real estate.
“It’s an area that we think has some undue risk in it,” Davis said. “It’s a pretty overheated market, not just in certain locations but in tenures, terms and the decisions some banks are making.”
Davis told analysts not to be disappointed if its commercial real estate business doesn’t grow much. “We’ll probably hold our own and keep our market share, but that’s an area we’re going to keep a particularly close eye on,” he said.
In the July to September period, U.S. Bancorp’s total commercial real estate loans amounted to $42.3 billion, down slightly from April to June though up about 3 percent from the same period a year ago.
In an interview, Kathy Rogers, the company’s chief financial officer, said the company is ready to walk away from a commercial real estate deal that doesn’t make sense to executives. “We will participate in that space if it makes sense from the standpoint of credit, as well as pricing,” she said. “We’re not going to compromise our credit philosophies.”
For the moment, the company’s cautious outlook on commercial real estate stands out among major banks.
For instance, Wells Fargo & Co., the San Francisco firm that runs Minnesota’s largest bank system, recently expanded its commercial real estate dealings by purchasing some assets from GE Capital. This week, it reported a 12 percent jump in its commercial real estate business during the July to September quarter.