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Aussie Self-Certification Mortgage Lender to be Sold

Jun 9, 2008
One of Australia's largest non-bank lenders has been offered up for sale by its owner GE Money - the giant American corporation with an international financial services arm. The mortgage lender has apparently been put on the market to stave off a takeover bid by its previous owner however it is likely that the sale has been triggered in part by the credit crunch.

Wizard Home Loans was founded in 1996 to offer Australian home owners and first time buyers the opportunity to obtain a mortgage without having to apply to one of the four major banks which had a monopoly on the market for many years. One of the main products offered by Wizard was a low-doc home loan which is the Australian version of a self-certification mortgage. This product was targeted at the self-employed, in the same manner as self-certification mortgage products, allowing non-employees to obtain a home loan with little documentation to verify their incomes.

Wizard had gained an impressive 2.5% of the total home loan market down under as one of many non-bank lenders which now operate in the nation's big mortgage market. Home ownership in Australia is considered to be one of the main goals of families and is often referred to as the "Australian dream." However the credit crunch has affected Wizard's performance of late as the availability of funds has dried up and interest rates have risen considerably in the Lucky Country.

The lender was sold to GE Money several years ago for about half a billion dollars. GE Money has therefore owned the company during a period of decline in the non-bank lending industry and is ripe for the picking. Enter one of the previous owners with a brash offer - for GE to pay him millions of dollars upfront as remuneration for him taking the reins of the business again and for an equity stake so he could profit from selling it off in the future when he turns its fortunes around. In reaction the giant American company has offered Wizard up for sale on the open market in an apparent bid to circumvent the bold prior owner of the mortgage lender and therefore not have to strike a deal with him.

The lender's fortunes have waned in recent times and it has been forced to close or sell off some of its 250 plus branches. Some branches are owned by individual Mum-and-Dad investors in a similar fashion to the popular franchise model for mortgage brokers down under. The reduction in funds available on the inter-bank market which can subsequently be loaned to home owners on a self-certification basis has also hit the lender hard as it is one of their more popular products.

Regardless of whom takes control of Wizard the lender will require someone with financial services expertise to put it back on track. The mortgage market is experiencing difficult times in Australia as it is in the UK and the USA in the wake of the sub-prime lending crisis. Unlike the US and the UK interest rates have risen considerably in Australia dealing a double blow to the self-certification mortgage market.
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