At the tail end of his tenure running alternative lender MCAP Corp., Derek Norton tried to take the company public in a $275-million deal.
Even after years of explosive growth, he couldn’t get the deal to close.
Two years later, Mr. Norton is retiring, a move announced abruptly on Thursday. In doing so, he leaves his IPO goal unfilled.
Succeeding him is company veteran Mark Aldridge, who previously served as chief operating officer. The outgoing chief executive remains with MCAP as a vice-chair.
The company Mr. Aldridge inherits has seen its assets and profit expand since trying to go public in 2016, yet the new leader isn’t likely to have much more success with an initial public offering – at least not in the near future.
Even though MCAP’s fundamentals remain encouraging, much has changed for mortgage lenders in the past two years. The near collapse of rival alternative lender Home Capital in the wake of mortgage fraud findings, and the revelation that Laurentian Bank had to buy back hundreds of millions of dollars worth of mortgages after uncovering some documentation and eligibility issues, have spooked some investors.
Compounding the fears, the federal government and Canada’s banking watchdog implemented new mortgage rules at the start of this year, forcing more borrowers to meet a higher standard when trying to buy homes.
Mortgage lenders of all stripes have been affected, including Canada’s Big Six banks, which have reported lending slowdowns.
The largest institutions, however, have multiple divisions, including wealth management and capital markets, to help cushion the blow. Alternative mortgage lenders, meanwhile, aren’t as diversified. Their market performance has suffered as a consequence.
The lion of the alternative lenders, First National Financial Corp., has seen its shares hover around the same price for 18 months, while Equitable Group Inc. has sold off sharply since the start of 2018. The company now trades around six times its earnings. (A stock trading under 10 times earnings is often a signal investors are steering clear of it.)
At the smaller end of the alternative market, shares of Street Capital Group Inc. are now trading below the company’s book value.
Asked about MCAP’s IPO intentions, senior vice-president Don Ross acknowledged that going public is not on the table right now. “We’re always looking to be IPO-ready, but it’s not part of our immediate short-term plans,” he said in an interview.
As for the CEO change, incoming leader Mr. Aldridge wrote in an e-mail that the handover was part of “normal succession planning.”
When MCAP tried to go public in May, 2016, it touted a strong position as Canada’s second-largest alternative mortgage lender, behind First National. Roughly 90 per cent of its mortgages were made to residential owners, which was seen as a boon because the housing market was on fire.
At the time, MCAP had $53-billion in mortgages under administration and it had reported a $69-million profit in fiscal 2015.
However, MCAP started marketing its IPO right before the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom. In the vote’s aftermath, investors turned skittish, and MCAP was forced to delay the deal. In November, MCAP withdrew the offering altogether.
The company has continued to expand since. In fiscal 2017, MCAP reported net income of $99.6-million, and it just recently crossed $70-billion in assets under administration.
The internal value of MCAP’s private shares also appears to have climbed. Commercial mortgage lender MCAN Mortgage Corp. holds a 14-per-cent stake in MCAP, and because MCAN is publicly traded, it must disclose any changes to this ownership.
In early 2017, it sold a small number of MCAP shares for $19.47 each, and early this year it sold a bit more for $22.60 apiece.