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[AU] GE Money, Wizard Home Loans - Wholesale, Retail

2008-10-28

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stories: co.nz, bloomberg.com, com.au, com.au, com.au, net.au, com.au

Update - 2009-01-20: New Zealand's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is investigating Wizard Home Loans offices for "tens of millions" in fraudulent loans the New Zealand Herald reported on 2009-01-17. "The investigations involve several hundred loans worth tens of millions of dollars," the article states. Parent GE Money and an unnamed trading bank were the alleged victims, as they provided the financing. GE Money initiated the complaints to the SFO, which said it expects "the investigations to take some months."

Update - 2008-12-24: Sydney-based Commonwealth Bank of Australia won out with its bid for the $A4 billion ($2.7 billion U.S.) portfolio of GE Money, while its 33% owned lending affiliate Aussie Home Loans will buy the brand and distribution network of Wizard Mortgage Co. according to a report in Bloomberg. Commonwealth will acquire $A2 billion of the portfolio at the end of February, and is reportedly "discussing the purchase of a further A$2 billion." Aussie Home Loans will expand its existing retail operations by picking up 160 Wizard branches across Australia and will improve its access to wholesale funding with direct access back to Commonwealth Bank.

Update - 2008-12-17: While The Australian is reporting National Australia Bank was "close to securing the brand name and Australian distribution network of Wizard Home Loans," we learn from The Age that GE Money is closing the retail business of Wizard Home Loans in New Zealand.

"Geoff Lynch, GE Money's Australia and NZ corporate finance manager, said there were 25 Wizard branches owned and managed by licensees not employed directly by GE Money.

The branches employed 75 people.

Six employees and two contractors of GE Money also would also lose their jobs."

GE Money still has a retail presence in NZ, and will continue to service "about 4,000 existing loans worth about $NZ1 billion ($A831.22 million)." The closure of Wizard Home Loans "had no bearing" on GE Money's ongoing talks with National Australia Bank to acquire the "brand, [Australian] distribution network and $A4 billion in prime mortgages from Wizard."

Original Post - 2008-10-28: Australian news sources are reporting that GE Money, Australia's largest non-bank lender, has withdrawn from the wholesale mortgage markets in Australia and New Zealand. From The Age: "GE Money will make about 335 staff members redundant over the next 12 months. In Victoria, about 136 staff will go." A reader contributed this background on GE Money:

"GE Money first came to Australia with their original platform being Consumer Finance and Sub-Prime mortgage lending. Then in 2004 they expanded into the conforming mortgage market with their purchase of AFIG (Australia Financial Investments Group) which was a Wholesale Lender of funds to both Mortgage Managers and Mortgage Brokers. AFIG also owned a Retail Division that operated under the brand name of Wizard Home Loans which was also purchased and operated by GE Money.

National Australia Bank is rumored to be in the process of buying the Wizard Home Loans division. Wizard had nearly 200 franchise branches and AFIG would have had at least that many Mortgage Managers plus their Broker Direct business and plus their Sub-Prime being sold through all channels. If I had to guess I would say they were funding between two to three billion per month. The employee count too would be a guess, but probably about 250 at the Wholesale side and maybe 2000 at Wizard if you are counting the Franchise Owners and their sales forces."

"It was a pretty major player in Australia," our source said. "You need to take into account our population is only 20 million compared to the U.S. population of over 300 million."

The Daily Telegraph reported retail mortgage operations will continue for the time being:

"It will continue to offer mortgages through Wizard Home Loans, which it bought from founder Mark Bouris for $500 million in 2004, and which it is currently looking to sell."

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Important: This company is on our list of lending operations that have "imploded". However, please note that "imploded" is a somewhat subjective and does not necessarily mean operations are ceased permanently: it can mean bankruptcy filing, temporary but open-ended halting of major operations, or "firesale" acquisition. All information here is provisional, and may contain inaccuracies (especially newer information). If you are planning on doing business with this company or any other one listed on this site, you should inquire with them directly on whether they can still meet your needs. Many are still operating in some capacity.