If you were at this week’s Hunter Hotel Investment Conference in Atlanta, you would think plenty of lenders are providing lots of money to finance hotel industry deals. While that’s far from true, it was a good sign that, unlike last year, many lenders were at the conference. More importantly, those in attendance or speaking on panels said they’re providing financing for a wide range of lodging transactions: acquisitions, portfolio deals, refinancings, renovations, CMBS and SBA loans and, believe it or not, new construction.

“One of two lenders stayed in the market during the downturn, and six months ago there were six to eight companies lending to this segment,” saidMichael Murphy , head of lodging and leisure capital for The First Fidelity Cos. “Today, I know of at least 12 firms providing everything from CMBS to portfolio financing.”

Many speakers pointed out the sharp improvement in hotel performance has drawn many lenders to the industry. Others believe lenders holding loans on distressed hotels are now ready to deal.

“They have more confidence in the numbers,” said Jim Merkel, president of RockBridge Capital. “Also, extend and pretend is over. Lenders have done it once or twice and now they’re fatigued. Deals will start to get done.”

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