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NCT > SEC Filings for NCT > Form 10-Q on 26-Oct-2012All Recent SEC Filings

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Form 10-Q for NEWCASTLE INVESTMENT CORP


26-Oct-2012

Quarterly Report


ITEM 2. MANAGEMENT'S DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF FINANCIAL CONDITION AND RESULTS OF OPERATIONS

The following should be read in conjunction with the unaudited consolidated financial statements and notes thereto included herein, and with Part II, Item 1A, "Risk Factors."

GENERAL

Newcastle Investment Corp. is a real estate investment and finance company. We invest in, and actively manage, a portfolio of real estate securities, loans, excess mortgage servicing rights ("Excess MSRs") and other real estate related assets, such as senior living facilities. Our objective is to maximize the difference between the yield on our investments and the cost of financing these investments. We often seek to hedge our interest rate risk. We emphasize portfolio management, asset quality, liquidity, diversification, match funded financing and credit risk management.

We currently own a diversified portfolio of credit sensitive real estate debt investments, including securities and loans, and other real estate debt investments, such as Excess MSRs. Our portfolio of real estate securities includes commercial mortgage backed securities (CMBS), senior unsecured debt issued by REITs, real estate related asset backed securities (ABS), and FNMA/FHLMC securities. Mortgage backed securities are interests in or obligations secured by pools of mortgage loans. We generally target investments rated A through BB, except for our FNMA/FHLMC securities, which have an implied AAA rating. We also own, directly and indirectly, interests in loans and pools of loans, including real estate related loans, commercial mortgage loans, residential mortgage loans, manufactured housing loans, and subprime mortgage loans.

We generally employ leverage as part of our investment strategy, though we do not currently use leverage to purchase excess MSRs. We do not have a predetermined target debt to equity ratio as we believe the appropriate leverage for the particular assets we are financing depends on the credit quality of those assets. As of September 30, 2012, we had complied with the general investment guidelines adopted by our board of directors that limit total leverage. We utilize leverage for the sole purpose of financing our portfolio and not for the purpose of speculating on changes in interest rates.

We strive to maintain access to a broad array of capital resources in an effort to insulate our business from potential fluctuations in the availability of capital. We seek to utilize multiple forms of financing, including sales of common or preferred equity, collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), other securitizations, term loans, and trust preferred securities, as well as short term financing in the form of loans and repurchase agreements. As we discuss in more detail under "-Market Considerations" below, while market conditions have improved meaningfully since 2008, the current conditions continue to reduce the array of capital resources available to us and have made the terms of capital resources we are able to obtain generally less favorable to us relative to the terms we were able to obtain prior to the onset of challenging conditions. That said, we have recently been able to access more types of capital - and on better terms - than we had been able to access during 2008 and 2009.

We typically seek to match fund our investments with respect to interest rates and maturities in order to reduce the impact of interest rate fluctuations on earnings and reduce the risk of refinancing our liabilities prior to the maturity of the investments. We seek to finance a substantial portion of our real estate securities and loans through the issuance of term debt, which generally represents obligations issued in multiple classes secured by an underlying portfolio of assets. Specifically, our CDO financings offer us the structural flexibility to buy and sell certain investments to manage risk and, subject to certain limitations, to optimize returns.

We conduct our business through the following segments: (i) investments financed with non-recourse collateralized debt obligations ("non-recourse CDOs"), (ii) unlevered investments in deconsolidated Newcastle CDO debt ("unlevered CDOs"),
(iii) unlevered Excess MSRs, (iv) investments in senior living assets financed with non-recourse debt ("non-recourse senior living"), (v) investments financed with other non-recourse debt ("non-recourse other"), (vi) investments and debt repurchases financed with recourse debt ("recourse"), (vii) other unlevered investments ("unlevered other") and (viii) corporate. With respect to the non-recourse CDOs and non-recourse other segments, Newcastle is generally entitled to receive net cash flows from these structures on a periodic basis. Revenues attributable to each segment, as restated for previously reported periods, are disclosed below (in thousands).

                                  Non-                           Unlevered             Non-               Non-                                                             Inter-
For the Nine Months Ended       Recourse        Unlevered          Excess         recourse Senior       Recourse                        Unlevered                          segment
      September 30,               CDOs             CDOs             MSRs              Living              Other         Recourse          Other         Corporate        Elimination        Total
              2012             $   161,490     $        339     $     16,422     $           7,548     $    54,753     $     4,981     $     7,234     $        135     $      (5,167 )   $  247,735
              2011             $   164,523     $        120     $          -     $               -     $    54,421     $     1,626     $     1,933     $         99     $      (3,983 )   $  218,739

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Market Considerations

Financial Markets in which We Operate

Our ability to generate income is dependent on our ability to invest our capital on a timely basis at attractive returns. The two primary market factors that affect our ability to do this are (1) credit spreads and (2) the availability of financing on favorable terms.

Generally speaking, widening credit spreads reduce any unrealized gains on our current investments (or cause or increase unrealized losses) and increase our costs for new financings, but increase the yields available on potential new investments, while tightening credit spreads increase the unrealized gains (or reduce unrealized losses) on our current investments and reduce our costs for new financings, but reduce the yields available on potential new investments. By reducing unrealized gains (or causing unrealized losses), widening credit spreads also impact our ability to realize gains on existing investments if we were to sell such assets.

From mid-2007 through early 2009, credit spreads widened substantially. One of the key drivers of the widening of credit spreads over these years was the continued disruption and liquidity concerns throughout the credit markets. The severity and scope of the disruption intensified meaningfully during the fourth quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009. In the latter part of 2009, credit spreads tightened substantially and continued to tighten in 2010 and the first half of 2011. However, credit spreads have widened since the third quarter of 2011, reflecting the challenging economic environment. These changes in credit spreads caused the net unrealized gains on our securities to increase during the first half of 2011, but these increases were reversed and resulted in net unrealized losses in the second half of 2011. Market conditions have improved moderately but remain challenging and could change rapidly. We cannot predict how recent or future changes in market conditions will affect our business.

We utilize multiple forms of financing, depending on their appropriateness and availability, to finance our investments, including sales of common or preferred equity, collateralized debt obligations or other securitizations, term loans, trust preferred securities, and short-term financing in the form of loans and repurchase agreements. One component of our investment strategy is to use match funded financing structures, such as CDOs, at rates that provide a positive net spread relative to our investment returns.

Recent conditions in the credit markets have impaired our ability to match fund investments. During the past several years, financing in the form of securitizations or other long-term non-recourse structures not subject to margin requirements was generally not available or economical, and it remains difficult to obtain under current market conditions. Lenders have generally tightened their underwriting standards and increased their margin requirements, resulting in a decline in the overall amount of leverage available to us and an increase in our borrowing costs. These conditions make it highly likely that we will have to use less efficient forms of financing for any new investments, which will likely require a larger portion of our cash flows to be put toward making the initial investment and thereby reduce the amount of cash available for distribution to our stockholders and funds available for operations and investments, and which will also likely require us to assume higher levels of risk when financing our investments. Moreover, financial market conditions remain volatile and have been adversely affected by the unrest in the Middle East, the European financial crisis, continuing weakness in the U.S. labor and housing markets and concern about the United States' level of indebtedness. Volatility in equity markets could impair our ability to raise debt or equity capital or otherwise finance our business.

We believe that the current environment has created an attractive opportunity to invest in Excess MSRs. Specifically:

changes in the regulatory treatment of MSRs for financial institutions subject to Basel III, a revision to the global regulatory capital and liquidity framework for banks, which will impose increased regulatory capital costs on banks for owning MSRs;
elevated borrower delinquencies and defaults experienced over the last few years, and increased regulatory oversight, have led to substantially higher costs for mortgage servicers and negatively impacted their profitability; and
mortgage servicing has become less attractive to many financial institutions due to increasingly negative publicity and heightened government and regulatory scrutiny.

These dynamics resulted in a pipeline of MSRs for sale by banks to non-bank servicers, as these institutions are under pressure to exit or reduce their exposure to the mortgage servicing business. As a result, we believe that this relative oversupply of MSRs, combined with a historically low interest rate environment and a challenging credit market, have contributed to an availability of MSRs that are attractively priced. We closed on our first investment in Excess MSRs in December 2011, made two additional investments in June 2012, and are exploring opportunities to acquire additional Excess MSRs that provide attractive risk-adjusted returns.

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In addition, we believe that the senior living sector currently presents an attractive investment opportunity. Specifically,

projected changes in demographics will drive increased demand for senior housing, yet new supply is limited, creating favorable supply-demand fundamentals;
targeting smaller portfolios enables us to avoid pricing competition with other active REIT buyers of large portfolios, thereby focusing our acquisitions on quality senior housing assets that provide more competitve pricing fundamentals; and
capitalizing on the experience of our manager in the senior living industry, we expect to generate growth in property-level net operating income when operational and structural efficiencies are achieved.

We acquired our first portfolio of senior living assets in July 2012 for an aggregate purchase price of approximately $143 million plus related expenses. These assets comprise more than 800 beds in senior living facilities located in California, Oregon, Utah, Arizona and Idaho. We funded the purchase price with an equity investment of approximately $55 million and non-recourse financing of approximately $88 million. The financing currently has a weighted average interest rate of 3.45% and is secured by, among other things, a first lien security interest in each of the properties. We have retained affiliates of Fortress to manage the properties. Pursuant to a management agreement for each property, we pay a management fee equal to 6% of the properties' gross income (as defined in each agreement) for the first two years and 7% thereafter, and we reimburse the manager for certain property-level expenses. We are exploring opportunities to invest in additional senior living facilities.

We are also pursuing investments in residential mortgage backed securities ("RMBS") that have been securitized by either public or private trusts ("non-Agency RMBS"). Since the onset of the financial crisis in 2007, there has been significant volatility in the prices for non-Agency RMBS. This has resulted from a widespread contraction in capital available for this asset class, deteriorating housing fundamentals, and an increase in forced selling by institutional investors (often in response to rating agency downgrades). While the prices of these assets have started to recover from their lows, we believe a meaningful gap still exists between current prices and the recovery value of many non-Agency RMBS. Accordingly, we believe there are opportunities to acquire non-Agency RMBS at attractive risk-adjusted yields, with the potential for meaningful upside if the U.S. economy and housing market continue to strengthen. We believe the value of existing non-Agency RMBS may also rise if the number of buyers returns to pre-2007 levels. As of September 30, 2012, we had acquired non-Agency RMBS with a face amount of approximately $322 million for a total purchase price of $202 million, or 62.7% of face amount.

Liquidity

Credit and liquidity conditions have improved relative to the conditions experienced during the 2008-2009 financial crisis. That said, the challenging credit and liquidity conditions that we experienced during the financial crisis continue to adversely affect us and the markets in which we operate in a number of ways. For example, these conditions have reduced the market trading activity for many real estate securities and loans, resulting in less liquid markets for those securities and loans. As the securities held by us and many other companies in our industry are marked to market at the end of each quarter, the decreased liquidity and concern over market conditions have resulted in significant reductions in mark to market valuations of many real estate securities and loans and the collateral underlying them, as well as volatility and uncertainty with respect to such valuations. These lower valuations, and decreased expectations of future cash flows, have affected us by, among other things:

decreasing our net book value;
contributing to our decision to record significant impairment charges; and
reducing the amount, which we refer to as "cushion", by which we satisfy the over collateralization and interest coverage tests of our CDOs (sometimes referred to as CDO "triggers") or contributing to several of our CDOs failing their over collateralization tests (see "- Liquidity and Capital Resources" and "- Debt Obligations" below).

Failed CDO triggers, impairments resulting from incurred losses, and asset sales made at prices significantly below face amount while the related debt is being repaid at its full face amount, as well as the retention of cash, could further contribute to reductions in future earnings, cash flow and liquidity.

With respect to dividends, we expect to pay dividends on our preferred stock on October 31, 2012. We declared a quarterly dividend of $0.22 per common share for the third quarter of 2012, which will be paid on October 31, 2012. We may elect to adjust or not to pay any future dividend payments to reflect our current and expected cash from operations or to satisfy future liquidity needs.

Extent of Market Disruption / Recovery

Market conditions have meaningfully improved over the last two years, but it is not clear whether a sustained recovery will occur or, if so, for how long it will last. We do not currently know the full extent to which the continuing challenging market conditions will affect us or the markets in which we operate. If such conditions continue, particularly with respect to commercial real estate, we may experience additional impairment charges, potential reductions in cash flows from our investments and additional challenges in raising capital and obtaining investment or other financing on attractive terms. Moreover, we will likely need to continue to place a high priority on managing our liquidity. Certain aspects of these effects are more fully described in Part I, Item 2, "Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations - Interest Rate, Credit and Spread Risk" and "- Liquidity and Capital Resources" as well as in Part I, Item 3, "Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk."

Potential Separation Transaction

We may consider a transaction to separate our Excess MSRs and certain non-agency RMBS from the remainder of our investment portfolio. If the transaction resulted in these assets being held in a stand-alone entity, we expect that such entity would elect and qualify to be taxed as a REIT. In such a transaction, for federal income tax purposes, taxable stockholders would be required to include the full value of the stand-alone entity as ordinary income to the extent of our current and accumulated earnings and profits, and would likely not receive a cash dividend sufficient to pay the associated income taxes. Our board of directors has authorized us to explore such a transaction; however, no decision has been made as to whether or not we would complete such a transaction. The consummation of a separation transaction is subject to further approval by our board of directors, and there can be no assurance as to the timing, terms, structure or completion of any such transaction. Any such transaction would be subject to a number of risks and uncertainties, could have tax implications for the holders of shares of our common stock, and could adversely affect the price of shares of our common stock.

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APPLICATION OF CRITICAL ACCOUNTING POLICIES

Management's discussion and analysis of financial condition and results of operations is based upon our consolidated financial statements, which have been prepared in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles ("GAAP"). The preparation of financial statements in conformity with GAAP requires the use of estimates and assumptions that could affect the reported amounts of assets and liabilities, the disclosure of contingent assets and liabilities and the reported amounts of revenue and expenses. Actual results could differ from these estimates. Management believes that the estimates and assumptions utilized in the preparation of the consolidated financial statements are prudent and reasonable. Actual results historically have been in line with management's estimates and judgments used in applying each of the accounting policies described below, as modified periodically to reflect current market conditions. The following is a summary of our accounting policies that are most effected by judgments, estimates and assumptions.

Variable Interest Entities

Variable interest entities ("VIEs") are defined as entities in which equity investors do not have the characteristics of a controlling financial interest or do not have sufficient equity at risk for the entity to finance its activities without additional subordinated financial support from other parties. A VIE is required to be consolidated by its primary beneficiary, and only by its primary beneficiary, which is defined as the party who has the power to direct the activities of a VIE that most significantly impact its economic performance and who has the obligation to absorb losses or the right to receive benefits from the VIE that could potentially be significant to the VIE.

The VIEs in which we have a significant interest include (i) our CDOs, and (ii) our manufactured housing loan financing structures. Currently, we do not have the power to direct the relevant activities of CDO V, as a result of the event of default which allows us to be removed as collateral manager of CDO V and prevents us from purchasing or selling collateral within CDO V, and therefore we deconsolidated CDO V as of June 17, 2011. Similar events of default in the future, if they occur, could cause us to deconsolidate additional financing structures. Our manufactured housing loan financing structures are consolidated. However, we completed two securitization transactions to refinance our Manufactured Housing Loan Portfolios I and II. We analyzed the securitizations under the applicable accounting guidance and concluded that the securitization transactions should be accounted for as secured borrowings. As a result, we continue to recognize the portfolios of manufactured housing loans as pledged assets, which have been classified as loans held-for-investment at securitization, and recorded the notes issued to third parties as secured borrowings.

Our subprime securitizations are also considered VIEs, but we do not control their activities and no longer receive a significant portion of their returns. These subprime securitizations were not consolidated under the current or prior guidance.

In addition, our investments in CMBS, CDO securities and loans may be deemed to be variable interests in VIEs, depending on their structure. We are not obligated to provide, nor have we provided, any financial support to these VIEs. We monitor these investments and, to the extent we determine that we potentially own a majority of the currently controlling class, analyze them for potential consolidation. As of September 30, 2012, we have not consolidated these potential VIEs due to the determination that, based on the nature of our investments and the provisions governing these structures, we do not have the power to direct the activities that most significantly impact their economic performance.

We will continue to analyze future investments, as well as reconsideration events in existing entities, pursuant to the VIE requirements. These analyses require considerable judgment in determining the primary beneficiary of a VIE since they involve subjective determinations of significance, with respect to both power and economics. The result could be the consolidation of an entity that would otherwise not have been consolidated or the de-consolidation of an entity that would otherwise have been consolidated.

Valuation of Securities

We have classified all our real estate securities as available-for-sale. As such, they are carried at fair value with net unrealized gains or losses reported as a component of accumulated other comprehensive income, to the extent impairment losses are considered temporary as described below. Fair value may be based upon broker quotations, counterparty quotations or pricing services quotations, which provide valuation estimates based upon reasonable market order indications or a good faith estimate thereof and are subject to significant variability based on market conditions, such as interest rates, credit spreads and market liquidity. A significant portion of our securities are currently not traded in active markets and therefore have little or no price transparency. For a further discussion of this trend, see "- Market Considerations" above. As a result, we have estimated the fair value of these illiquid securities based on internal pricing models rather than the sources described above. The determination of estimated cash flows used in pricing models is inherently subjective and imprecise. Changes in market conditions, as well as changes in the assumptions or methodology used to determine fair value, could result in a significant and immediate increase or decrease in our book equity. For securities valued with pricing models, these inputs include the discount rate, assumptions relating to prepayments, default rates and loss severities, as well as other variables.

See Note 7 to our consolidated financial statements in Part I, Item 1, "Financial Statements and Supplementary Data" for information regarding the fair value of our investments, and its estimation methodology, as of September 30, 2012.

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Our securities must be categorized by the "level" of inputs used in estimating their fair values. Level 1 would be assets valued based on quoted prices for identical instruments in active markets. We have no level 1 assets. Level 2 would be assets valued based on quoted prices in active markets for similar instruments, on quoted prices in less active or inactive markets, or on other "observable" market inputs. Level 3 would be assets valued based significantly on "unobservable" market inputs. We have further broken level 3 into level 3A, third party indications, and level 3B, internal models. Fair value under GAAP represents an exit price in the normal course of business, not a forced liquidation price. If we were forced to sell assets in a short period to meet liquidity needs, the prices we receive could be substantially less than the recorded fair values.

We generally classify the broker and pricing service quotations we receive as level 3A inputs, except for certain liquid securities. They are quoted prices in generally inactive and illiquid markets for identical or similar securities. These quotations are generally received via email and contain disclaimers which state that they are "indicative" and not "actionable" - meaning that the party giving the quotation is not bound to actually purchase the security at the quoted price. These quotations are generally based on models prepared by the brokers and we have little visibility into the inputs they use. Based on quarterly procedures we have performed with respect to quotations received from these brokers, including comparison to the outputs generated from our internal pricing models and transactions we have completed with respect to these securities, as well as on our knowledge and experience of these markets, we have generally determined that these quotes represent a reasonable estimate of fair value. For the $1.3 billion carrying value of securities valued using quotations as of September 30, 2012, a 100 basis point change in credit spreads would impact estimated fair value by approximately $29.5 million.

Our estimation of the fair value of level 3B assets (as described below) involves significant judgment. We validated the inputs and outputs of our models by comparing them to available independent third party market parameters and models for reasonableness. We believe the assumptions we used are within the range that a market participant would use, and factor in the liquidity conditions currently in the markets. In the first nine months of 2012, the inputs to our models, including discount rates, prepayment speeds, default rates and severity assumptions, have generally remained consistent with the assumptions used at year-end, other than certain modifications we have made to the assumptions to reflect conditions relevant to specific assets.

For CMBS and ABS securities valued with internal models, which have an aggregate fair value of $89.0 million as of September 30, 2012, a 10% unfavorable change in our assumptions would result in the following decreases in such aggregate fair value (in thousands):

                                                         CMBS           ABS
Outstanding face amount                                $ 120,564     $ 113,743

Fair value                                             $  48,664     $  40,345

Effect on fair value with 10% unfavorable change in:
Discount rate                                          $  (1,252 )   $  (1,012 )
. . .
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