Aames Financial Corp., the Los Angeles home equity lender, is reportedly planning to enter the United Kingdom market.
During the company's recent road show to promote a 2.1 million-share stock offering, analysts said, chief executive Gary Judis spoke about Aames' desire and intent to enter the lucrative market. But the company is not expected to jump in quickly.
Mr. Judis "spoke in de novo terms," one analyst said. "It's more of a 'dip your toe in the water' move."
No one covering the company has considered an Aames move into the United Kingdom in projecting earnings, the analyst added. "Right now, it's all just gravy," he said.
Making home equity loans in the United Kingdom, less regulated than the United States, has already proved rewarding for Cityscape Financial Corp., an Elmsford, N.Y., lender that entered the market through acquisition.
The big spread the company has earned there, as well as the typically longer loan life and large prepayment penalties, has piqued the interest of several U.S. home equity lenders.
Money Store Inc., Sacramento, Calif., and United Companies Financial Corp., Baton Rouge, La., have reportedly looked into the market.
Industry Mortgage Co., a Tampa home equity lender, is already lending in the United Kingdom. Through a joint venture with Rotch Property Group Ltd., London, and FSA, New York, the company plans to offer securitized pools of these loans.
It makes the British loans under the name Preferred Mortgage Ltd., a broker network that was called Curzon Equity Finance before its purchase by Industry.
The Florida company has substantially expanded Curzon's product line to include "A" through "D" quality loans, said Dennis Pitocco, director of European operations.
The company is now dabbling in retail originations in the United Kingdom, Mr. Pitocco said, through direct marketing and advertising.
Although he would not disclose current volumes, and Industry Mortgage has not listed expected U.K. volume in its prospectus, Mr. Pitocco said he expects to book "a lot."
Making loans in Britain is less difficult than in the United States, Mr. Pitocco noted, "where there is competition all over the place."
Because of the start-up nature of the U.K. home equity business, Mr. Pitocco said, "we can literally go through the market and pick out our niche."