GLASGOW-based commercial lender WM Mann Group has regained its appetite to fund speculative residential property developments, amid improving housing market conditions.
The family-controlled lender also highlighted its willingness to fund manufacturers which had endured the tough economic times of recent years, as it unveiled a 1.5% dip in annual pre-tax profits to £816,163 for the year to December 31, 2013.
Chairman Bruce Mann considered the results showed WM Mann had been "modestly successful, given the still-difficult trading circumstances".
WM Mann had limited its involvement in funding speculative residential developments during the protracted economic downturn.
Mr Mann said yesterday: "We are certainly more prepared to entertain that type of funding than we would have been about 18 months ago."
He added: "We have been doing it on a small scale throughout (the downturn) but we are dipping our toes back into the market more and more, as the economy seems to be getting back up on to its feet, but more importantly because property developers seem to think the housing market is getting back on its feet."
Citing the strength of the housing market in Glasgow's west end, Mr Mann said: "We have one customer who bought and refurbished a two-bedroomed tenement property in the west end and he had 52 people seeing it and it sold within 14 days, to a cash buyer."
This property had been put on the market at the start of this year, he noted
Asked if he had concerns the west-end housing market might overheat, Mr Mann replied: "Not at the moment. I think it is still reasonably affordable. Things are selling for in excess of what is being asked but not a huge amount in excess of what is being asked."
Mr Mann said the maximum amount that WM Mann would lend to a single residential property scheme was about £500,000 to £600,000.
Detailing WM Mann's criteria for funding speculative residential property development, he added: "It is very selective. It has to be experienced builders who are in a position to provide a substantial chunk of the required funds, and they have to be choosy about the style of property they build and the address of the site.
"We will not fund 10 or 15 one or two-bedroomed properties within what might be perceived to be a sub-standard area, (that is) not within an established residential address."
WM Mann has nearly 40 residential properties of its own, concentrated in Glasgow's west end and a handful of streets in Shawlands on the south side of the city.
Mr Mann said these residential investments had all performed exceptionally well, with very high occupancy rates.
WM Mann has 24 commercial property investments, and Mr Mann cited tough conditions in this arena.
He said: "The commercial property market continues to suffer, with increasing incentives having to be offered to incoming tenants and the partial acceptance of existing tenants' demands for reduced rents."
He saw signs of a pick-up in the commercial property sector, but added tenants still had the upper hand when negotiating leases.
Mr Mann said that the group had in 2013 sold two adjoining commercial property investments on Byres Road in Glasgow's west end.
This sale had resulted in a book profit of £144,000, after taking into consideration property revaluations.
He added that the cost of these investments, one of which had been bought in 1976, had been £390,000, resulting in a "historical profit on cost of £471,000".
Mr Mann, whose firm lends mainly to independent players in sectors including leisure and hospitality, also highlighted its provision of funding for manufacturers.
He said, where manufacturers had survived the last five or seven years, this was a good indicator the management team had been sensible, and believed the sector had picked up a bit.
Mr Mann, brother Ainsley, and sister Sarah between them own about two-thirds of WM Mann Group.
The rest is owned by The WM Mann Foundation, which distributes funds to Scottish charities. In the last two years, it has made distributions totalling £400,000.