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JENKINTOWN, PA-American Financial Realty Trust and New York City-based Sandler O’Neill + Partners LP signed an agreement to work together to market sale-leaseback deals to middle market financial institutions that have between $500 million and $40 billion in assets. Sandler will work with locally based AFR through its affiliate, Sandler O’Neill Mortgage Finance LP.

Sandler is an investment banking firm that advises the banking industry. “Over the past five years, Sandler has consistently ranked as one of the leading M&A advisors to financial institutions as well as one of the leaders in raising capital for the middle market banking sector,” says Nicholas Schorsch, AFR’s president and CEO, in a statement.

Michael Lacovara, a Sandler principal and COO, tells GlobeSt.com, “there are between 3,500 and 4,000 banks in the size-range we’re targeting. It’s impossible to know, without evaluating their balance sheets, how many might benefit from a sale-leaseback. But, our company has established relationships with from 800 to 1,000 of those institutions, and just about every one of them that we have talked with so far has shown significant interest.”

Under the agreement, the two firms will work together to identify prospects and meet with them to discuss how they could benefit from the sale-leaseback format. According to the companies’ joint statement, they would then “facilitate, as appropriate, AFR’s acquisition and leaseback of the institutions’ real estate on a net lease basis.” The agreement has a five-year term, “subject to certain levels of mutual performance.”

Jim Mirage, AFR’s VP of acquisitions, tells GlobeSt.com, “if volume fails to meet a certain threshold, the agreement can be terminated.” He says Sandler will get “a percentage-based fee–that is a percentage of the purchase price of assets acquired by AFR with Sandler’s assistance.”

An AFR spokesman describes the Sandler affiliation as “another tool for increased business development that should catapult AFR’s ongoing efforts to penetrate the middle-market banking sector.” He tells GlobeSt.com that AFR is not planning to raise capital to fund its equity in deals reached under the agreement, and Sandler is not providing any financing.

He adds that the agreement with Sandler “is part of, but not exclusive,” of AFR’s previously announced plans to explore strategic alternatives to raise shareholder value. As GlobeSt.com previously reported, during a June 1 shareholders meeting, Lewis Ranieri, AFR chairman, said a review of ways to enhance the company’s financial performance was underway and promised “more details in the weeks ahead.”

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