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MIAMI-Locally based Lennar Corp. is crossing over from its traditional single-family home side to the realm of commercial real estate by way of its $243-million loan purchase deal with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. The company says it bought two loan portfolios with an unpaid balance of just over $3 billion.

Lennar subsidiary Rialto Capital Advisors will conduct day-to-day management and workout of the portfolios and contributed up to $5 million toward the loan purchase. Lennar indirectly acquired 40% managing member interests in the limited liability companies created to hold these loans.

The FDIC will retain the other 60% equity interest and provide $627 million of non-recourse financing at zero interest for seven years. The transactions include approximately 5,500 distressed residential and commercial real estate loans from 22 failed bank receiverships.

“Acquiring and working out distressed real estate loans was a large and extremely profitable part of our business during the last major real estate down cycle in the early 1990s,” Stuart Miller, Lennar president and CEO, stated in a release. He noted that the major homebuilder, founded in 1954, understands market cycles and point-of-entry opportunities, and has been preparing for such an investment over the past two years.

“Our track record of successfully managing the resolution of distressed real estate loan portfolios puts us in a unique position at this point in the cycle,” added Rialto CEO Jeffrey Krasnoff. The FDIC transactions are expected to contribute to Lennar’s 2010 earnings.

Only 30% of the loans are commercial, while the rest are widely residential and are mostly concentrated in Georgia, Nevada and Arizona. Lennar announced last month that it is entering the Atlanta market.

Analysts following Lennar give the company credit for its past history of capitalizing on market downturns, but warn that this recovery could be a lot more difficult. “This is appropriate, but at the same time we think there are long-term risks given the unusually severe nature of this cycle,” Nishu Sood of Deutsche Bank said in a research note.

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