(Source: Reuters)

JPMorgan Chase & Co is expanding its U.S. commercial banking business, even amid the recession, and is considering a return to commercial real estate next year.

As other banks have labored to lay off commercial real estate exposure — the cause of the most recent slew of loan losses for many financial institutions — JPMorgan’s Texan head of commercial banking, Todd Maclin, believes there may be an opportunity in this business next year.

“These assets are rapidly re-pricing, there are a number of distressed sellers, there are a number of financial institutions that are overexposed, and from our past experience those sorts of things generally translate into an opportunity as you approach the bottom,” he told Reuters.

JPMorgan has benefited from its limited exposure to commercial real estate relative to peers — in the second quarter, it accounted for just $12.3 billion of JPMorgan’s total $109 billion in commercial banking loans — and under Chief Executive Jamie Dimon, the bank is known as a cautious risk taker and one of the best survivors of the financial crisis.

“I wouldn’t say we’ve put our toes in the water but maybe we’ve taken our shoes and socks off,” said Maclin, talking on the phone from Long Island where he was visiting clients.

Read Elinor Comlay’s full article “JPMorgan steps up lending, eyes real estate” in Reuters (September 11, 2009).

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