UPDATE 1-Commercial real estate lender iStar posts wider loss

Tue Feb 26, 2013 8:01am EST

* Fourth-quarter loss $1.04 per share vs $0.43 year ago

* Interest income falls 29 percent

* Revenue falls 10 percent

Feb 26 (Reuters) - Commercial real estate lender iStar Financial Inc reported a seventh straight quarterly loss as it continues to spend far more to service its debt than it earns from loans and leases.

The company's net loss attributable to shareholders widened to $87.4 million, or $1.04 per share, from $35.2 million, or 43 cents per share, a year earlier.

Total revenue was $93.7 million in the quarter, while the company paid out $83.5 million in interest payments on its debt.

The lender is being hurt by the fact that it has to pay high rates on the money it borrows, but cannot charge those rates on the money it lends.

Its interest income fell 29 percent to $28.6 million, driving down revenue by 10 percent.

New York-based iStar has been taking steps to shrink its interest payments by repaying and refinancing its high-cost debt.

The lender said earlier this month it had received commitments from lenders to re-price its $1.82 billion senior secured credit facility due October 2017.

The company has also been selling assets. It said in January it would receive $220 million for its 24 percent stake in LNR Property LLC, a distressed commercial debt manager.

"2012 was an important year...as we strengthened the balance sheet, bolstered liquidity and paved a debt maturity runway until 2017, enabling us to begin ramping up new investment activity in 2013," Chief Executive Jay Sugarman said in a statement.

The company had $4.69 billion in net debt at the end of the quarter, down from the $7.35 billion three years ago, when it flagged "going concern" worries.

It had $256.3 million in cash and cash equivalents at the end of December.

The difference in its cash position and outstanding debt has made the company the target of short-sellers. More than a fifth of its outstanding shares were being shorted at the end of January, according to Nasdaq data, as investors bet the company will not be able to refinance its obligations.

Shares of the company closed at $9.94 on the New York Stock Exchange on Monday.

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