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npl-reo Market News: Spanish Real Estate Intelligence

Mount Street Takes Over the Management of WestLB's NPLs in Spain

12 December 2017 - Expansión

The British firm also wants to negotiate agreements to manage the portfolios of Spanish banks and Sareb.

A new operator has arrived in the Spanish market for the management of debt in default or with a high risk of non-payment. Mount Street London Solutions has taken over a platform that manages the “toxic” portfolio of the former German entity WestLB and has whereby acquired an office in Madrid. Through this deal, the firm aspires to obtain new clients in Spain, including financial institutions and investment funds operating in the sector.

Mount Street was owned by the fund Greenfield Partners until February when its directors purchased the firm with support from the German bank Aareal Bank, which took over 20% of the share capital. In October, the loan manager took a leap in its business with the purchase of EAA Portfolio Advisors, an entity created in Germany to administer WestLB’s non-performing assets after the bank was rescued by the German Government in 2008. Its function is to try to recover those loans, restructure them, sell them on or foreclose the assets that secure them.

Of the €200 billion in problem loans that WestLB held, €22 billion remains, under the management of EAA. The portfolio includes loans, primarily to firms in the renewable energy sector, which WestLB granted in Spain before the crisis. By acquiring EAA, Mount Street has purchased its office in Madrid along with the 6 employees that manage its portfolio.

The objective of Mount Street is to use this foothold in Spain as a platform to grow towards new business areas, especially in the real estate debt segment. “The team that we have incorporated in Spain has been working for years to restructure debt in the infrastructure sector, in particular, in the solar energy segment, and we are now able to contribute our specialisation in the real estate area that we offer in the rest of Europe”, said Ravi Joseph (pictured above), Founding Partner of Mount Street, in an interview with Expansión.

The firm, which is headquartered in London, sees several opportunities for accessing the Spanish property market. On the one hand, he hopes to negotiate agreements with financial entities and/or with Sareb (…) to manage some of their portfolios of problem loans. Another option is to help those property developers struggling to make their repayments to allow them to “repurchase” their loans from the investment banks that acquired their debt from the banks back in the day. The final option is to collaborate with small investors that are still arriving in Spain interested in acquiring non-performing loans (…).

In Joseph’s opinion, the appetite of international investors to enter Spain is still very high despite the political crisis in Cataluña. “The major international investors are still very interested in Spain. Much more so than in Italy. Spain has entered a virtuous circle (…). The uncertainty in Cataluña may affect growth somewhat, but the overall trend will continue to be upward”.

After acquiring EAA, Mount Street now manages debt amounting to €48 billion in total.

Original story: Expansión (by Robert Casado)

Translation: Carmel Drake

 
Cerberus Gets its Cheque Book out again to Buy NPLs from CaixaBank

4 December 2017 - Voz Pópuli

Cerberus is stepping on the accelerator in Spain. The US fund has starred in another major operation just days after acquiring a real estate portfolio from BBVA. One of Cerberus’s subsidiaries, Gescobro, has won an auction for €0.8 billion in non-performing loans and real estate from CaixaBank.

The fund has purchased part of that portfolio, known as Project Egeo, whilst the Norwegian group Lindorff has bought the rest, according to financial sources consulted by this newspaper.

Part (€0.5 billion - €0.6 billion) of this €0.8 billion portfolio comprises unsecured loans (credit cards, personal loans and others without any guarantee) and just over €0.2 billion relates to loans to SMEs secured by real estate.

This is Cerberus’s fourth operation in the Spanish financial and real estate sector in 2017 following the acquisition of Project Jaipur from BBVA (€0.6 billion in non-performing property developer loans; the purchase of the real estate arm of Liberbank, Mihabitans, for €85 million; and the acquisition of €13 billion in property from BBVA for €4 billion.

Strategic fit

The sale of Project Egeo, which is still pending the completion of the necessary paperwork, forms part of the routine divestment plans of the Catalan group. In this way, it is managing and controlling its default rate and complying with the regulatory requirements of the European Central Bank (ECB).

Currently, the group’s default rate stands at 6.4%, after falling by seven tenths in the last year. In total, its doubtful loans amount to €15.3 billion, of which €13.9 billion are in Spain. It has another €7.2 billion in foreclosed assets.

The firm that has won the auction, Gescobro, has been led by Iheb Nafaa until now, but he was recently poached by Servihabitat, the real estate company owned by TPG (51%) and CaixaBank (49%).

Meanwhile, Lindorff has been one of the main competitors in the bank debt market since 2012. More than a year ago, it expanded its real estate business with the purchase of Aktua, the former real estate arm of Banesto; and it strengthened its business through a merger with Intrum Justicia.

Original story: Voz Pópuli (by Jorge Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake

 
How Cerberus Became Spain's Largest RE Company

3 December 2017 - Voz Pópuli

If you are thinking about buying a home over the next few months, statistically, it is likely that Cerberus will be the vendor. The US fund is one of the players that arrived in Spain at the height of the financial crisis (between 2010 and 2012), with the objective of acquiring banks and real estate companies, just like it had done in other countries. The former did not happen, despite several attempts to take over some of the former savings banks. But the conquest of the property sector went a lot better: so much so that the fund now controls more than €50 billion in assets and has just starred in the second largest operation in the Spanish real estate sector in recent years.

Those close to Cerberus define it as a fund that is meticulous, aggressive in its negotiating style and persistent. It has proven that last quality with the patience it has shown searching for major operations in Spain over many years. Last week, it finally was in a position to purchase BBVA’s property. It is the fund's largest acquisition to date in Spain and it is going to cost €4 billion, most of which will be financed by Morgan Stanley.

Five key people inside the fund have been instrumental to the success of this operation, namely: Frank W. Bruno, one of the main directors of the fund at the global level; Lee S. Millstein, another key director of Cerberus, who has been overseeing the business in Spain for years; Manuel González-Cid, Senior Advisor to the fund and former Finance Director at BBVA, and his team; David Teitlebaum, head of the fund in Europe; and Daniel Dejanovic, head of the real estate business in Europe.

The Aznar junior factor

Several other people have also participated, although to a lesser extent: Carlos Abad, CEO at Haya Real Estate, the real estate servicer of Cerberus in Spain; Juan Hoyos, former President at McKinsey in Spain and President of Haya; John Snow, President of Cerberus, who met with the President of BBVA, Francisco González, to propose the deal in the first place; and José Maria Aznar Botella, son of the former Spanish President. The story of this fund in Spain has been inextricably linked to the incorporation of Aznar junior in recent years, at least from the point of view of the media. The bankers who have worked with him describe him as a “strong professional” who has been key to the fund’s success in Spain.

Both Hoyos and Aznar were most certainly instrumental during Cerberus’s first operation in Spain, in 2013, when it purchased Bankia Habitat, in the so-called Project Platform. It was a purchase that revolutionised the sector and paved the way for other similar deals, such as the sale of Altamira, Servihabitat and Anticipa.

Unlike what has happened with BBVA, Cerberus’s operation with Bankia did not involve an asset purchase, but rather the management of that entity's assets. Like in other similar operations, the fund takes control of the workforce and the administration and sale of debt and foreclosed assets, in exchange for management commissions. Bankia Habitat became Haya Real Estate and subsequently expanded its perimeter after teaming up with Sareb, Cajamar and, this year, Liberbank. Those deals involved the disbursement of around €0.5 billion by Cerberus. Added to the €4 billion paid to BBVA and the fund's other portfolio purchases, the total figure exceeds €5 billion.

The result of this strategy is that Haya Real Estate has reached a management volume of more than €40 billion, has almost 700 employees and recorded a profit of €31 million (in 2016).

Cerberus’s networks in Spain do not end there: it owns a doubtful debt management firm, Gescobro; a securitisation firm, Haya Tutulización; a stake in another manager of bank debt, Hipoges, whose sale it is currently negotiating with KKR; and dozens of companies where it keeps its real estate assets. As if they were not enough, it will soon be able to add the property developer Inmoglacier to this list.

And that is only one of the strings to Cerberus’s bow in Spain, it also engages in large business ventures such as Renovalia, which is currently up for sale. Operations such as the one involving BBVA reflect the fact that funds like this are still very interested in Spain, despite the uncertainties being generated by Cataluña. And beyond the foreign money that they bring, they should be seen as the new influential players, capable of moving markets such as the real estate sector. And they are here to stay. For the time being at least.

Original story: Voz Pópuli (by Jorge Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake