18 October 2017 - El Confidencial
Blackstone has surprised the market once again with the purchase of the hotel company HI Partners from Banco Sabadell for €630.7 million; the operation will turn the fund into one of the major players in the Spanish tourism sector overnight. Nevertheless, this acquisition is actually just the tip of the iceberg of a much larger objective, which is directly linked to the largest real estate operation seen in Europe in recent times: the €30,000 million in toxic assets that Blackstone acquired from Santander-Popular in the summer.
That huge portfolio, comprising foreclosed properties and non-performing loans, contained €800 million linked to hotel assets, some of which Blackstone wants to use to fatten up HI Partners' portfolio, according to sources in the know. Those same sources define that move as a medium-term strategy, which will allow it to create a hotel giant, capable of competing with other large platforms such as Hispania, before debuting it on the stock market in a few years time.
Although the fund analysed its purchase of Sabadell hotels as a stand-alone operation, Blackstone’s roadmap forecasts the possible generation of synergies with its other large portfolio of hotel assets in Spain, in other words, those proceeding from Banco Popular.
As El Confidencial published, when Blackstone definitively closed the purchase of 51% of the Santander-Popular portfolio, the fund’s objective was to gradually divide it up, taking advantage of the range of vehicles that it already owns in Spain, such as the Socimis Fidere, Albirana and Corona Patrimonial, and undertake direct sales of both assets and debt portfolios.
HI Partners now forms part of that same strategy. The plan is to transfer only those hotels that comply with the group’s business model, which focuses on high category coastal hotels and very selective urban establishments. The Hilton Inn Sevilla, Gran Hotel La Toja in Pontevedra, Tamisa Golf in Mijas and Hotel Ayre in Oviedo are some of the assets that were held under the Popular umbrella.
Nevertheless, given that the bulk of this portfolio is debt whose collateral are these establishments, the transfer of the assets chosen to form part of HI Partners will have to be performed gradually, on an asset by asset basis, depending on the progress of the negotiations regarding the loan status in each case. Blackstone has time on its side since its objective with these acquisitions is to take advantage of the growth curve of the Spanish tourism sector and to do so through an asset repositioning strategy.
After selling HI Partners, along with its 14 best establishments, Sabadell will now continue with more than a dozen lower category hotels under its umbrella, which it plans to transfer gradually. All of the bank's debt secured by hotel collateral also remained inside its perimeter for the time being; until now that was being managed by the team led by Alejandro Hernández-Puértolas and Santiago Fisas, and it will probably end up being sold off through Solvia.
The HI Partners management team will continue to be linked to the hotel group even after the completion of the sale to Blackstone, once the operation has received the green light from the Competition authorities. The team will face the challenge of continuing to make the company grow by repositioning the hotels, like they have been doing since 2015, in line with Blackstone’s plans for Popular’s establishments.
Original story: El Confidencial (by R. Ugalde)
Translation: Carmel Drake