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Blackstone Buys 4,500 Rental Homes From Sabadell

13 January 2016 – Expansión

Blackstone has won one of the largest ever real estate auctions and it did so during the final days of 2015. A few weeks ago, the US fund completed the acquisition of 4,500 rental homes from Banco Sabadell, according to financial sources consulted by Expansión.

This represents the largest block sale of homes by a Spanish bank in recent years, given that the sale is still pending of two larger portfolios that Bankia and Ibercaja have put on the market.

The latest operation, which forms part of Project Empire, has now been signed by both parties; a few conditions precedent are still outstanding, but they are expected to be resolved within the next few weeks. Given that the agreement was actually reached in 2015, it will be accounted for within last year’s results, which Banco Sabadell will announce on 29 January.

The portfolio was initially valued at around €600 million, however, after it was first put on the market, the number of flats included in the portfolio decreased from 5,000 to 4,500 (bringing the valuation down to €540 million). The interested funds had been demanding discounts of between 40% and 70% for banks’ portfolios of homes, on the basis of the quality of the assets. In the case of Project Empire, since the homes in the portfolio are all rented out, the price obtained by Sabadell could have been higher, given that Blackstone will obtain regular rental income, as well as taking ownership of the assets.

Firm commitment

This purchase strengthens the US fund’s position in Spain, whose senior advisor is Claudio Boada. The homes will be managed by Blackstone’s real estate subsidiary, Anticipa, the entity formerly known as CatalunyaCaixa Inmobiliaria, led by Eduard Mendiluce. In addition, the fund has three other subsidiaries in Spain, which also manage property investments, namely: Fidere, which focuses on homes for rent (many of which are social housing properties); Logicor, which concentrates on the logistics asset segment; and Multi Development, which specialises in shopping centres.

Blackstone completed its largest ever investment in Spain last year, with the purchase of 40,000 mortgages from Catalunya Banc, worth €6,400 million for €3,600 million. Anticipa manages that portfolio, together with a few others acquired from entities such as CaixaBank, taking the entity’s total assets under management to €10,000 million.

Another one of the most active investors in Spain in recent months has been Oaktree, which competed against Blackstone to take over Sabadell’s portfolio.

For the Catalan entity, this operation allows it to continue improving the quality of its balance sheet through the sale of non-performing assets. Sabadell has reduced the volume of problem assets on its balance sheet by €3,500 million since the start of 2014 ,to €22,350 million at the end of September 2015.

In addition to Project Empire, Sabadell sold other portfolios last year to investors such as Pimco, Aiqon and Sankaty. Altogether, it transferred assets worth €2,400 million to those funds in 2015.

Original story: Expansión (by J. Zuloaga/S. Saborit)

Translation: Carmel Drake

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