21 March 2016 – El Confidencial
Aktua, the real estate services company created by the former Banesto, which was acquired by the opportunistic fund Centerbridge Partners in 2012, is about to change owners once again. The Norwegian company Lindorff has reached an agreement to complete the acquisition for almost €300 million, which will turn it into one of the largest landlords in Spain. The Scandinavian company has fought off competition from Apollo Capital Management, the toxic property management arm of Banco Santander, as well as the German firm Activum SG Capital Management.
According to several sources, Lindorff has won the auction led by Barclays, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Linklaters against those two opponents, and is now putting the finishing touches to the legal conditions so that it can close the operation. It has not been simple because, whilst Aktua was on the market, its parent company, Centerbridge, acquired the real estate arm of Ibercaja – on 2 February – which meant that it had to recalculate the numbers for the potential buyers.
Aktua manages around 42,000 properties worth almost €7,000 million; those assets will be added to those that Lindorff already manages in Spain. The Scandinavian company was one of the pioneers to invest in the real estate and recovery services sector when the crisis first began. In fact, in 2012, it bought Reintegra for €100 million, the subsidiary of Banco Santander dedicated to the recovery of doubtful debts, and in December 2014, it acquired Sabadell’s recovery arm, for which it paid €160 million. Along the way, it also acquired several non-performing debt portfolios, including several from the bank led by Ana Botín.
Currently, Lindorff España, which last year appointed Alejandro Zurbano as its CEO, employs more than 1,100 professionals and has a presence throughout the country, with offices in Madrid, Valladolid, A Coruña, Alicante, Barcelona, Granada, Jerez de la Frontera, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, San Sebastián and Valencia. The multi-national company from the North of Europe has almost 4,000 employees in total, located in its 11 countries of operation, including Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Russia and Germany.
Although the amount of some of its operations have not been made public, Lindorff has invested almost €1,000 million to become one of the largest landlords in the country. Its work involves managing homes and retail premises, owned by the various real estate companies that it has acquired, claiming the payment of unpaid loans from their owners and negotiating the debt to obtain a spread. Once the last details of the purchase have been finalised, Linforff will manage non-performing loans, homes, retail spaces and land owned by Banesto, Ibercaja, Banco Mare Nostrum (BMN), Santander and Sabadell.
The sale of Aktua was essential for the main overseas funds that have become the largest landlords in Spain, because it is a volume-based business that is currently still very atomised. Sources in the market expect to see a process of concentration in the sector, in which almost €10,000 million has been invested, mainly on the purchase of non-performing loan portfolios. Some are already leaving, such as Elliott, which recently sold its recovery management platform to Cabot, and Fortress, which has now put its main businesses in Spain up for sale: the financing company Lico Leasing and the loan management platform Paratus.
For Centerbridge, the sale of Aktua is going to generate a sizeable profit, given that it acquired the platform for around €100 million in 2012 and is now selling it for almost €300 million. The real estate platform of the opportunistic fund employs 400 people and generates a gross operating profit or EBITDA of around €50 million.
Original story: El Confidencial (by Agustín Marco)
Translation: Carmel Drake