Colonial To Construct New Office Block Next To Castellana

29 May 2015 – Expansión

The real estate company Colonial has purchased a property on Calle Estébanez Calderón in Madrid, just a stone’s throw from the Paseo de la Castellana. It will demolish the building and construct a new office block in its place. The total investment will amount to €40 million.

The future corporate tower will cover an area of 15,000 square metres above ground and will be exclusively devoted to offices that will be rented out.

Given the scarcity of prime products for sale and the significant pressure from the international market to purchase this kind of product in Madrid and Barcelona, Colonial has decided to build its own property. The company chaired by Juan José Brugera specialises in office buildings in the centres of Madrid, Barcelona and Paris and its assets amount to €6,000 million.

Original story: Expansión (by Marisa Anglés)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Fortress Puts Its ‘Paratus’ Platform Up For Sale

29 May 2015 – Expansión

Project Coast / Fortress wants to dispose of one of its platforms, with 40 employees and a portfoliol of loans and homes amounting to €700 million.

(Photo: Michael Novogratz, Director at Fortress Investent Group)

Fortress, one of the first opportunistic funds to arrive in Spain has put up the ‘for sale’ sign over part of its business in Spain. The US fund has announced the disposal of its distressed debt management platform and of a portfolio of loans and homes amounting to almost €700 million.

The possible sale comes at a time when international investors are reviewing their strategies in Spain following the results of the regional and local elections. Even so, sources close to the transaction indicate that this deal was launched long before the election results were announced and that the fund remains firm in its commitment to Spain.

The investor has taken the decision after it completed the purchase of Lico Leasing from savings banks last year, with 500 employees and assets worth €600 million.

Former GMAC

Following this purchase, Fortress wants to sell its Paratus platform. The firm originated from General Motor’s former financing arm, GMAC. After being rescued by the US Government in 2008, GMAC – currently known as Ally Financial – sold its European business to Fortress, which represented the fund’s first foray into Spain. The fund started to purchase non-performing loan portfolios in Spain in 2009, and ended up managing a portfolio amounting to €4,000 million.

The opportunistic fund has engaged N+1 to advise on the sale of Paratus; several weeks ago the consultancy firm distributed information to potential investors regarding the so-called Project Coast. Following the first phase of the process, this week N+1 will announce which funds and platforms will go through to the final phase, which is expected to close at the beginning of July.

According to sources in the financial sector, this transaction is primarily targeted at overseas funds that want to establish a base in Spain. Investors such as Elliot – with Gesif -, D.E. Shaw – with Multigestión – and Cerberus – with Gescobro – have closed similar deals in recent years.

According to the information distributed by N+1, Paratus currently manages four asset portfolios and has two service contracts, which in total correspond to assets under management amounting to almost €1,000 million. The sale also includes the current team, comprising 43 professionals.

Almost €700 million of the loans and homes managed by Paratus will be transferred into the hands of the buyer. Of those, €426 million are unsecured loans without any kind of collateral; €152 million are loans secured by 866 properties; and another 500 homes are worth just over €100 million. Most of the real estate exposure is located in Cataluña, Andalucía and Valencia.

New strategy

Following this sale, Fortress will focus its strategy in Spain on Lico Leasing and on its subsidiary Geslico – where it recently undertook an ERE –, which render similar services to those offered by Paratus. Through Lico, the fund has a banking licence as a financial credit establishment, which was granted by the Bank of Spain in December 2014.

Fortress has altered its strategy in Spain after its failed attempts to buy a real estate subsidiary, such as Altamira and Aliseda, and to enter Sareb’s capital.

Following those endeavours, it completed its largest purchase in Spain, by purchasing debt in Realia amounting to €440 million, and since then, it has acquired small real estate portfolios and participated in the financing of indebted companies.

The fund in Spain is led by the banker José María Cava, founder of Gladia Capital and a former director of BBVA.

Original story: Expansión (by Jorge Zuloaga)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Socimis: Spain’s Political Uncertainty Is Starting To Affect Investors

29 May 2015 – El Economista

The sector is hoping that the fear will pass and the uncertainty will come to an end soon.

Just two weeks ago, the real estate sector claimed that the emergence of new political parties in Spain would not affect the volume of investment. However, that perception has changed following the recent elections.

The current political uncertainty is palpable and the players in the sector fear that investment in property is stalling. The main Spanish Socimis are already detecting reluctance from investors, based on the views they shared at a forum organised by Deloitte. Moreover, the CEO of Merlín, Ismael Clemente, warned yesterday that companies issuing bonds will do so in poorer conditions from now on.

The fears

According to sources consulted by this newspaper, the sector fears that funds “will suspend the plans they had for Spain until after the general election”, or that they will have a complete change of heart and choose to focus on other markets.

Nevertheless, there is another side to the coin and that is that the funds may play their cards so as to push down prices  in the face of so much “uncertainty”. That is the word that has been repeated time and again in the sector over the last few days, but everyone is hoping that the “fear will soon pass”.

Original story: El Economista (by Alba Brualla)

Translation: Carmel Drake

A Group Of Funds Takes Control Of Catalan Firm ‘Habitat’

29 May 2015 –

A group of investment funds has taken control of the Catalan real estate company Habitat, after the judge gave the green light to the proposed agreement that they had submitted.

According to reports by El País, the company will now end up in the hands of firms such as Goldman Sachs, Bank of America Merril Lynch, Capston, Marathon and SC Lowy; whilst the Figueras family, which founded the real estate company, will retain a minority stake. The new owners will retain the current management team.

The company, whose debt initially amounted to €1,800 million, sought refuge in the new bankruptcy law at the end of last year after it proved impossible for it to adhere to the repayment calendar established under the previous agreement.

The investment funds have acquired Habitat after purchasing Habitat’s loans at a significant discount from banks and Sareb, the so-called bad bank, and they presented another proposed agreement to the Commercial Court number 3 in Barcelona, which was approved in the end.

The funds will become the new owners of the real estate company by converting their debt into equity.

Original story:

Translation: Carmel Drake

NH’s Minority Shareholders May Ask To Join The Board

29 May 2015 – Expansión

29 June / The agenda for NH’s shareholders’ meeting does not currently include the appointment of any new directors. UBS now holds a 4.36% stake.

In the interests of progress in terms of corporate governance and to increase transparency, many listed companies, including the NH Hotel Group, are adapting their corporate bylaws to the new Capital Company Act. Thus, NH will include a item on the agenda of its shareholders’ meeting, which will be held on 29 June, about the reasonable balance of its board of directors, whose composition should reflect the relationship between the stable and free-floating capital.

In fact, the composition of NH’s board of directors has sparked unrest amongst the fund managers and minority shareholders due to the hotel group’s decision to not cover the two vacant positions left by Intesa Sanpaolo, when it sold its shares, by independent directors. Yesterday, their fears were confirmed. The agenda for the shareholders’ meeting includes the ratification of two directors – Francisco Román as an independent director and Ling Zhang as a representative of HNA, the majority shareholder of NH – and the renewal of two other directors – José María López-Elola, as an independent director and José Antonio Castro, as a representative of the Hesperia Group. There was no mention of any new appointments.

NH’s board comprises 11 people in total: four representatives of HNA – which holds a 29.5% stake -, two from Hesperia – with a 9.09% stake -, three independent directors, the CEO – Federico González Tejera – and the Chairman – Rodrigo Echenique-, who continues in the role despite the exit of Banco Santander, the shareholder that he previously represented.

Nevertheless, the composition of the board may change in the short term. The 8.56% stake held by Santander was distributed amongst three (fund) managers, which already held stakes in NH: BlackRock, Oceanwood and Henderson. The first two now hold more than 7.5%. The funds, which have shared their concerns about the reduction in (the size of) the board with NH, will request their own inclusion on the board of directors and their request may be discussed at the shareholders’ meeting. According to the bylaws, shareholders that represent at least 3% of the share capital have five days following the announcement of the shareholders’ meeting to request the inclusion of one or more items on the agenda.

Meanwhile, UBS now owns a 4.36% stake. On 21 May, the Swiss bank purchased 9.13 million shares from Santander for €46.57 million.

The Chairman

Rodrigo Echenique received €300,000 in 2014. This year, he will receive €200,000, i.e. 33% less.


Federico González Tejera, the CEO, earned €1.62 million (in 2014), up 34%. His variable salary amounted to €788,000.

The other board members

In addition to Echenique and Tejera, the 16 people that held positions on the board in 2014 received €692,000 in total.

Original story: Expansión (by Yovanna Blanco)

Translation: Carmel Drake

BBVA Sells Two Real Estate Portfolios Containing Hotels & Offices

29 May 2015 – Bloomberg

Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA is selling two real estate portfolios in Spain that include hotels and offices, according to documents seen by Bloomberg News.

The package of hotels, called Otelo, consists of 18 properties located throughout the country with a total of 2,050 rooms, according to the documents. The commercial portfolio, called Zafiro, comprises 15 offices, logistics and retail units.

No value was included in the documents and a spokesman for BBVA in Madrid declined to comment on the sale.

Investors are targeting commercial real estate in Spain as the economy recovers and the euro’s slide against a basket of currencies encourages more visitors. A record 65 million tourists arrived last year, and in the first two months of this year, spending by vacationers increased by 8 percent, compared with 2014, to €6.6 billion ($7.2 billion).

The deadline for binding bids for the hotels, only six of which are open, was on April 27, according to one of the documents.

BBVA intends to conclude the sale of the Zafiro package by September, according to one of the documents. It consists of 139,000 square meters (1.5 million square feet) of real estate and 1,300 parking spaces.

Original story: Bloomberg (by Sharon Smyth)

Edited by: Carmel Drake


Election Fallout: Uncertainty May Deter Investors & Delay Large Deals

28 May 2015 – Cinco Días

Experts predict that there will be an impact on the rental market and on the sale of debt portfolios. They warn that Madrid and Barcelona will be affected by anti-eviction initiatives.

The rise of political parties advocating the suspension of mortgage foreclosures, the relocation of evicted families (to vacant properties owned by banks and Sareb), and the end of sales of public properties to private owners, at the elections last Sunday, has put the international investment funds, which have been arriving in Spain in recent years with a renewed hunger for property, on alert.

Experts in the market say that although we are still waiting to see the specific impact of these initiatives by the governments, which depend on pacts that are just as uncertain, the situation will cause funds to reduce their already low purchase offers and to postpone large transactions until they know the results of the general elections, scheduled for the end of the year.

“Madrid and Barcelona are the showcase for the country”, explains Mikel Echavarren, CEO of the real estate consultancy firm Irea, predicting that the expected appointment of Ada Colau (Barcelona en Comú) and Manuela Carmena (Ahora Madrid) as the mayoresses of the two large capital cities, “will cause investors’ interest to disappear for four years” in all areas “that depend on decisions by local councils”.

In his opinion, there are three areas of particular concern. On the one hand, the suspension of evictions – or their delay, because, as Echavarren points out, municipalities do not have the legal power to eliminate them altogether – because that would result in a penalty for the budding rental market and above all “longer timeframes, more uncertainty and lower prices” in the offers made by funds for packs of credit with real estate collateral.

Secondly, proposals such as the one made by Colau to suspend the opening of new hotels in Barcelona, “which is one of the most important hotel markets in the world”. And thirdly, the review of the general urban plans in Madrid and Barcelona.

“Either you have a local council that is “pro-business” or investors pack their bags and take their money elsewhere”, warns the director of an investment fund who asked to remain anonymous, stating that “Anglo-Saxon capital does not understand it when urban development is not encouraged”.

“Any change represents uncertainty and money flees from uncertainty”, says Julio Gil, Chairman of the Real Estate Research Foundation (Fundación de Estudios Inmobiliarios or FEI), bearing in mind that as a minimum “funds will consider their investments in Spain to be more risky and therefore will demand high returns”.

Nevertheless, Gil states that for the time being this support for social rather than economic policies is only being seen at the local government level and, to a lesser extent, at the regional government level, but he thinks that the fear of what might happen in the general elections this year may well “delay several (large) transactions” as investors wait to see the outcome.

“The greatest risk is that we drop off of the radar of investors”, warned sources yesterday at ETC Real Estate, a new platform for the management of debt and mortgaged assets, promoted by TDX Indigo, Equifax and Cobralia.

Its partners expect that funds will lower their asset purchase offers, but argue that the change in the political paradigm will make it necessary to promote alternative means of eviction, such as discounts and “daciones en pago” (delivery of the deeds in lieu of payment), amongst others. A management model they promote, they assure, to the funds and banks to whom they render services.

Original story: Cinco Días (by Juande Portillo)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Colonial Completes First Ever Debt Issue By A RE Company

28 May 2015 – Expansión

Colonial placed €1,250 million, but demand exceeded €2,700 million. The real estate company, controlled by the Villar Mir group will use these funds to refinance a bank loan, whereby reducing its financing costs.

Colonial debuted on the bond market yesterday with great success. The real estate company controlled by the Villar Mir Group completed a debt issue amounting to €1,250 million in two tranches: one over four years amounting to €750 million and the other over eight years for €500 million. It paid 1.864% for the first issue and 2.728% for the second.

This is the first debt issue ever to be carried out by a Spanish real estate company and it comes in the middle of the election hangover, which has generated considerable volatility on the markets. The debt issue aroused significant interest (demand exceeded €2,700 million with 225 purchase orders in total), which clearly shows that the confidence of investors has returned to a sector that was hit hard by the crisis (the real estate sector) and above all, to this company in particular, which underwent a tough refinancing process last year.

Lower costs

In fact, Colonial will use the funds obtained to repay a syndicated loan that it signed last year amounting to €1,040 million, which carries a high interest rate, at 400 basis points above 3-month Euribor, and which represents 40.5% of its liabilities. Sources close to the company explained yesterday that this refinancing with result in an annual saving of almost 2%. “The real estate company will stop paying around €20 million per year in interest”, they added. Moreover, the same sources noted that the company, chaired by Juan José Brugera, will no longer be bound by the conditions imposed by the banks, given that “the debt market has granted this financing with no conditions attached”.

To ensure the success of the issue, the CEO, Pere Viñolas and the Corporate Development Director, Carmina Ganyet, launched a road show on 14 May with the banks that they had engaged for the transaction: Morgan Stanley acted as the global coordinator, with the support of Sabadell, BBVA, CaixaBank, Crédit Agricole, ING and JP Morgan. The executives were well received, since S&P had assigned the company a ‘BBB-‘ rating.

As well as the plan to repay the loan to reduce financing costs, Colonial may improve its balance sheet in advance of possible M&A activity in the short term. Sacyr has considered the option of integrating its subsidiary Testa with Colonial to create a large real estate group. Colonial has been authorised to issue more bonds, amounting to €750 million.

Operation “Fade”

In addition to the activity in the private sector, the Government also plunged itself into the quest yesterday with the issue of a ‘fund to cover the electrical hole’ (“fondo que cubre el agujero electric” or Fade). It placed €1,300 million in securities that mature in September 2019, with the help of Santander, BBVA, Barclays and Citi.

The Administration is continuing to refinance this debt, which the vehicle has issued since its creation in 2009, to cover the electrical deficit (which arises due to the mismatch between the revenue received by the companies, from electricity tariffs, and the costs of generating it) at much more favourable costs. For this issue, it has only paid 0.85%, the lowest rate since the vehicle was created.

Meanwhile, the Sociedad Concesionaria Autovía de la Plata, owned by Meridiam (50%), Cintra (25%) and Acciona (25%) launched its first bond issue without a public guarantee in Spain yesterday, for €184.5 million. It is paying 3.169% for these securities, which are being traded on the MARF.

Original story: Expansión (by D. Badía and M. Anglés)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Santander & Uro Property Revive The Securitisation Market

28 May 2015 – Expansión

Debt issues amount to €2,350 million to date in 2015 / UCI, owned by Santander and BNP, is finalising the first mortgage securitisation in the market since 2007 and the Socimi Uro is closing the first rental income securitisation in Spain, for €1,345 million.

The securitisation market is being revived. Over the last few days, two Spanish companies have gone to the market to raise almost €1,700 million using these structured financing instruments, which have been in disuse since the burst of the subprime crisis in 2007.

Both of the companies are partially owned by Santander: Uro Property, the Socimi that owns one third of the bank’s (branch) network in Spain, closed a €1,350 million securitisation yesterday to refinance its business; and Unión de Créditos Inmobiliarios (UCI), jointly owned by Santander and BNP, is finalising the first mortgage securitisation since 2007, amounting to €342 million.

These two transactions come after a deal closed by Santander in February, involving the placement of a securitisation amounting to €668 million containing loans to finance car purchases granted by the Spanish branch of the French bank Banque PSA, the financial arm of Peugeot Citroën (which has an alliance with Santander). In total, these three transactions amount to €2,355 million.

Innovative debt issues

The largest transaction, the one involving Uro Property, was completed yesterday afternoon. The real estate company – controlled by Santander, CaixaBank, Atisha and Phoenix Life – has refinanced its debt through a securitisation amounting to €1,345 million, over a term of between 22 and 24 years. The most innovative aspect of this transaction is that Uro is securitising the rental income that it receives from the 750 Santander branches that it owns until its rental contract with the bank comes to an end.

The real estate company agreed a fixed rate of 3.348% with investors – mostly insurance companies and fixed income funds – whereby cut its financing cost almost in half from 6%.

Goldman Sachs has led this issue and has been supported by BNP, Santander and CaixaBank. The securitisation will be structured through a company in Ireland.

“It is quite an innovative transaction in the debt market; issues of this type have not been seen before, except for in the UK. With this, we acheive the three main objectives that we set when we took over the reins at Uro, namely to: list the company on the Alternative Stock Market (MAB); sell part of the branch portfolio [the company transferred 381 branches to Axa]; and refinance the debt”, said Carlos Martínez Campos and Simon Blaxland, Chairman and CEO of Uro Property, respectively.

In the case of the issue by Unión de Créditos Inmobiliarios, the operation is expected close this week, for €342 million.

The fund, which issues bonds backed by 3,761 loans in total for the purchase of primary residences, is called FTA RMBS Prado I and matures in 2055. The total volume of this fund amounts to €450 million, but only the highest quality tranche is going to be sold, corresponding to the €342 million issue, which has an ‘Aa2’ rating according to Moody’s, the second highest possible.

To carry out this issue, both Santander and BNP Paribas have conducted several presentations with investors around Europe. The definitive interest rate is expected to be set today.

Asset securitisations received a significant setback after the burst of the subprime crisis, given that it was structured financing that unleashed the crisis in the first place. In Spain, the market also shut down, because even though simpler and more transparent assets were traded here, they were the main source of financing of the credit boom until the burst of the real estate bubble. The outstanding balance of this type of asset exceeded €300,000 million in 2006, according to data from AIAF.

In recent years, the ECB has made significant efforts to revive this market and with this in mind, it started to buy securitisations in Europe in December.

Original story: Expansión (by J. Zuloaga and D. Badía)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Metrovacesa To Build Homes & Hotels In Clesa Factory

28 May 2015 – Expansión

The real estate company and the College of Architects are holding a competition for ideas to renovate the main building of the complex in Madrid and develop homes, hotels and retail spaces.

Recover an industrial area that was abandoned years ago, and integrate it into the new urban plan for Madrid. That is the ambitious project that the real estate company Metrovacesa finds itself immersed in.

The company has decided to convert the Clesa factory – the former dairy brand of the Ruiz Mateos group – in Madrid, into a residential area with all sorts of amenities, as well as hotels and retail spaces. The project includes the demolition of 16 industrial warehouses that make up the complex, but one building, created by the architect Alejandro de la Sota, will be maintained. “The disused building was neglected by the former tenants, which constructed adjoining properties. We have been working on (this project) for months and in the end, last Friday, we got the green light from the Town Hall of Madrid for the classification (of the property) as a protected building”, explained Carlos García León yesterday, Director General at Metrovacesa.

The area, located on Avenida Cardenal Herrara Oria in Madrid, next to the Ramón y Cajal hospital and with 90,000 square metres of buildable area, has been empty for the last six years, when the business conglomerate owned by the Ruiz Mateos families ran into financial difficulties. Metrovacesa has been the joint owner of the factory since 2006 and in 2013, it became the sole owner of the property.

Now, and with an investment of more than €30 million, Metrovacesa will reduce the buildable surface area to 70,000 square metres, of which 9,000 m2 relate to De La Sota’s protected building; the remainder will be split as follows: 60% for homes, both unsubsidised (free homes) and subsidised social housing; and 40% for tertiary properties.

“We have listened to the requests made by people in the area, such as the families of patients at the hospital, who do not have retail areas or hotel rooms to stay in”, explains José Antonio Granero, Dean of Madrid’s Official College of Architects (el Colegio Oficial de Arquitectos de Madrid or COAM).

Competition for ideas

The first phase of this new urban development will feature the protected building. To this end, Metrovacesa has teamed up with COAM to hold a competition for ideas to renovate the property, designed in 1959 and completed in 1961, to find a new use for it. “The competition will be announced next week once the Town Hall’s approval of the change to the general plan has been published in the BOE”, explain sources at COAM. The decision to award the project will evaluate both the proposals for the provision of services in the area, as well as their technical and economic feasibility. Interested architects may submit their proposals to a panel comprising directors from Metrovacesa, architects from COAM and members of Madrid’s Town Hall.

For the renovation of this space alone, the real estate company will invest between €15 million and €20 million.

Furthermore, Metrovacesa has signed an agreement with Adif for the transfer of 1,000 square metres of space, which the railway manager will use to improve the station that is currently closest to the site. “Adif is going to build a footbridge to link the area with the Ramón y Cajal hospital, which is currently separated from the complex by the train tracks.

Original story: Expansión (by Rocío Ruiz)

Translation: Carmel Drake