Centerbridge & Blackstone Join Forces to Bid for Santander’s Ciudad Financiera

13 September 2018 – Expansión

A consortium led by the US funds Blackstone and Centerbridge is emerging as the main favourite to buy Banco Santander’s headquarters in Boadilla del Monte (Madrid), in one of the largest real estate operations of the year in Spain, which is set to exceed €3 billion.

The court that is overseeing the creditors’ bankruptcy of Marme Inversiones, the company that has owned the so-called Ciudad Financiera Santander since 2008, has asked the parties interested in purchasing this asset to submit their binding offers by Monday 17 September at the latest. The objective of the bankruptcy administrator is to use the funds raised to repay Marme’s debt in full.

According to market sources, the funds GSO (a subsidiary of Blackstone specialising in restructured debt) and Centerbridge are preparing a joint offer that could amount to €3.1 billion. These investors are negotiating to finance their proposal with a loan that could be led by Deutsche Bank.

Second attempt

Both GSO and Centerbridge are now creditors of Marme, given that they purchased some of the debt from the banks that loaned money to the company back in the day. Their bid could be pitted against others from creditor funds such as Avenue Capital, according to sources close to the process.

During the creditors’ bankruptcy, which began in 2014, GSO and Centerbridge already tried to take control of the company, with a proposal to buy Marme’s share capital and retain the current debt. It was a similar strategy to the one pursued for several years by Aabar (an Abu Dhabi fund) together with the British-Iranian investor Robert Tchenguiz, after buying some of the debt granted to Marme by the bank RBS.

But the administrator has decided to conduct a formal auction so that the interested parties can bid together for the Ciudad Financiera and whereby allow all of the liabilities to be repaid. The creditors believe that offers above €3 billion will be necessary to recover all of the principal and interest.

Just as Blackstone and Centerbridge seem willing to formalise an offer in compliance with the conditions established by the judge, it is not clear whether Aabar is going to participate in the auction. In recent months, the fund has been caught up in a legal dispute with Tchenguiz regarding their joint investment in the company that currently owns the Boadilla campus.

The Kuwaiti fund AGC Equity Partners is also analysing the possibility of submitting an offer for the Ciudad Financiera. Almost two years ago, that firm submitted an offer for €2.7 billion to acquire the headquarters of the Spanish bank, but it did not get the go-ahead because the creditors’ bankruptcy was in an incipient phase and because Santander threatened to exercise its right of first refusal to buy back its offices.

Long-term rental

The investors Glenn Maud and Derek Quinlan, who already owned the Citi skyscraper in London, purchased the headquarters of the Spanish bank in 2008 for €1.9 billion, for which they used a loan from a group of banks led by RBS. Shortly after the acquisition, problems started with meeting the conditions of the loan, which ultimately led to the creditors’ bankruptcy of Marme Inversores, one of the instrumental companies created by Maud and Quinlan to carry out the transaction (…).

The main appeal of the Ciudad Financiera is the fact that the bank chaired by Ana Botín has committed to remain as the tenant for 40 years, until 2048. On that date, the Spanish entity may negotiate an extension to the lease contract or repurchase the property.

Three options

Once the offers have been presented next Monday before the Mercantile Court number 9 of Madrid, which is leading the bankruptcy, three possible alternatives may ensue.

If there are several attractive bids, the judge may open a process to competitively improve the prices proposed. If there is only one offer, of an appropriate value to pay the creditors, then it may be accepted immediately (…).

The last possibility is that the offers do not reach the estimated valuation. In that case, the judge may change the strategy and allow the piecemeal sale or liquidation of the different liabilities of Marme Inversiones (…).

Original story: Expansión (by Roberto Casado)

Translation: Carmel Drake

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